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October 4, 2013

Green eggs and Uncle Sam

Conservatives opposed to Obamacare could learn a thing or two from Dr. Seuss’s classic.

Last week, Texas junior Senator Ted Cruz drew a new wave of national attention to Dr. Seuss’s age-old classic, Green Eggs and Ham.

It’s an interesting choice to say the least, because while Cruz could have gone with any book – say, the Official Tea Party Patriots Coloring Book or Why Daddy is a Republican – he went with Green Eggs and Ham, one of the most patently liberal picture books in the entire library.

Penned with preschoolers in mind, the Dr. Seuss classic is about not knocking something until you’ve tried it. Like, say, green eggs and ham. Or health reform.

Ted Cruz apparently never got the memo. According to him, “Green Eggs and Ham has some applicability, as curious as it might sound, to Obamacare.” Really, how so? “Through an exercise of brute political force,” he recalls, “ObamaCare became the law of the land.”

I’m not sure if a conservative court’s Supreme Court ruling or a piece of legislation that Republicans actually voted for (something that, a mere three years later, could only happen in our imagination) quite counts as “brute political force,” especially coming from a guy who went on a cross-country tour this summer to promote a congressional effort to defund health reform, arguing that a shutdown of the government would not be a disaster for America or the Republican Party.

But, okay, go on…

“But the difference with Green Eggs and Ham,” he continued, “is when Americans tried it, they discovered they did not like green eggs and ham and they did not like Obamacare either. They did not like Obamacare in a box, with a fox, in a house, or with a mouse. It is not working.”

There are a couple of problems with that statement. First, and perhaps most importantly, health reform hasn't even been fully rolled out yet. Some provisions, like banning companies from imposing dollar limits on essential health benefitsand income-based Medicare Part D premiums, were introduced back in 2011, but more than half of the law remains to be fully implemented, and won’t be until the end of 2014. That’s why Ted Cruz was giving his faux-libuster in the first place – to promote a House-approved bill that would delay opening the health exchanges by a full year.

Moreover, while 49 percent of Americans may say they “believe the Affordable Care Act is a bad idea,” their distaste seems to be in name only – about 55.25 percent also happen to really like what’s in it, including 74 percent support for the provision that bans insurance companies from denying coverage on the basis of “pre-existing conditions,” 60 percent support for provisions that prevent insurers from charging those in poor health more or imposing lifetime limits on benefits, and 58 percent support for requiring all policies to provide a minimum package of health benefits.

In fact, every component of the law has at least five percentage-point higher approval than disapproval.

Those are astounding numbers. To put them in perspective, consider this: as recently as this this July, only 64 percent of US adults agreed that “gay or lesbian relations between consenting adults should be legal.” Not same-sex marriage (approval: 54 percent), just “relations.” (In fact, only three-fourths even claim to personally know someone who is gay.)

76 percent “disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job.” 69 percent believe “there is solid evidence of global warming.” 61 percent “think evolution should be taught in public school science classes.”

Even though he won by a widely-recognized landslide, then-Senator Barack Obama really only won the 2008 popular vote with 53 percent to McCain’s 46.

I bring these up as examples because, to most people, these would seem as near-universal absolutes – as though it would be fairly accurate to say that “everyone” thinks same-sex relations should be legal, evolution should be taught in public schools, and Congress is doing a reprehensible job.

More relevant to Cruz’s point, the key parts of health reform that have already rolled out – no lifetime dollar limits on coverage, bans on pre-existing condition limitations, and the like – all have at least the majority of the public’s approval. So while Americans may claim to not like Obamacare, what they really don’t like is what they think Obamacare is. Kind of like the stubborn main character in Dr. Seuss’s classic initially claimed he didn’t like green eggs and ham.

But this, of course, is really nothing new. Since its passage in 2010, Republicans have voted at least forty-two times to repeal Obamacare – needless to say, each time unsuccessfully.

Cruz misread Green Eggs and Ham just like his party misread the American public – in 2008, in 2010, quite pathetically in 2012 ($50,000 on victory fireworks, anyone?), and now again in 2013. Contrary to what Boehner may believe or Cruz may proclaim, many Americans like Obamacare and many Americans want Obamacare. What they don’t want is another, 1995-style government shutdown.

House Representative Marlin Stutzman, a Republican from Indiana, summarized his party’s ambitions best: “We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is."

Anastasia Golovashkina is a third-year in the College majoring in economics.

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