If you followed the news, listened to talk radio or watched the political TV shows over the weekend, you could be forgiven for believing the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, is about to bring the country to its knees.
To listen to Republicans in Congress and elsewhere tell it, Obamacare is about to—or already has—bankrupt the country, kill people or leave them to die in the streets. It is going to kill—or already has—our economy, throw people out of work, and deny everyone from children to senior citizens the right to see a doctor.
There’s only one problem: As of today, Obamacare hasn't even really started.
However, that hasn’t stopped Republicans from claiming the effort to provide insurance for the more than 50 million Americans without coverage is a failure and a catastrophe before it even begins.
If you listen carefully during the run-up to the ACA’s implementation, as well as in the battle over whom to blame for the potential government shutdown over the issue, Republicans are trying to convince the country that black is white, up is down, and tomorrow has already happened.
"The law's a trainwreck," House Speaker John Boehner said about ACA earlier this month. "It's time to protect American families from this unworkable law."
“We urge [Republicans and like-minded Democrats] to use all of the legislative tools at your disposal, including the filibuster, to protect America from this train wreck,” said a Sept. 20th letter signed by 24 House Republicans.
"Fix this train wreck. Fix this disaster," said Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) during a marathon 21-hour speech on the Senate floor last week.
The truth is, in many ways no one really knows how Obamacare is likely to unfold in the coming months and years. That’s because no one ever really knows how substantial public policy initiatives that may affect millions of Americans in one way or another will ever turn out. And the state-level insurance exchanges that lie at the heart of the law’s attempt to bring down cost and expand coverage aren’t even opening until October 1st and won't take full effect until next year.
But in their effort to paint as a failure anything created by the Obama administration, supported by the Democrats, potentially beneficial to more than a select few Americans who make up the their party’s base or anything that smacks of a political success they can’t take credit for, Republicans have collectively decided to skip to an ending that suits their political aims. And let the truth—and the future for potentially millions of Americans—be damned.
With polls showing two-thirds of Americans unsure about how the ACA is going to affect them or their families, calling something that hasn’t happened yet a disaster may be a winning political strategy in a cynical sort of way.
But as another U.S. senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York, famously once said, people are entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts.
They're also not entitled to predict the future as if it’s already passed.