As Justin and Cortney each noticed, Hillary Clinton bragged at Sunday's CNN candidate forum that her policies would "put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business," prompting bewildered responses from observers. Why would she openly say that? And why would she phrase her answer in such a way that seems tailor-made for attack ads? Two reasons, I suspect: First, her political talents are vastly overrated. There's a reason why Barack Obama came out of nowhere to beat her in 2008, and why she can't quite decisively put Bernie Sanders away even after the DNC structured this primary to grease her skids. Second, she may have used Barack Obama's infamous comments about bankrupting coal-fired power plants and causing working Americans' energy bills to "necessarily skyrocket" as a reference point. He was equally blunt, but Republicans couldn't make it stick. Hillary's replication of that feat relies on her ability to lock down the Obama coalition, which overcame a GOP shift among many white working class voters, as well as the media's willingness to give her a pass. If she faces an uniquely unpopular Republican nominee in the fall, many of her flaws will likely be overlooked or excused. If not, Democrats may regret fixing the game to ensure her victory. The fact is that despite their posturing as champions of the little guy, Democrats' tax-and-regulate agenda piles additional costs upon middle and working class families. Which brings us to this exchange, in which a woman challenges Clinton on the "Affordable" Care Act's lack of affordability:
Here we have an Obama voter who is once again leaning Democratic, but whose family's finances are under real strain because of Obamacare's spiking costs. After explaining how her monthly rates have more than doubled because of the law, she concludes, "I would like to vote Democratic, but it’s costing me a lot of money. And I’m just wondering if Democrats really realize how difficult it’s been on working class Americans to finance ObamaCare?” Cut and print, GOP ad makers. Note well that this isn't some right-wing agent. In fact, the questioner goes out of her way to be needlessly generous by stating that President Obama told Americans that they'd have to pay a little bit more for health insurance under his law. In fact, he and his allies told consumers precisely the opposite. In any case, Hillary's answer boils down to three themes, none of which is satisfactory:
(1) We need to lower costs. This is an admission of failure from a woman whose own plan served as the basis for Obamacare. This government power grab was supposed to substantially lower healthcare bills for American families and the federal government alike. Instead, consumers are paying more (with additional increases and disruptions on the way), and the US "cost curve" has been bent upward, not downward. Clinton recently claimed that the law is working. The math proves otherwise. Included in her word salad of a non-answer last night was a vague reference to establishing nonprofits to compete within the marketplace. The problem? Obamacare already tried this approach by creating "co-ops," which are collapsing from coast to coast.
(2) Your Obamacare experience is different than other people's. On several occasions, Hillary tells this struggling woman that while her story is a shame, she's heard competing anecdotes from other people about how well the law is working for them. While it's certainly true that Obamacare has benefited some consumers, poll after poll has shown that the number of people who've been actively harmed by the law outpaces beneficiaries by a sizable margin. Democrats foisted a $2 trillion healthcare experiment upon the country that violates the core promises they offered during the national debate. Cherrypicking positive stories and ignoring overt failures does not change reality. And how do other people's experiences help this woman?
(3) Shop harder, even though it might not help. "I'm not saying it's going to make a difference," Hillary concedes, as she suggests that this woman just try a little harder to find a cheaper plan somewhere. Hurt by Obamacare's well-documented monthly premium and out-of-pocket cost surges? Try harder, America. Or something. I'd love to know what was going through this working class mother's mind as Hillary implied that her government-caused hardship may somehow be attributable to her own incompetence or laziness as a consumer. In fairness to Hillary, there are no good answers to these questions, which is why she has little choice but to embrace aspirational ramblings about magical cost reductions, inevitably resulting in tone deaf and patronizing responses like the one she served up last evening. I'll leave you with these relevant flashbacks: