News and Tribune

October 7, 2013

HOWEY: A new level of public service for Hoosiers

By BRIAN HOWEY
Indiana columnist

You know, I really hate the speed limit on Interstate 65, so instead of going 70 mph, I plan to go 95 mph.

And if Mr. Trooper, Sir, stops me, I think I’ll get some of my friends and we’ll block the all the lanes and shoulders until they raise the speed limit.

There were two profoundly intertwined stories this week — the shutdown of the federal government and the launching of Obamacare.

In Washington, the Republican hatred of the Affordable Care Act has become so intense that lawmakers like Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Indiana U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman were willing to put this nation on the path of a shutdown and default. 

The reason can be summed up on the Real Clear Politics website which lists 243 polls taken on Obamacare since its passage and 95 percent of those polls (231 of 243) have shown that the American people oppose the ACA.

But it’s more nuanced than that. Ball State’s Bowen Center and other polls have broken out components of the ACA — such as whether people with pre-existing conditions should be able to get health insurance — and the support rises, often into the 60th percentile and beyond.

The two polls that really mattered occurred in November 2010 and November 2012 when citizens went to the ballot box. In 2010, Republicans retook the House, picking up 66 seats. Two years later, President Obama was reelected and with that, Obamacare was pretty much a reality until Jan. 21, 2017. 

Reinforcing this was what happened in the U.S. Senate. Populist Tea Party candidates who won U.S. Senate nominations in low-turnout primaries essentially propelled safe or heavily leaning Republican seats in Indiana, Delaware, Colorado, Missouri, Nevada and Maine into the Democratic column. What could have easily been a 51-49 Republican Senate majority last November became a 55-45 Democratic one. Joe Donnelly, who voted for the ACA, is now Indiana’s Democratic senator.

As I sat down to write this column, Stutzman uttered one of the most incredible quotes: 

“We’re not going to be disrespected,” he told the Washington Examiner. “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

OMG.

Indiana’s Congressional Republicans were still drawing their paychecks at this writing while hundreds of thousands of federal workers are furloughed.

There were never enough votes to sustain this insurrection.

In two weeks, the real danger arises over whether the U.S. debt ceiling is raised. This is a quantum elevation of the stakes because the planet’s financial system foundation rests with U.S. Treasury bonds, where investment finds security. In a default, the safety of these bonds will be eroded. It would dwarf the Lehman Brothers collapse of 2008, with many of us still feeling that impact. A default could find the financial foundation relocated to Shanghai.

So Stutzman’s notion of “we have to get something out of this” and he doesn’t know what that is should get your alarm bells clanging.

The other story is Obamacare launch. 

What we have witnessed this week are federal health exchanges getting such heavy volume that the web servers are overwhelmed. Most Americans don’t know how to navigate this system and the computer glitches only exacerbate this.

Normally in this type of situation, our Public Servants are there to help. 

But this is Indiana.

While states like Maryland, according to Gannett News Service, are spending $24 million to help citizens navigate this process, Indiana allocated $2 million. Republicans from Gov. Pence, through the General Assembly and the Congressional delegation appear content to sit on their hands and let folks struggle. Why? Because if the system fails, they hope the ACA collapses. The more folks getting on the exchanges means that success is more likely.

On the IN.gov website and its health reform portal, Hoosiers going through the Frequently Asked Questions found propaganda — the controversial Indiana Department of Insurance analysis that insurance rates are going to go up 72 percent with the average Hoosier paying $570 a month. This was a gross simplification of all the data, rounded off into one very troubling number.

State Rep. Ed Clere, the New Albany Republican who chairs the House Public Health Committee, told my colleague Maureen Hayden of CNHI, “It’s a high visibility issue with mass confusion. Everybody’s heard of Obamacare. Everbody knows something big is going on. What they don’t know are the details.”

Clere was at a town hall in Indianapolis last Monday as the fight in Congress over the ACA was shutting down the federal government. He found people seeking help.

“It shows the divide between the political elite and the people who most need access to insurance,” he said. “People want solutions, not pointless partisanship. There are plenty of reasons to question the design and sustainability of the ACA, but those are debates for another day. Whether we like it or not, it’s the law, and as state policymakers, we should focus on getting the best possible deal for Indiana.”

Folks, we are in a new era of public service and, quite frankly, it has stooped to a new, low, disgusting level. 

— Brian Howey publishes at howeypolitics.com. Find on on Twitter @hwypol.