The $1 billion, three and a half year rollout was a public relations disaster. Consumer access to its website is the focus of nightly Leno monologues. Nearly 6 million Americans have lost health insurance. That promised $2,500 per family savings has gone the way of the dinosaur. Mandate fear inspires part-time job growth. Formerly happily insured employees face smaller networks and substantially higher deductibles in the new exchanges. Colleges curtail underwriting student insurance. Privacy concerns abound. Insurance companies are unsure of what benefit packages their insureds have purchased. Sticker shock hits the young and healthy. Medicaid rolls soar. An imperial president unilaterally decrees canceled policies be brought back to life, to little avail. Red state Democrats run for the hills. The Supreme Court agrees to rule on an over-reaching contraception mandate. Presidential voter approval dips into the low 40s. And not one member of the Obamacare team has lost his/her job.
So, what does the "post-partisan president" (remember when the media trotted that phony mantra out at the very beginning of Obama I?) do to stop the bleeding?
He does what most deft politicians do when the wolves are at the gates — he changes the subject. In this case, a no longer Teflon president reaches back for the "go to" option for liberals of all stripes — class envy. This familiar tactic is a sure-fire base motivator; and there is no better practitioner of the art than the 45th president of the United States.
The latest iteration of the strategy is to exploit the specter of income inequality – that intractable divide between rich and poor so reviled by the world's progressives since…well, the beginning of time.
This byproduct of capitalist economies (and socialist economies for that matter) now assumes center stage in the administration's full court press to turn the national conversation away from Obamacare's endless stream of negative reviews.
The course correction occurred during last week's presidential address. Full campaign mode was adopted. The usual sycophants were enlisted. Rent-a-mobs were assigned to fast food venues to protest low pay. Renewed calls to raise the federal minimum wage made media headlines. A so-called living wage (defined as whatever hourly wage labor union leadership wants it to be) re-entered the national debate. An extension of federal unemployment benefits (presently 99 weeks) was offered up by the Democratic leadership. And yet another Obamacare exemption on behalf of organized labor became national news — and another national embarrassment.
On the rhetorical side, the specter of "trickle down economics" (again) became the focus of a class warfare focused Obama Administration offensive. Nothing new here; it was all "you didn't build that" redux — this time with an added element of desperation inspired by the myriad public relations problems of the president's signal legislative accomplishment.
One interesting aspect to the class conscious initiative has generally escaped media attention: a worsening economic divide, an unprecedented increase in the number of adults who have given up looking for work, a "shovel-ready-less" and frightfully expensive stimulus and a record number of people on food stamps have taken place during the reign of...Barack Hussein Obama. Simply put, it's getting more difficult to "blame Bush" for a rather dismal economic record as we operate in year six of an Obama presidency. The story does not end there. An adjunct to the "change the subject" strategy is "deny — and pretend otherwise". But "reality denial" is usually obvious; you know it when you see it. The president's renewed campaign to convince the young and healthy that substantially higher insurance premiums and less consumer choice is good for them is one example. Harry Reid's claim that the president never REALLY promised you could keep you insurance and your doctor is another. But even these exaggerations (I'm being charitable) are overshadowed by Democratic Congressional Committee Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz's claim that all Democrats will happily run on an Obamacare platform in 2014. (Recall such was not the case in 2010 or 2012.) And THIS from the person charged with electing Democrats in that pivotal year.
Of course, Majority Leader Reid's pronouncement directly contradicts the president's own mea culpa. (Perhaps Reid was rechanneling his daily rebukes to Senator Ted Cruz during the recent government shutdown.) As for Chairman Schultz's promise, we can only "hope" — 'cuz "change" will most assuredly follow. Change in the Senate leadership, I mean.
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s column appears Sundays. The former Maryland governor and member of Congress is a partner at the law firm King & Spalding and the author of "Turn this Car Around" and "America: Hope for Change" — books about national politics. His email is email@example.com.
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