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Columbia Missourian

WHAT OTHERS SAY: Building better health care against dead-end opposition

By St. Louis Post-Dispatch
September 28, 2013 | 5:46 p.m. CDT

Having failed to stop the Affordable Care Act with democracy, having failed to stop it in the Supreme Court, tea party politicians across the nation are now trying extortion.

As the health insurance marketplaces prepare to open for business on Tuesday, politicians on the Republican Party’s farthest-right wing are using tactics that are ever more deceitful, contemptible and mean-spirited.

The lowlight came Tuesday and Wednesday as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, waged a 21-plus hour talkathon against the nation’s new health care law, promising an effort to shut down the government unless Obamacare is defunded. Mr. Cruz has been in the Senate for all of nine months.

If whoever devised this strategy — letting an ambitious tyro hijack the entire party — was paid for it, the Republicans ought to get their money back.

Voters twice elected President Barack Obama. The second time he ran on his success in passing a program to provide health insurance to millions of Americans and to try to end insurance industry abuse. If Americans hated Obamacare as much as Mr. Cruz claims they do, they would have turned to Mitt Romney. The Republican nominee ceaselessly pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act, despite having more or less invented its prototype as governor of Massachusetts.

In the same election, voters re-elected every Democratic senator who supported the health care law. It’s obvious that the majority of non-tea party voters want health care reform; they like the parts they’ve already got, and they want to see the rest of it.

Here in Missouri, the lost cause has been carried by Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder. On Monday, he shamefully urged Missourians to stay away from the insurance marketplace scheduled to open for business next week.

“I would hope there would be active resistance to this law — that people would not sign up,” Mr. Kinder said.

So here’s the state’s lieutenant governor asking residents to act against their own interests in making it difficult for the federal insurance exchange to work. This would be the same Mr. Kinder who has been employed in government for the past 20 years enjoying the benefits of health insurance that taxpayers have subsidized.

Does he offer an alternative suggestion for the 800,000 Missourians who do not have health insurance?

Of course not. He’s just grandstanding. His frivolous lawsuit to challenge its implementation failed. But he thinks opposing Obamacare is some kind of salve for a political career that he ran into a ditch with personal problems.

Mr. Kinder and his fellow dead-enders have made Missouri one of the toughest places in the country to get an exchange up and running. State workers were prevented from setting up a state exchange or helping the federal government create one. Heedless obstructionism is a way of life for these folks.

Implementing the Affordable Care Act is going to be messy and difficult. So it has been with all of our nation’s social welfare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, and Social Security in 1935.

The losers in those battles didn’t descend to chicanery to discourage participation. They went back to the table with the winners and tried to make the laws work in ways that both sides could live with. They compromised, which is what the legislative and executive branches used to do.

These programs have not been stagnant. The Social Security Act, for example, has been amended at least once in nearly every decade since it was implemented. Medicare and Medicaid were created out of changes to the Social Security law.

This is what should happen with the new health care law. If Republicans really thought it was going to be so horrible, they would allow it to go into effect and sit back to watch it self-destruct.

But their real fear is that it will be a stunning success. Their worst nightmare is that they will have spent four years mongering fear about death panels and health care rationing and voters will realize it was all a fraud.

Maybe it’s not too late. Some moderate Republicans have stepped back and are criticizing the aggressive tactics of the fringe. Voters need to help get those people back to the tables to negotiate for the changes they want. Now is not the time to destroy; it’s the time to build.