Last night, Bloomberg News and The Washington Post hosted Republican Presidential candidates in a round-table debate focused on the economy. The debate served as yet another example of the growing distance between the Republican candidates and the greater Jewish community, specifically on the issue of health care reform. Many of the candidates—including former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA)—called for the repeal of President Barack Obama’s health care reform package and continued to blame it for America’s current economic situation. Some candidates even resorted to using false claims to attack the bill.
Bachmann’s “Obamacare” claims were debunked by The Washington Post’s fact-checkers:
‘I think that senior citizens across the country have no idea that President Obama plans for Medicare to collapse, and instead everyone will be pushed into ‘Obamacare.’‘
- Michele Bachmann
We previously looked at this claim and gave it Four Pinocchios. Medicare today is in effect a European-style, socialized health care program, so we never understood what Bachmann means when she says Obama wants to take a program that is already socialized medicine and turn it into Obamacare. A single-payer option - much like Medicare - was rejected when the Democratic-led Congress drafted the health care law.
Instead, the Obama health care law sets up ‘health insurance exchanges’ in which people can shop for policies. Depending on the income level, they may qualify for a government subsidy. Ironically, one can make a case that the House Republican budget plan is designed to turn Medicare into a program that has some of the key features of Obama’s health care law. For instance, seniors would be given government subsidies, which they would then use to shop for coverage from private companies in a new kind of marketplace called an ‘Exchange.’
It is strange for Bachmann to suggest that Obama wants to replace Medicare with Obamacare, which relies on the private insurance market. If Obama had had the votes in Congress, he would have pushed for a Medicare-like option in his health care law - but not the other way around.
The Washington Post also questioned claims made by former Ambassador Jon Huntsman about Obama’s health care plan:
‘The IRS is already planning on 19,500 new employees to administer that mandate. That will stay, and that’s the ruinous part of ‘Obamacare.’‘
- Jon Huntsman
We’re not sure where Huntsman gets his figure, which seems absurdly high. The IRS budget request for 2012 says the agency plans to hire about 1,300 full-time workers to administer the new health care law.
The Republicans’ use of health care reform as a straw man for the sluggish economy continues to demonstrate their willingness to risk the social safety net assurances provided by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in order to defeat Obama. The mainstream of the Jewish community worked tirelessly to pass Obama’s health care bill and values its success. By continuing to attack ACA the Republican field is placing itself further and further away from the vast majority of American Jews.
In addition, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) took his attacks to a new extreme when he not only targeted Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the non-partisan Federal Reserve, but also proposed incarcerating Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) and Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) for their banking regulations. According to a transcript posted by Time Magazine, Gingrich said:
If they want to really change things, the first person to fire is Bernanke, who is a disastrous chairman of the Federal Reserve. The second person to fire is Geithner.
The fact is, in both the Bush and the Obama administrations, the fix has been in. And I think it’s perfectly reasonable for people to be angry. But let’s be clear who put the fix in: The fix was put in by the federal government.
And if you want to put people in jail—I want to second what Michele said—you ought to start with Barney Frank and Chris Dodd and let’s look at the politicians who created the environment, the politicians who profited from the environment, and the politicians who put this country in trouble.
Click here to read more from The Washington Post’s fact-check of last night’s debate.
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