Issue #309

People could be cut off from health insurance, and Republicans are cheering openly about it

If you’re high-fiving over things getting worse for working-class families, you’re doing it wrong. But that’s exactly the position Republican operatives and pundits found themselves in this week. On Tuesday, a D.C. Circuit Court panel ruled in the case of Halbig v. Burwell that the subsidies in the Affordable Care Act were illegal if they came through federally-run exchanges, rather than ones specifically set up at the state level. Since 36 states are letting the federal government operate their exchanges rather than running their own, the ruling could invalidate subsidies for millions. The Republican response was predictable: a resounding “we told you so.” All along, they insisted that the ACA wouldn’t work, that it would raise costs—and when reality didn’t match with their scary stories, they took deliberate action to make the bad outcomes they fervently wished for more likely. In the case of the subsidies, which are helping real people get coverage, it took an extensive lawsuit, some friendly judges, and some twisted legal reasoning to undermine them. There’s a name for this strategy, and it doesn’t come from the Heritage Foundation (although the individual mandate did). It comes from Soviet Communism: “heighten the contradictions.” The idea is to root for, and even enable, bad outcomes of your ideological opponents’ power, in the hopes that these bad outcomes will convince people to rise up against your opponents. It’s a grim way to look at the world, but here we are. Talking Points Memo, 7-24-14.