Palmetto State Republican Jim DeMint, the Senate’s Tea Party Godfather and self-appointed Obstructionist in Chief, has been making headlines after recommending that states fight President Obama’s health care law using an unconstitutional, 130-year-old tactic called nullification. DeMint wants states to simply refuse to implement the law, and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announced earlier this week that she’s standing by the state’s junior senator in blocking the Affordable Care Act.
Gov. Haley’s office released a letter on Tuesday announcing her intention to join forces with DeMint “to oppose [the Affordable Care Act's] implementation” and “oppose any creation of a state health exchange mandated under the president’s discredited health care law.”
It’s unclear how the governor considers the ACA to be “discredited” given that the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality, and that most of the law’s provisions are broadly popular even with Republicans. But that’s beside the point, apparently.
“Bottom line? By refusing to implement state-based exchanges, the state is ceding nothing,” Gov. Haley wrote — because helping poor South Carolinians afford health insurance is totally nothing, right? “States opposed to ACA should not freely give up the leverage we now have to repeal and replace this bad law.”
In a July 4 editorial, Haley again repeated the factually-challenged argument that the individual mandate represents “one of the largest federal tax increases on the middle class in recent U.S. history.” As ThinkProgress Economy’s Travis Waldron reported a week earlier, that’s simply not true:
The mandate can indeed be characterized as a tax, as the court found. But it is not a massive tax hike on the middle class, much less the biggest tax hike in American history. The tax imposed by the individual mandate amounts to either $695 or 2.5 percent of household income for those who don’t have insurance and are not exempt based on income levels. It would hit a small amount of Americans — somewhere between 2 and 5 percent — according to a study from the Urban Institute.
The number could be even lower depending on the law’s success: in Massachusetts, the only state with an insurance mandate, less than 1 percent of the state’s residents paid the penalty in 2009. The majority of the Affordable Care Act’s other taxes, such as a payroll tax increase and a tax on high-cost health plans, are aimed at upper-income Americans.
In supporting DeMint’s unconstitutional nullification tactic, Gov. Haley also provides yet another example of tea partiers suddenly abandoning the rule of law the minute they don’t get their way. It also displays a radical collective flip-flop by the Republican Party on health care, as the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein described last week using DeMint as an example:
In 2007, Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina sent a letter to President George W. Bush. DeMint said he would like to work with Bush to pass legislation that would “ensure that all Americans would have affordable, quality, private health coverage, while protecting current government programs. We believe the health care system cannot be fixed without providing solutions for everyone. Otherwise, the costs of those without insurance will continue to be shifted to those who do have coverage.”
Read that closely. DeMint does not say he wants legislation that would ensure all Americans have “access” to coverage — the standard rhetorical dodge of politicians who don’t want to oppose universal coverage, but also don’t want to do what’s necessary to achieve it. He says that he wants legislation that ensures all American actually have coverage. He says that without making sure every American has coverage, “the health care system cannot be fixed.” For good measure, DeMint wants to achieve this “while protecting current government programs.”
Combined with DeMint’s past support for the individual mandate as recent as 2007, it’s pretty clear that his opposition to the Affordable Care Act has less to do with the policy itself than with the president who passed it.