The United States is in a unique political moment. Today, Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines than in any time in the past twenty five years. The two major parties leading the country are becoming much more adversarial—and not in a way that bolsters public or national cohesiveness. Rather, political polarization—accompanied by political segregation—is leading to, for lack of a better word, chaos. One of the most evident (among many) case studies that proves this claim is the recent repeal and replace attempts of Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act).
To grasp how we’ve come to where we are, we must briefly highlight why Republicans opposed ObamaCare as much as they did. Since being passed in 2009, Republicans have tried to dismantle it 61 different times by pushing congressional votes, along with the Supreme Court having to rule on the ACA four different times. Interestingly enough, the views of this young law are lopsided, with Republicans calling it, “The most dangerous piece of legislation ever passed,” and, “As destructive to personal and individual liberties as the Fugitive Slave Act.” Yet, most of these comments came during it’s initial creation, and some Republicans today actually supported the effort to keep Obamacare alive during Trump’s attempt to repeal it. Although the majority of Republicans still dislike Obamacare from a party perspective, we must determine the cause of that disdain. Does it stem from political opposition or sound policy analysis? Either way, it was evident from the passing of the ACA—without any Republican votes—that Republicans felt as though they were “left out” of the bill creation process, which led to increased clashing with and elevated resentment towards the Democratic party.
However, Republicans’ persistence in labeling the ACA for being a “job-killer” seems to be unwarranted, considering that a recent report by the Altarum Institute found that from 2014-16 in just the healthcare sector alone there was an increase of nearly 240K well-paying jobs. Additionally, the claims that the ACA would increase part-time work opportunities and not full-time employment were right as well. Although, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that since the ACA’s inception to now, voluntary part-time work has increased significantly, while involuntary part-time employment has decreased dramatically. But, debating about whether the ACA created jobs, or the economy would have been better off without it is somewhat ridiculous.
Harvard professors, Amitabh Chandra and Kate Baicker stated, “The key policy goals [of the ACA] should be to achieve better health outcomes and increase overall economic productivity so that we can all live healthier and wealthier lives.” The primary objective never considered creating some sort of job market, so having that debate is essentially meaningless. Obamacare was not created as a ‘job-killing’ or ‘creating’ program; it was implemented as a healthcare law with the goals of increasing coverage for a significant number of Americans, protecting patients against unethical actions by insurance organizations, and reducing costs. It managed to accomplish two out of the three but fell short on cutting costs.
A market like healthcare is not one in which a single policy will be effective instantaneously. Finding the most productive health care plan for our country, primarily due to its extremely complex nature, requires multiple efforts of trial and error. Deficiencies in the system must be critically examined, and then continually tweaked to weed out inferior components of any initiative. However, unless political leadership, regardless of what party one may belong to, can collaborate in a manner that at least creates a vision for the future of our healthcare system, our healthcare system will remain brutally flawed.
The most dangerous piece of legislation ever passed.
It’s also evident that the U.S. would benefit from a focused attempt to solve the current health care issues our country is struggling with. The United States GDP was estimated to be at roughly $18.56 trillion in 2016. Further, in 2014 the U.S. spent $9,237 per person on healthcare, which was the most out of any country by far. It was also typically shown that countries—especially high-income countries—who spend more on healthcare, have more healthcare options available to citizens and their health improves. However, A recent study ranked over 124 nations by health and living standards, and America was the 28th. Plus, out of the twelve wealthiest nations in the country—like the UK, which spends nearly a ⅓ on national healthcare compared to the US and has a higher life expectancy rate—America ranked dead last.
Critiques of the opposition’s ideology or perspective are not a bad thing. In fact, we’ve seen just how useful constructive criticism can be in leading to a more informed decision-making process. A recent example is North Carolina’s leading legislators working together in a civil manner to figure out how to help their citizens provide more support for their families. Lawmakers from multiple factions of the two largest parties met and engaged professionally. Although the NC legislators explicitly mentioned changing one’s political beliefs was still not likely to occur, it was effective in encouraging each member present to prioritize understanding others’ points of view—something that seems to be lacking at the federal level.
Nevertheless, with comments coming from both sides of leadership, the word “constructive” is the last possible one that can be used to describe the collaboration efforts between the United States’ two major parties. For example, neither Tom Perez claiming, “Republicans don’t give a s**t about people” nor President Trump promoting Michael Knowles entirely blank book titled “Reasons to Vote for Democrats” does much to soothe partisan rancor.
At some point, we must realize that today’s ongoing battle between parties, and even within parties, has shifted more towards verbal warfare, rather than the promotion of the best, most efficient, or most effective idea or policy. Both sides concentrate on besmirching the other, rather than governing. This newfound interest in slandering the opposition is the leading factor as to why over 40 percent of Americans are now identifying themselves as Independents.
We teach children that working together is beneficial. Cooperation helps us all establish better bonds, and learn from our previous mistakes. Being exposed to multiple points of views brings out fresh ideas that would have never been brought up if it was only a bunch of “like-minded” individuals, or in this case same party or faction. So why is it that Congress, the actual leadership of our country and those serving to represent the people of the United States, can’t seem to realize that they are all on the same team? If we cannot fix this inherent problem, our country’s future is bleak.
We seem to be a country split down the middle. There are constant cries of racism, a lack of awareness of historical wrongdoing, unnecessary and preventable violence, rioting and looting, media attention that seems to be focused more on belittling other networks instead of providing sound reporting, an incredible ignorance of not learning from our previous mistakes, and so much more. The question of what it means to be an American nowadays is an open one. What values should our people, and more importantly our country, be known for upholding? What are we known for being? When are we going to realize how necessary coming together as one nation truly is? These are just a few of the many questions our leaders in Washington D.C. must ask themselves, but the most important one is: when are we going to understand that without a united effort we will never truly reach our full potential? Healthcare is not an issue of partisanship. Your political identity, your racial status, your monetary value all should not have any effect on healthcare, because when it comes down to it, healthcare is a human rights issue and it is one that we all must learn to agree on.