Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., Jan. 14, 15 or 16
But as his last State of the Union speech still echoes, Obama’s record in the last year shows he hasn’t been ineffective either. From leading a bipartisan effort to address infrastructure to a multinational coalition to dismantle Iran’s nuclear-weapons program, and from thawing relations with Cuba and helping the world start to cope with climate change, he’s achieved much.
Recently, he was inspiring as he protected progress on health care for everyday Americans by vetoing Republicans’ 62nd (!) attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) despite its successes and people’s increasing participation. Passing the House 240-81 and the Senate (for the first time) 52-47, H.R. 3762 (the ill-named Reconciliation Act) was a stunt to show anti-government Republican voters in an election year that conservatives were still trying to defeat the man Americans elected to lead the country.
With ACA enrollment ending Jan. 31, more than 11 million people have signed up, the Department of Health and Human Services reported – almost 2 million more than last year. More uninsured Americans are on board, and more younger Americans are signed up – important because they typically are healthier, and low-risk customers help balance higher-risk policyholders, so marketplaces such as Illinois’ getcovered.illinois.gov are stabilized.
In a strong letter to the House of Representatives, Obama stood up to the GOP with facts – and resolve.
His veto message said, “This legislation would not only repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, but would reverse the significant progress we have made in improving health care in America.
“It is working,” he said. “About 17.6 million Americans have gained health care coverage as the law’s coverage provisions have taken effect. The nation’s uninsured rate now stands at its lowest level ever, and demand for marketplace coverage during December was at an all-time high. Health-care costs are lower than expected when the law was passed, and health care quality is higher.”
If enacted, he continued, “The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the legislation would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 22 million after 2017. The Council of Economic Advisers estimates that this reduction in health care coverage could mean, each year, more than 900,000 fewer people getting all their needed care, more than 1.2 million additional people having trouble paying other bills due to higher medical costs, and potentially more than 10,000 additional deaths.”
If Republicans killed the ACA, he added, “about 150 million Americans with employer-based insurance would be at risk of higher premiums and lower wages. And it would cause the cost of health coverage for people buying it on their own to skyrocket.”
Further, “by eliminating federal Medicaid funding for a major provider of health care, H.R. 3762 would limit access to health care for men, women and families across the nation, and would disproportionately impact low-income individuals.
“Rather than refighting old political battles by once again voting to repeal basic protections that provide security for the middle class, members of Congress should be working together to grow the economy, strengthen middle-class families, and create new jobs. Because of the harm this bill would cause to the health and financial security of millions of Americans, it has earned my veto.”
Where’s this guy been? One can nearly hear Aragorn from “The Lord of the Rings”:
“I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me!” he says in the final installment of filmmaker Peter Jackson’s trilogy. “A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand!”
Maybe we should stand in the last year of Obama’s second term – especially when fear and hatred are promoted by too many Republican presidential candidates. As “Lord of the Ring’s” Theoden says in a conversation with Aragorn, “What can men do against such reckless hate?” In his later battle speech he adds, “Forth! And fear no darkness! Arise!”
[PICTURED: Illustration from deviantart.com.]