Thursday, April 3, 2014

Health Reform: Dem and GOP Middle Class Role Reversal 

Whatever their rhetoric may be, as a practical matter the Democrats think first of the less fortunate, the Republicans of the well-to-do. Meanwhile, the nation-breaking crisis of the middle class continues.

Jack Beatty, “Who Speaks for the Middle Class?” Atlantic Monthly, 1994

America is a middle class nation.  Who are the American  middle class?  It is largely made up of workers and professionals who make between $25,000 and $100,000, who formerly had a comfortable standard of living, significant economic security, and considerable work and personal autonomy.

Middle Class Fading Fast

These middle class attributes are fading fast. Today the middle class is under economic stress.  In the 5 years of the Obama presidency, median middle class  incomes has gone  from $55,000 to $51,000,  health premiums have doubled,  and opposition to ObamaCare is roughly 55%, with those opposing  over those favoring by 15%.

·         Nearly a quarter of the uninsured are now middle class.

·         Most get their health insurance through their employer.

·         Many are finding health premiums, which this year  increased an average of 41%,   unaffordable.   
Many of the 7 million who signed up for ObamaCare health exchanges are from the middle class, and 80% of those who qualified for subsidies were from families of 4 with less than $45, 000 of income.

Party Stereotypes

Who speaks for the middle class on health reform issues?

The stereotype for Democrats of the past is that they are for the poor,  the uninsured,  women, minorities, the young, expansion of Medicaid,  subsidies, more federal subsidies, higher taxes on the wealthy and more dependence on government.   Democrats, it has been said, represent capitalism of the poor.  The poor and minorities  are their most reliable voting bloc. 

In reality, however, Democrats control the 8 of the  ten richest Congressional districts, and the biggest Democratic supporters are the wealthy on the East and West coasts and in major metropolitan areas, and  entertainment and professional sports celebrities .   The wealthy are the biggest and most influential Obama financial supporters.   

And why not? Under Obama, the stock market is booming,   incomes of the upper 1% have increased by 20% or more, middle class incomes have declined by 8-10%, and the poor have held steady or slightly increased.  The upside  for  Democrats is that they continue their influence among the very wealthy and the unfortunate.  The downside is that they are losing the middle class,  seniors,  millenials,  and  Hispanics.  This may be because of continuing high rates of unemployment and a stagnant economy.  Over the last 6 years, annual economic growth has averaged 2.4%,  compared to 3 to 4% in previous recession recoveries.
Republican Stereotype

The Republicans stereotype of the past?  They  favor  the rich, the privileged,  the well-to-do,   small and large businesses,  entrepreneurs,  doctors and hospitals, and have little compassion for the less fortunate.  GOP ranks are believed to be  comprised mostly of white males, senior citizens, and members of the Tea Party and other conservative organizations, and the wealthy.  

Yet over the years, Democrats have outspent and out-raised Republicans  in political campaigns.   The Republicans are not  so much for the wealthy and well-to-do, but for economic growth, fueled by entrepreneurs and innovators.  Republicans believe economic  growth lifts all boats,  for the poor as well as the middle class.

Health Reform

What do these stereotypes have to do with health  reform?

Plenty.   According to Gallup,  Democrats are 17 times more likely to favor ObamaCare and  5 times likely than independents.   But middle-class Republicans  and Independents are angry, unhappy, and energized to turn out for the midterms.  Republicans plus independents hugely outnumber Democrats, and the November 5 midterms now  loom on the horizon.  Health reform,  Obama style, is in mortal danger.

Both sides agree the health law coverage of pre-existing illness and young adults, up to 26, and removing health plan limits on spending have been good things.
But Democrats and Republicans disagree  on whether ObamaCare has been good for the middle class.  

Obamacare  is good  for keeping more of the middle class  from  falling into poverty because of the stagnant recovery.  It is good for the 8 to 10 million who now have coverage because of  ObamaCare.   Of those enrolling in health exchange plans,  0nly 1 to 2 million of these were previously uninsured.  Many are middle class citizen.  Eighty percent of the rest are insured  and are  now receiving  federal subsidies to pay for higher premiums and deductibles. 

But ObamaCare is not good for three quarters  of the middle class who now must pay higher premiums and deductibles.   It is not good  for businesses who health costs have doubled.  It is not good for taxpayers who must pay $2.5 trillion over the next 10 years to support a system that is not amicable for many in the middle class. It is not good for the 6 million driven out of private plans because those plans did not comply with unrealistic federal regulations requiring them to pay for benefits they did not need.  

And it is not good for taxpayers are on the hook for $1 trillion in new and higher taxes to pay for Medicaid and exchange coverage, while seniors are threatened with dramatic cuts to Medicare to help pay for Obamacare. Insurers say double-digit increases in premiums are likely next year in the exchanges. Small businesses are facing a doubling  their health-insurance costs to comply with the new Obamacare regulations and mandates. And larger companies are restructuring their health benefit plans to increase premiums and deductibles for their employees to get ready for new Obamacare taxes yet to come.


It can be argued Democrats are now the party of the rich and famous while Republicans are the party of the middle class.  This is a role reversal from the past.
Tweet:   ObamaCare has been good for some in the lower middle class but has harmed many of the middle class who now must pay higher premiums and deductibles

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