Last week on Fox & Friends, Steve Doocy, speaking in an incredulous, leading tone of voice, asked his co-hosts, "What percent of Americans now have health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act?" I'm sure you can see where this is going.
Brian Kilmeade didn't bother to guess (numbers reportedly make his head "angry"). Meanwhile, Doocy's new female co-host guessed "20 percent." If she had been correct, we'd be looking at a huge victory for Obamacare, given that the percentage of Americans without health insurance is around 15 percent (as mentioned by Doocy seconds earlier), and especially knowing that the insurance exchanges won't be implemented until Tuesday. I'll come back to this baffling contradiction presently.
Doocy's answer? One percent. Which is still pretty amazing, all things considered. This one percent figure is made up of people in their 20s who are now able to stay on their parents' insurance, as well as formerly uninsured people with serious pre-existing conditions who enrolled in the government's high risk insurance program. Both of these groups are greatly benefiting from features of the Affordable Care Act, and both groups would lose their insurance if the law is repealed or de-funded.
Regardless, Doocy illustrated a trick that several tea party senators and the entire House Republican caucus has been employing since the government shutdown threat began. The trick is this: the Affordable Care Act has failed, therefore it must be de-funded. It's an insanely risky strategy considering how this entire debate involves the well-publicized news that the sign-up for the ACA begins on Tuesday, regardless of whether the government shuts down.
I've rarely seen such an hilariously obvious example of cognitive dissonance. The law has failed, yet it hasn't even started yet. The contradictory nature of the tea party scheme is made even more obvious in the latest version of the continuing resolution (CR), tasked with keeping the government running for another six weeks. Late Saturday night, the House of Representatives passed a CR that will finance the government, while also delaying the implementation of Obamacare until January, 2015. Once again, a law that hasn't been implemented has failed, they say, and now they've decided to delay the implementation of this failed (but not implemented) law by one year.
Don't worry. It's okay to be confused.
Speaking of confused, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) appeared on the Sunday shows the following morning and ballyhooed the notion that their House colleagues had offered up a noble compromise, while Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama have refused to meet them halfway.
But why should the Democrats and the other Senate Republicans compromise with the tea party? At all? This crisis was invented out of thin air by Cruz and the tea party faction of the GOP, and if you invent a crisis, it's utterly ludicrous to expect your political opponents to compromise on a solution to your invented crisis.
Now imagine if the Democrats had pulled a similar stunt with, say, the funding of the Iraq War. Had they done so, I think the bodies of the "traitors" would still be dangling from the rafters of the Capitol dome.
The fact that we're even having this debate is completely mad.
What will the tea party win beyond a minor optics victory to accompany their 42 other symbolic votes to de-fund the ACA? The ACA will be implemented as-is. It won't be delayed nor will it be de-funded. Seniors will still pay significantly less for prescription drugs; kids will still be able to remain on their parent's insurance until 26; lifetime limits will continue to be banned; millions of uninsured Americans will finally be able to buy affordable insurance loaded with new benefits like free preventative care; insurance companies will have to compete for our business; small businesses will qualify for tax credits to pay for employee insurance coverage; the list goes on and on. But due to the tea party's collective obsession with rolling back all of these new benefits, the government might shut down even though, historically, the chief executive has emerged the winner in the wake of such an event. On top of everything else, there will be millions of Americans who will love this law, while the tea party has gone on record as having tried dozens of times to kill it -- in doing so, they've risked both a shutdown and an economically catastrophic default on the national debt. And again, the only thing they'll win is the further accolades of a radical, hyperactive wing of the party. But, then again, they already have the support of those people, so... why?
And what do they expect to do as an encore? This happens all over again in six weeks, believe it or not. Obamacare will surely appear on the chopping block once again, and we'll run through this entire clown show yet again, probably with the same results. It's a terrible precedent to establish an ongoing threat to the U.S. economy over everything that rubs the tea party the wrong way. Next time, I half expect this cabal to demand the resignation of the president with perhaps a fall-back compromise that Obama trade places with Cruz for a year. Indeed the only thing that would worsen the brinksmanship precedent would be if Obama and the Democrats conceded -- a possibility I haven't entirely ruled out.
The only thing that will resolve this standoff, along with future standoffs, will be if the grown-ups -- citizens and lawmakers alike from both parties -- shut down the tea party once and for all, commandeering the legislative branch and returning it to its normal, slightly less madcap, gibberishy status.