September 18 2013
As Congress & Staffers Try To Weasel Out Of Obamacare, Americans Smell A Rat
Carrie L. Lukas
Hypocrisy isn’t anything new in politics. But as Americans see the ruling class once again wriggling out of laws and programs imposed on everyone else, they may finally decide that enough is enough: It’s time to get big government out of our lives too.
Last month, the White House quietly announced that Congress Members and their staff would be exempt from certain ObamaCare provisions. Currently, the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program picks up a large part of congressional staff’s premiums. That’s a no-no under ObamaCare, and if forced to follow the same rules as everyone else, staff would lose a benefit that is often worth between $5,000 and $11,000. With the October 1st exchange-enrollment date looming, the Office of Personnel Management simply decreed that the rules that will apply to all other Americans who must enter the ObamaCare exchanges won’t apply to those working for Congress: They’ll get to keep their employer-provided subsidies, which will cover 75 percent of their premiums, largely shielding Congress and their staff from the impact of higher premiums created by ObamaCare.
Americans, regardless of their ideologies, smell a rat when they learn of this. A poll commissioned by the Independent Women’s Voice found that 92 percent of voters think it is unfair that the Congress should be exempt from paying for their insurance in the health exchanges like everyone else. It didn’t matter whether a respondent thought the health care law should be implemented or fully repealed. Overwhelmingly voters want everyone treated equally and don’t want the ruling class to cut themselves special deals.
Of course, it isn’t just Congress that has been angling out of certain provisions of ObamaCare. Thousands of businesses and organizations have been granted waivers from the Department of Health and Human Services, in a murky process that reeks of cronyism. The Obama Administration has also invited the feeling that the letter of the law really doesn’t matter when it comes to ObamaCare, by announcing that massive portions of the law—like the mandate that employers must offer their employees qualified health insurance plans—won’t be enforced for another year, or until whenever they decide it’s politically convenient.
With so many exemptions and ad hoc reinterpretations, it’s no wonder that those who are told they have to follow the rules are unhappy. The AFL-CIO, for example, just approved a harshly-worded resolution after being told by the Administration that labor wouldn’t receive a special deal to preserve union members’ generous health insurance benefits. The president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, Terence O’Sullivan, went so far as to contemplate joining the cause of repealing the law entirely, saying, “If the Affordable Care Act is not fixed, and it destroys the health and welfare funds that we have fought for and stand for, then I believe it needs to be repealed.”
One might feel more sympathy if labor hadn’t been on the team championing this law in the first place. Yes, the very labor leaders who are now chaffing at the idea of actually having to take part in ObamaCare helped push the legislation into law. They poured their members’ dues first into electing (and then re-electing) the President, who promised a top-down government reordering of the health insurance system (though supposedly one would be able to keep their doctor and health insurance). They even spent time and money lobbying specifically to support the passage of this health care law. Sadly for the members they were supposed to be representing all along, they now have to spend even more time and money working to limit the law’s damage.
This isn’t the first time the Left has created a program and then wanted no part of it. Democrat politicians have long spoken movingly about their commitment to public education as the great leveler in society and crushed programs that give more Americans the ability to opt out of their local, government-run public school. Many, from the Obamas to the Clintons to the Gores to the Kennedys, then paid tens of thousands in private school tuition costs to spare their own children from attending those same public schools.
This doublespeak is so commonplace that it’s seen as tiresome, even impolitic, to point it out. Politicians’ families are off-limits, of course. But one wonders at what point the American people might want their families declared off-limits too. After all, this isn’t criticizing the appearance of a family member or dwelling on some childish foible. This is about a ruling class that is all too eager to make rules and programs for citizens, but expects something different for themselves and their loved ones.
That’s not how it’s supposed to be in America. Our government is supposedly for the people and by the people. The ruling class recognizes that when it comes to their own lives big government programs are unworkable and cause great harm. Rather than seeking exemptions, let’s take this knowledge and use it to create a better system for everyone.