It is likely that Americans waiting for a new software release or application have experienced delays and even glitches that keep technicians working overtime to satisfy new and existing customers. In fact, it is not unusual for tech companies to update their software for up to a year fixing bugs that only surfaced after customers complained about issues the company’s testers may have missed. Despite technical issues and bugs in software, customers hardly abandon the new software or application simply because they comprehend that consumer-oriented high tech is never perfect right out of the gate whether it is a small internet start-up or a giant government program.
When hundreds-of-thousands of Americans attempted to enroll in a new online government health care program, they expected the government website to be perfect because it was touted as an easy way to study and choose the best option for their situation. However, there were “glitches,” errors, slow response times, and the site crashed that elicited frustration and anger prompting government officials to respond to complaints from prospective customers with promises to quickly assess and fix the problems.
That is precisely what happened during the Bush administration’s implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit in 2005 and 2006, and instead of decrying the Medicare prescription plan as an abject failure, Republicans denouncing the Affordable Care Act’s rollout a reason to abandon the entire law asked Americans to be patient and not to pre-judge the Medicare prescription plan based on a few technical problems. Some of the same Republicans claiming the ACA’s website issues prove the health law is a failure and that the government cannot do anything right were ardent defenders of the Bush healthcare reform’s shaky implementation they claimed did not taint an otherwise good plan.
The chorus of criticism against the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchange rollout was summed up best by Fox News contributor Kirsten Powers in a column on Friday asking, “If the government can’t build a functioning website to support the most important initiative of the president’s administration, then how can it be trusted to do anything? This failure is a double whammy: it puts the future of Obamacare in even greater peril while placing Obama’s case for activist government on life support,” The administration had to know it had only one shot to launch the exchanges, and it blew it.” Republicans concur with Powers assessment and claimed the website’s glitches are a preview of the mountain of their imagined problems in the ACA.
On Thursday the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on the Affordable Care Act’s implementation, and some Republicans defaming the government rollout had an entirely different assessment when a white President’s healthcare reform experienced technical difficulties. For example, Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) said of the Bush glitches, “This is a huge undertaking and there are going to be glitches. My goal is the same as yours: Get rid of the glitches. The committee will work closely to get problems noticed and solved.” Representative Phil Gingrey (R-GA) said, “I delivered 5,200 babies, but this may be the best delivery that I have ever been a part of, Mr. Speaker, and that is delivering, as I say, on a promise made by former Congresses and other Presidents over the 45-year history of the Medicare program, which was introduced in 1965 with no prescription drug benefit. And what we have done here is add part D, the ‘D’ for ‘drug’ or, if you want, the ‘delivery’ that we have finally provided to our American seniors.”
Another Republican representative, Tim Murphy (PA) pleaded for patience and compared parenting with Bush’s Medicare technical issues; “Any time something is new, there is going to be some glitches. All of us, when our children were new, well, we knew as parents we didn’t exactly know everything we were doing and we had a foul-up or two, but we persevered and our children turned out well. No matter what one does in life, when it is something new in learning the ropes of it, it is going to take a little adjustment.” Texas Republican representative Michael Burgess said, “We can’t undo the past, but certainly they can make the argument that we are having this hearing a month late and perhaps we are, but the reality is the prescription drug benefit is 40 years late and seniors who signed up for Medicare those first days back in 1965 when they were 65 years of age are now 106 years of age waiting for that prescription drug benefit, so I hope it doesn’t take us that long to get this right and I don’t believe that it will. And I do believe that fundamentally it is a good plan.”
Eventually the Medicare Part D technical glitches were sorted, but half of those who signed up for prescription insurance did not enroll until after the healthcare law had been enacted for a year. In fact, at first only 21% of qualified seniors viewed the law favorably and 66% had no idea what the program entailed, but within a year over half of seniors said the program worked well or only needed very minor fixes. However, there was no cacophony of Democratic voices lambasting the program, or Bush for that matter, like Republicans and their conservative belief tanks and pundits are doing with the Affordable Care Act and the double standard only has one reasonable explanation. President Obama is not white.
Of course, Republicans, teabaggers, conservative belief tanks and pundits will claim citing the President’s race as the reason the right is up in arms over the health law is racist, but there is no other reasonable explanation. One of the biggest critics of the ACA is the once-respected Heritage Foundation that proposed healthcare reform the Affordable Care Act is patterned after including the individual mandate conservatives now claim is extreme government intrusion into Americans’ lives. Heritage touted the Massachusetts healthcare reform Willard Romney championed as a raging success because a white governor followed the Heritage plan, but they became devout enemies of the President’s plan immediately after it was proposed and have ramped up attempts to scuttle the law with teabagger Jim DeMint leading Heritage. Why? President Obama is not white.
Republicans are attempting to portray President Obama’s administration as a complete failure nearly as stridently as they depict all government programs as catastrophic, and it is to teach Americans that an African American man cannot lead the nation successfully. For example, Republicans fought the President’s stimulus tooth and nail as wasteful spending, but they made impassioned speeches for Bush stimulus to keep the economy running smoothly. Republicans have opposed raising the debt ceiling without Democratic concessions as a matter of course, but they raised it for Bush seven times unconditionally as crucial for America’s solvency and economic health. Regardless of any of the President’s proposals that Republicans once championed, the GOP opposes them out of hand because the President is not white.
It has been four-and-a-half years since Barack Obama has been President and throughout his tenure Republicans opposed, blocked, and obstructed every single one of his proposals to the detriment of their constituents and the nation’s economy even when their actions kill millions of Americans’ jobs. The racial element cannot be ignored any longer and Republicans cannot explain away their knee-jerk opposition to the President with any legitimate policy argument. Their opposition to the ACA does have a basis in their desire to keep Americans sick, but it is also based on their hatred for an African American man as President.
If a white president went to the Heritage Foundation for a blueprint for a new health law, Republicans would have passed it without question, and if the rollout’s website experienced glitches, they would have urged the public to be patient because “this is a huge undertaking and there are going to be glitches.” But with an African American man as President, the Heritage healthcare reform plan is toxic, the individual mandate is trampling on Americans’ liberty, and website glitches are existential threats because the man sitting in the Oval Office is African American.