- - Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Republican leaders may think they’re doing the Lord’s work in attempting to repeal Obamacare, but many right-leaning political observers fear the party is locked into an uncertain and dangerous course, especially without a solid plan to replace it. Indeed, repeal and replace has become repeal and “Trust us, we’ll devise something terrific in the months or years ahead.” Obamacare is a mess that needs to be changed, say these skeptics, but why, they wonder, have President-elect Donald Trump and the congressional Republicans taken on this very difficult task as the first order of business when an easier and proven path to the nation’s well-being is available.

Polls reveal that the voters aren’t that happy with the “repeal and we’ll serve up something later” strategy anyway. Kaiser Permanente finds that only one in five support repeal decoupled from a ready-made alternative. The conservative McLaughlin Poll says fixing Obamacare, while popular, has relatively low priority compared to “economic growth and security issues,” with only “13 percent [of the electorate] insisting it should be first on Trump’s to-do list.”

What a clear plurality of voters are demanding from Mr. Trump and Congress — 47 percent, according to the McLaughlin folks — is to concentrate immediately on “creating jobs and reducing taxes.” Indeed, there is a surplus of low-hanging fruit in this category that Republicans should be able to pocket before taking on the difficult and politically perilous Obamacare problem. What’s more, this formula appears to work each time it has been seriously pressed by the party in power.

Here’s what Mr. Trump and the Republican Congress should be able to do fairly easily in the name of turning America into a mighty jobs machine again: Cut taxes on businesses and individuals, rid the country of thousands of job-crushing regulations, open up millions of acres that President Obama has walled off from energy producers and other job creators, etc. In short, passing and eliminating laws and regulations to ensure that the economic environment will turbo-start the economy, generate those good-paying jobs Mr. Trump has promised, and ensure that trillions of dollars and businesses overseas will readily return to our shores to create even more jobs. Once Mr. Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress have gained credibility in making the economy bloom again, voters are likely to become less impatient for the Republicans to come up with a cure for Obamacare.

Fixing Mr. Obama’s health care law is vital, but even those who are eager to see its demise don’t view it as picking off low-hanging fruit. Just consult The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page to see the problems involved. It’s more like solving a Rubik’s Cube, and it’s far from certain how an untried formula the Republicans may devise will work from the get-go and whether voters will take to it right away. And the media, unlike their full-blown defense of Obamacare, are likely to balloon every tiny defect into a full-scale disaster, forcing the GOP on the defensive.

Economist Larry Kudlow, who helped devise Mr. Trump’s tax reform program and is in the mix as his next choice to head the Council of Economic Advisers, has also made the case why tax reform, not Obamacare, should become “the first order of legislative business.” The economy, while creaking along, is still far from robust, he notes, with gross domestic product below 2 percent. Even more disturbing is the crucial economic indicator, Business Fixed Investment (BFI). If you look at the four long post-war recoveries of the ‘60s, ‘80s and ‘90s, Mr. Kudlow observes, business investment “averaged nearly 7 percent. In the Obama recovery, BFI was only 4 percent. Over the past two years, it has been flat.”

Replacing Obamacare is important, he allows. “But business tax reform — with low marginal corporate rates for large and small companies, easy repatriation [of some $2.7 trillion parked overseas] and immediate expensing for new investment — will have an enormously positive impact on the weakest part of the economy, namely business investment. That’s where we’ll see 3 or 4 percent growth, higher productivity, more and better paying jobs and fatter family pocketbooks.”

Mr. Kudlow’s recent book, “JFK and the Reagan Revolution,” makes a compelling case how five 20th century presidents, including JFK, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, fundamentally embraced these ideas and became successful pro-jobs presidents as a result. So why don’t the Donald and the GOP make this their first order of business and decide to repeal Obamacare when they have thoroughly crafted a solid and easily explained replacement and know how to sell it to the American people?

• Allan H. Ryskind is a former editor and co-owner of Human Events.

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