Bob Franken


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I’ve always loved the expression “Putting lipstick on a pig.” It’s the perfect way to describe an effort to gloss over something ugly. It’s certainly appropriate in the case of the decision by POTUS and his peeps to delay for a year the fundamental employer-mandate piece of Obamacare.
It’s the provision that would require businesses with 50 or more workers to provide affordable health insurance or pay a big fine for each individual. The administration’s “lipstick” was the claim that the decision to hold off until 2015 showed its “flexibility.” What was piggish was the hard-to-ignore suspicion that it was really more about trying to sidestep a huge political controversy before the 2014 midterm elections. 2014 is when the new Affordable Care Act is scheduled to kick into high gear, but now it will be missing one of its components.
Didn’t supporters argue incessantly that this plan to cover millions of the uninsured was an intricate proposition, with each part reliant on every other? So suddenly it’s OK to leave out one piece of this puzzle for a year? Or are we really just witnessing another instance of a president withering in the face of boarish opposition?

In the case of the employer mandate, there certainly has been a lot of hostility, with many small businesses threatening to reduce the hours of their help or cut back on the size of their staff so their enterprises are no longer included in the requirement. Either maneuver would be a case of cutting off their snouts to spite their faces, but it wouldn’t compare with the tactics of GOP officeholders who are rolling around in the mud, doing everything they can to cause this health-care reform to fail.
Sen. Mitch McConnell is just one example. He’s the minority leader of the Senate, the same guy who told us, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for Barack Obama to be a one-term president.” He made that remark in a 2010 interview, the same year Congress, after an intense battle, passed Obamacare. Now that we’re into Obama’s second term, McConnell and many of his other GOP soulless-mates have decided that the new “single most important thing” is to sabotage the entire law.
While some of their party leaders in state capitols are doing their part by refusing to expand Medicaid or set up vital insurance exchanges, McConnell and his merry gang are manning the barricades in Washington. Their latest stunt is an intimidation effort aimed at professional sports. Mitch and John Cornyn wrote to the National Football League demanding that it reject requests from administration officials that they use athletes to do TV ads promoting signup, which begins Oct. 1. They warned the league against taking “public sides in such a highly polarized public debate.” Never mind that it’s the law of the land; the NFL folded, saying it has no plans to participate. The other major sports have just stayed silent. Apparently the jocks have been muscled by Mitch McConnell. Have you seen Mitch McConnell?
He doesn’t have to worry about any criticism. The heavy-handedness of his blatant attempts to wreck the program serve his interests just fine. He’s up for election, and back home in Kentucky, where he has been sweating a possible tea-party-backed primary opponent, there is no way that any opposition to Obama, even outrageously hateful, wouldn’t cause those on the extreme right to whoop and holler.
We’ve all watched them in the House gleefully vote to repeal of the Affordable Care Act 37 times, knowing full well it’ll never get past the Senate. They want to be seen as relentless. So they are certainly celebrating right now. The order to delay a key part of the program will be seen as an embarrassment for the president. That will be the story, and watch them line up to, uh, hog the spotlight.

© 2013 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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