It should not be lost on anyone that President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday marked a declaration of victory for the implementation of the historic Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”
Despite the sputtering that marked the first month of the full implementation of the act last October, by now the program has already touched a critical mass of the U.S. population as to become politically irreversible. It was a major, substantive point of the president’s remarks Tuesday to declare this.
His remarks on the subject were brimming with confidence. I quote here extensively from his remarks about this because it matters to present an unfiltered account from the president about this most important fundamental social policy reform in half a century, not obfuscated by naysayers or ignored by the media.
He began, “In case you haven’t heard, we’re in the process of fixing that (a broken health care system). … Health insurance reform is all about the peace of mind that if misfortune strikes, you don’t have to lose everything.”
He went on, “Already, because of the Affordable Care Act, more than three million Americans under age 26 have gained coverage under their parents’ plans. More than nine million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.
“And here’s another number zero. Because of this law, no American can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a preexisting condition like asthma, back pain or cancer. No woman can ever be charged more just because she’s a woman. And we did all this while adding years to Medicare’s finances, keeping Medicare premiums flat, and lowering prescription costs for millions of seniors.
“Now, I don’t expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of this law. But I know that the American people aren’t interested in refighting old battles. So again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, and increase choice, tell America what you’d do differently. Let’s see if the numbers add up. But let’s not have another 40-something votes to repeal a law that already helping millions of Americans.”
He concluded his remarks on the Affordable Care Act with a pitch to the people. “Tonight I ask every American who knows someone without health insurance to help them get covered by March 31. Moms, get your kids to sign up. Kids, get your mom and walk her through the application. It will give her some peace of mind – plus, she’ll appreciate hearing from you.”
The last part of that sentence got a hearty, bipartisan laugh from the chamber and sealed the president’s confidence in his signature and historic achievement.
There was a lot contained in Obama’s State of the Union this time, but most notably, he signaled that “America must move off a permanent war footing.”
It’s taken five years of the Obama administration to reach this point, where undoing the epochal damage of the George W. Bush administration could be declared within sight: out of Iraq, getting out of Afghanistan, closing Guantanamo, prudent limits on the use of drones, reform of our surveillance programs.
The Washington Post’s graph yesterday of the frequency of key words used in State of the Union messages since 1989 marked one glaring departure by George W. Bush, his inordinately greater use of the word, “terrorism” in all eight speeches, compared to others before and after. That was clearly the Bush administration’s clarion call for war, war, war, and the unspeakable carnage that it inflicted on the Middle East.
Now, the dogs of war – the “military industrial complex” that President Eisenhower warned about – are frustrated by Obama’s commitment to “strong and principled diplomacy” dealing with Syria, Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and a firm promise to veto any legislation from Congress that threatens to derail such efforts.
Recall that under Bush, plans were advanced for a military invasion of Iran. Now Obama is declaring that through diplomacy, “Iran could take an important step to rejoin the community, and we will have resolved one of the leading security challenges of our time without the risks of war.”