Obamacare: The Most Polarizing Legislation In The History Of Congress?
While everyone knows that there is a profound ideological schism when it comes to those for and against the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, what may not be appreciated is that Obamacare was, and still is, the most contentious and polarizing legislation in the history of Congress. At least, it is according to JPMorgan. In the chart below, JPM's Michael Cembalest shows that the "disagreement gap" between Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate, over 100 years of impactful legislation, has never been greater than with Obamacare.
While debt sustainability is still a matter of dispute, the heart of the existing impasse is Obamacare. In the 21st century, the concept of universal health care (single payer, two-tier or insurance mandate) occurs just about everywhere in the developed world, and increasingly, in the developing world. Nevertheless, and regardless of what anyone thinks about its merits and failings, Obamacare has an “original sin” problem: for the first time in 100 years, one party crammed down a bill with national implications without any agreement from the opposing party.
As shown in the table below, whether the issue was civil rights, creation of entitlement programs, welfare reform, labor relations, tax preferences or the first-time imposition of Federal controls over the environment, financial markets and the money supply, major (and at times controversial) bills of the 20th century were passed with some level of participation and consent from both parties in both chambers. Obamacare was not. It’s too soon to judge whether the country will adapt to something about which their elected representatives were so deeply divided. As things stand now, the bill’s support in a recent CNN poll is around 39%. Benjamin Franklin’s quote comes to mind when thinking about one-sided enactment of nationally impactful legislation: “We must hang together, or most assuredly, we will all hang separately”."
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