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The Reason Republicans Were Willing to Shut It Down

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Posted on Sep 30, 2013
AP/J. Scott Applewhite

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, arrives at the Senate floor for a vote on the government funding bill.

By Bill Boyarsky

Don’t write the Republicans off as totally crazy. They know that if Obamacare works, it will wreck chances for attaining their real goal—lowering taxes on the rich, wiping out regulations and widening even more the gap between the very rich and everyone else.

That is why they and their business allies are fighting so hard against the Affordable Care Act and threatening to bring the federal government to a halt. If the Republicans lose on Obamacare, it will be nearly impossible for them to shrink government the way they’ve been dreaming.

Keep these goals in mind while watching the antics of the right’s new idol, Sen. Ted Cruz, and his followers. The tea party fanatics, now glorying in publicity, are merely business’ foot soldiers in the battle.

You can see where the real power lies by examining the website of the Center for Responsive Politics.

Tea party activists are portrayed in the news media as responding en masse with financial contributions and support through Twitter after Cruz’s 21 straight hours of oratory in the Senate last week, and I imagine they did. But Cruz’s largest supporters are from the world of big business, from donors who can’t tolerate the mild reforms enacted by President Barack Obama.


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The Texas senator’s biggest contributor, with $705,657, in the 2009-2014 fundraising cycle was the Club for Growth. It uses the populist tea party as a cover for the businesses that put up the big money and that presumably call the shots. The Club contributed $17.9 million for the 2010, 2012 and upcoming 2014 congressional elections, with more than half of it—$9.8 million—going to right wing candidates in Republican primaries, a number of whom lost to Democrats in general election runoffs.

The Club’s two top contributors, with $1 million each, were John Childs, who runs a private equity fund, and Bob Perry, a Texas homebuilder. The other big contributors have similar backgrounds.

Cruz’s second biggest donor was an organization called the Senate Conservatives Fund, which gave $315,991. The Koch brothers are rather paltry Senate Conservatives Fund contributors with $17,500. The third largest Cruz donor was Texas-based Woodforest National Bank with $93,500. With branches in Wal-Mart stores around the country, it is the anti-union company’s largest retail partner. Among Cruz’s other banking contributors was Goldman Sachs, with $66,850. Cruz’s wife, Heidi Nelson Cruz, is a Goldman Sachs executive, and Cruz reported investing $158,000 to $495,000 of his $1.7 million net worth through the firm.

Money from wealthy individuals will be used to finance a faux grass-roots campaign that will be aimed at exploiting the troubles that will no doubt unfold as the new health care exchanges open Tuesday.

It requires some thought and patience, but navigating the exchanges is manageable, especially in states that have been devoting months to preparing.

I went through the website of Covered California, the Obamacare exchange system in that state, and although it takes some thought, the site is not especially difficult.

I checked on how much a silver plan, in the middle of choices, would cost a family of five—husband, wife, two children under 21, one 23—with an income of $60,000 a year. The monthly premium would be $1,243, with a tax credit of $898, bringing the payment down to $346 a month.

The silver plan pays 70 percent of the medical bills and the recipients 30 percent. The most expensive, platinum, pays 90 percent; the cheapest, bronze, pays 60 percent.

Once they decide between bronze, silver and platinum, buyers will then examine the specific plans offered by the 12 companies taking part in the California exchange. These include large firms such as Anthem Blue Cross and Kaiser Permanente as well as smaller ones such as the Chinese Community Health Plan and Molina Healthcare, which has specialized in lower income people. Consumers will have to make choices. Molina, for example, requires a $60 copay for a visit to a primary physician in a bronze policy but only a $3 copay in a silver.

Within those broad outlines, there will be questions from potential recipients about eligibility, choices of doctors and many other points. Since implementing Obamacare basically means creating a big bureaucracy in a short time, buyers will no doubt be frustrated at vague answers from websites and long hold times while trying to get through to a help line. Computer systems may fail. Perhaps there won’t be enough young and healthy people signing up. If this happens, the exchanges may be left with the high cost of covering the sick and old.

Any growing pains of this sort will be magnified in the huge anti-Obamacare campaign being mounted by the well-financed conservatives determined to destroy the program. So far, the Affordable Care Act is working. But the opening of the exchanges will be the most difficult part. The charge that Obamacare is already a failure may resonate with those who know little or nothing of the program. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that a majority of the public—especially those lacking health coverage—is unaware of the opening of the exchanges.

If the Affordable Care Act works, its success will tilt the balance in favor of government-aided health care—and clear the way for eventual approval of the best solution: a single payer system, Medicare for all.

But if the Republicans win, succeeding in dismantling Obamacare or even forcing a year’s delay, the cause of an activist government will be dealt a blow that will be felt for generations. That will strengthen the GOP for the 2014 congressional elections and 2016 presidential race.

Then they can move onto the next step that was so clearly outlined in their last presidential campaign and their infamous Paul Ryan budget—reducing taxes for the rich and further dismantling the safety net and regulatory structure that provide us at least minimal protection.

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