If you’ve lost James Hoffa…

Andy Matthews

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.

If you've lost James Hoffa…

In the run-up to the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, then-House speaker Nancy Pelosi famously said that “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

Congress did, of course, pass the bill. President Obama signed it into law on March 23, 2010. And, as Pelosi promised, we are indeed finding out what’s in it.

Then again, even before the bill was passed, “what’s in it” — or at least, the most important elements of “what’s in it” — was already painfully obvious to those who opposed the bill or warned that it constituted disastrous health-care policy. While many of the dirty details had not yet come to light, it was clear that the bill increased intrusion by the federal government into the health-care market, with the predictable consequences including new taxes on businesses, higher premiums for individuals and further strains on federal and state budgets.

Again, to many of us, this was obvious at the time. But now, it appears that even the bill’s most ardent supporters are finally beginning to figure out “what’s in it” and what that means to them.

In an open-letter to Democratic congressional leaders, the heads of three powerful, national labor unions have voiced strong concerns over the increasingly hard-to-ignore ill-effects of Obamacare. The letter, whose authors include Teamsters chief James Hoffa, warns that the law will “destroy the very health and wellbeing of our members along with millions of other hardworking Americans.”

When did James Hoffa join the Tea Party?

Given that these unions, during the debate over the bill, were among Obamacare’s most spirited cheerleaders, the temptation for schadenfreude here is strong. And it’s particularly so when I read excerpts like this from the letter:

[T]he law creates an incentive for employers to keep employees’ work hours below 30 hours a week. Numerous employers have begun to cut workers’ hours to avoid this obligation, and many of them are doing so openly. The impact is two-fold: fewer hours means less pay while also losing our current health benefits.

Seriously: Is there anything better than watching union leaders explain the unintended consequences of government interference with markets? Given that so many unions nowadays agitate aggressively for such government meddling — minimum-wage laws, anyone? — what we have here is a spectacle that nearly redefines irony. Not so fun when it’s your members who are suffering and getting angry, is it, Mr. Hoffa?

Still, I’m doing my best to get my I-told-you-sos out of my system quickly — and hope you’ll do the same — because of the need to recognize the most important facet of this about-face. It’s not the egg on the faces of Hoffa, et al. It’s that Obamacare remains a disaster, and now, more and more people are starting to figure that out. Those of us who were right from the beginning should welcome these late-comers to the club with open arms.

Winning the intellectual battles over public policy requires changing minds. I’m not nearly delusional enough to believe that James Hoffa has suddenly transformed into Friedrich Hayek, but at least he’s acknowledging some of the problems with Obamacare. And that’s how you build the coalitions that make political change possible.

There are many out there who will be swayed by our arguments. And we must do all we can to make sure they hear them. We must continue to point out, as my NPRI colleagues and I have done repeatedly, that what plagues our nation’s health-care system is not a lack of government involvement, but the precise opposite. Truly freeing up the health-care market, rolling back government mandates and regulations, and putting medical decisions back in the hands of patients and doctors, rather than bureaucrats, remains the only way to increase access to affordable, quality care.

Obamacare ignores these essential truths. It tries to use government to solve problems that government created to begin with. And as even James Hoffa is starting to realize, the results — unless action is taken to remove this law from the books — will be disastrous for hundreds of millions of Americans.

Let’s keep up the fight.

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President

Remember, if you'd like to receive the latest from NPRI, sign-up for our emails here.