“Conservatives are operating on the assumption that [Obamacare is] an irredeemable disaster that they can ride all the way to 2016,” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote on his blog last week, “but the facts on the ground are getting better by the day.”
He went on: “Obamacare will turn into a Benghazi-type affair where Republicans are screaming about a scandal nobody else cares about.”
The evidence behind Krugman's optimism is not terribly convincing — he bases it on the Obama administration's sunny tone (really) and media coverage of the law that he thinks is improving. He could still eventually be proven right, but a miracle will be needed, and it's not quite clear where that miracle can come from.
Exchange enrollment has been well below projections, even in states not affected by healthcare.gov glitches. That suggests not only technical problems but also a lack of demand. By a wide margin, the stories of sticker shock and lost health plans seem to outnumber the happy endings, and there's no reason so far to think that 2015 premiums, when they are announced in the spring, won't be even higher than the 2014 premiums. That's why, as good a face as the White House puts on it, Democratic insiders are already panicking over losing the Senate.
But where Obamacare defenses are a dime a dozen, Krugman's is unique for the analogy he chose — Benghazi, the site where four Americans serving their country died in 2012 amid numerous preventable mistakes by government officials. There seems to be no accountability for those failures, and no punishment for anyone but the whistleblowers.
Krugman correctly observes that Benghazi is nearly forgotten for all but the most anti-Obama partisans. It did not cause widespread public anger or a major loss of prestige for the White House. Yet Obamacare has. Why is this? It's a simple extension of the adage that all politics is local. It's even more local when it's affecting you personally.
Most Americans weren’t there in Benghazi when the September 11 attack occurred, and most don’t know anyone directly affected by it. Contrast that with the Affordable Care Act. Its victims are not dead, nor even close, but they are legion and they live among us. Many of them took President Obama at his word, when he explicitly promised this would not happen to them. Now that it has, they face a new world in which health insurance costs more and pays for less — and as many with employer insurance realize they have also been deceived, their ranks will grow still further.
Krugman has never had trouble in his column empathizing with the uninsurable and the very poor, who in many cases will benefit from Obamacare. But it is harder to empathize with the millions of Americans who are not poor, yet must constantly worry about money. These are the people most affected by and angriest about Obamacare now — and they also have little or nothing to gain from it.
Those inflated Obamacare premiums won’t make these people homeless. But they will put a lot of extra pressure on their household budgets. Obamacare will cancel date nights and trips to visit family; it will force less generous Christmases for children. It will mean that for all your hard work, you'll still be driving that piece of junk a few more years before you can afford to replace it with something more reliable.
To some writers, the experiences and aspirations of this entire “middle class” are so foreign that these people might as well all live half a world away in Benghazi. But they are real, and they vote. And if the media tried to ignore their story, the very stones would cry out.
DAVID FREDDOSO, a Washington Examiner columnist, is the former Editorial Page Editor for the Examiner and the New York Times-bestselling author of "Spin Masters: How the Media Ignored the Real News and Helped Re-elect Barack Obama." He has also written two other books, "The Case Against Barack Obama" (2008) and "Gangster Government" (2011).