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Five Years

Five years ago yesterday I wrote this:

There’s an awful lot of work left to be done with [the Affordable Care Act], … successively, from year to year. The main thing is that there will now be a perennial battle about how we fulfill with the national responsibility to ensure (or insure) access to health care, or how well we fulfill it, rather than if we fulfill it, or if that responsibility exists at all. But, like early childhood education, the perennial battle may be answered with cheaply and shoddily, which ain’t much of a legacy. So, yes, a big fucking deal, but the deal ain’t done.

Look, here's the thing, and I'll repeat it from a bunch of other sources because it bears repeating: the crazy Supreme Court case King v Burwell ought to be a terrific opportunity for the Other Party to achieve policy goals. To the extent that there is anything to fix at all (and there's an argument, certainly, that this particular text is not actually problematic at all) the federal subsidies for people who can't afford health care in states where the mandated exchanges are managed by the federal government rather than the state could be explicitly approved with a single sentence. The text of the law could be unambiguously put in line with what everyone who voted for it thought it meant. It could be done in an hour.

And the Other Party could, legitimately, hold that process up for some sort of policy concession. We'll make this ridiculous case go away, they could say, and at the same time we'll fix some language in Glass-Steagall to make that clearer as well. Or we'll reduce such-and-such reporting requirements to yearly. Or even we'll exempt another small class of employers from the mandate. Something that Our Only President could sign, even if he would prefer not to. They could legislate.

This would be the normal way for large legislation to work: in the years after the big legislation, a handful of minor problems are fixed, and along with that there are new changes introduced that reflect the new balance of power in the House and Senate. This is a way in which the preferences of voters and activists, as expressed in elections, influences what the government actually does. Incrementally. It's not the only way, but it's one of the ways that democracy works.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,