Opinion

Who’s really responsible for Obamacare? The answer may surprise you

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David Williams
President, Taxpayers Protection Alliance
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      David Williams

      David Williams is the President of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to educating the public through the research, analysis and dissemination of information on the government’s effects on the economy. In his 18 years in Washington, D.C., David has become an expert in finding and exposing government waste and has helped fine tune criteria in identifying and ultimately eliminating earmarks.

House and Senate Republicans would like you to believe that they are willing to do almost anything — including forcing a government shutdown or a default on the debt ceiling — to stop the implementation of Obamacare. They are rightly appalled at the damage that Obamacare is already doing to our economy and healthcare system, since the implementation thus far has been a train wreck. However, for all the debate, votes to repeal, and genuine opposition from Republicans in Congress, the truth is that the GOP and its profligate ways actually created Obamacare. The story begins in 2005.

Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress. Earmarks were considered the accepted way of doing business in Washington then and 2005 was the year that the infamous Bridge to Nowhere earmark was born. The plan was for the project to be funded for fiscal year (FY) 2006. The earmark’s “parents” were two prominent Republicans, the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Rep. Don Young (R-AK). The Bridge to Nowhere is now a part of American folklore as a project that many Alaskans didn’t want and the poster child for government waste.
The grassroots fought hard against the bridge and their efforts paid off as the Alaskan legislators were ultimately forced to drop the earmark from the appropriations bill. Conservative activists saw the power of working in concert to reduce government waste and pork-barrel spending.

Unfortunately, members of Congress didn’t learn the same lesson. While the grassroots was focused on enacting more conservative policies, Republicans in Congress remained focused on protecting their pet projects. The divide between elected Republicans and ordinary Americans on government spending was clear.

The Bridge to Nowhere was emblematic of the 2006 appropriations process, as Congress — both Republicans and Democrats — continued to increase its appetite for pork-barrel spending. Even though the media reported on voters’ distaste for earmarks, Congress, led by Republicans, kept on spending taxpayer money on wasteful ones, clueless to the rising sentiment against the practice. 2006 was a high point for earmarks, with Congress spending nearly $30 billion on those special interest projects like $1,000,000 for water-free urinals at the Department of Defense; $500,000 for the Sparta Teapot Museum in Sparta, North Carolina; and $250,000 for the National Cattle Congress in Waterloo, Iowa.

Republicans had previously warmed up to earmarks when then-Speaker Newt Gingrich used them in 1996 to help Republican freshmen get re-elected. So, by 2006, the track record of Republicans embracing earmarks was not a new phenomenon. It had, however, become completely out of control.

When Election Day rolled around in 2006 Republicans believed they were safe from the wrath of the voters. Leadership and committee chairmen thought their bits of bacon would secure them re-election so they could retain control of Congress.

But something funny happened on the way to the polls: citizens showed their frustration with earmarks and overspending by voting Republicans out and giving control of both the House and Senate back to the Democrats. Despite the Democrats own fondness for government largesse, the citizens wanted to punish those responsible for failing to hold the line on wasteful government spending.

In 2008, Barack Obama was elected president and — thanks to Democrat control of Congress — had the support needed to pass his top legislative priority: Obamacare.

Republicans regained control of the House in 2010, as citizens again expressed their frustration with government waste and issued a stinging rebuke to President Obama. The Democrats felt the voters wrath and Tea Party grassroots activists elected a Republican majority in the House. Unfortunately, by then, the damage had been done.