EL PASO – The Republican cries for repeal of Obamacare that followed the affirmation by the Supreme Court of the law’s constitutionality reminded me of my days as a young journalist at The Miami Herald in 1977 when U.S. Representative Claude Pepper (D., Florida) then chairman of the House Committee on Aging, spoke of nothing else but defending Social Security and Medicare.
Pepper, then 76 and known as “Mr. Social Security,” seemed unimaginably ancient to me and the thought of defending a law that had gone into effect in 1935, 42 years earlier, seemed to be the ridiculous ravings of a nearly senile old man.
Since then I have come to understand why the old congressman kept on fighting. The Republicans never gave up.
Remember when President George W. Bush stumped to privatize Social Security after his win in 2004? “I have political capital and I intend to spend it,” he said. And spend it he did to no avail. Even without old Rep. Pepper the legislation that insures old age security to millions of Americans remained in place. And when the markets that Bush wanted us to put our safe Social Security checks into collapsed at the end of his administration, Social Security was still safe and our elderly citizens still had their retirement income.
Well it is the same with Obamacare. It is certain that the threat of repeal from the right wing of American politics will echo for generations to come, a constant rallying cry for their voter base.
And I am just as certain that repeal will never happen. They would need an unlikely concentration of power to do that – a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, a filibuster – proof supermajority in the U.S. Senate and the presidency of the United States. Even with majorities in both houses of Congress Obamacare barely scraped by the supermajority needed to pass in the U.S. Senate.
Health-care reform will prove to be a massive boon to the American economy much in the same way that the creation of the interstate highway system did at mid-20th Century.
The Affordable Care Act removes one of the greatest burdens from the backs of middle class Americans – the group that powers the American economy – and gives them employment mobility.
No longer will they have to make money and employment decisions exclusively on whether or not they have health insurance. It again frees the middle class to plan and spend according to other needs and perhaps most importantly, it frees workers and professionals at all levels to change jobs and move anywhere in the country for better work without the fear of losing health insurance and without the specter of catastrophic financial collapse due to illness.
In fact, looking beyond the health care benefits it provides, this legislation will eventually be credited as the foundation of a new American economic prosperity in the 21st century driven by the average citizen and it will be defended.
Here’s to you Claude.