THE BLOG
12/08/2013 09:38 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

BOTH SIDES NOW: Obamacares, Popenomics, Bill O'Really?

By Mark Green

Mary Matalin and Jonathan Alter debate whether Obamacare's Relaunch retook the health offensive and can revive it. Mary then describes what a Catholic conservative thinks about a Pope attacking "trickle down" policies and Limbaugh attacking the Pope for "pure Marxism." Also: What War on Xmas?

LISTEN HERE:

On the Re-Launch of Obamacare. Mary thinks that Obama's Relaunch was "necessary but not sufficient...and merely "magical rhetoric"; it'll fail because the exchanges aren't working and cancellations are growing. But when she says that "91 percent were happy with their health coverage in the '90s," Alter interrupts: what part of 41 million uninsured with millions of others losing coverage when they got sick was good? "The shameful reality was that if your child got sick, you could lose your house. I'm a cancer survivor but others without coverage weren't as lucky."

Are Republicans now just "rooting for failure" and what's the chance of Repeal? Mary acknowledges a split among the GOP between those who want to propose alternate health plans (like her) and those who simply think Obamacare will collapse on it own. Alter wonders what collapse means: "good luck with that once people grow used to popular provisions like no more lifetime limits and pre-existing conditions."

As for repeal, Alter asserts the chance is zero "through 2017 while Obama's the president with a veto pen." Mary agrees that nothing's ever repealed but that it will be amended as "Young Invincibles" realize they're "being charged Cadillac prices and denied their freedom." Alter thinks it ridiculous for Republicans to so fiercely attack a Republican idea like market-based individual responsibility for health insurance since that's the Romney-Dole-Heritage plan.

While there's no right to a Lexus for $70,000, is health insurance a right or a privilege? Alter says a right because "a just nation with a social contract pulls together as one for people in need rather than have a patchwork of state laws that's already failed." Mary doesn't think it's a right since our founding documents talked only about a right "to happiness and religious freedom."

One consensus: the unarguably botched rollout of Obamacare shows this president's managerial Achilles Heel.

The young are being "denied their freedom?" Those on exchanges are reporting dozens of plans to choose among...unless we're here talking about the freedom to go without coverage which risks death and bankruptcy. Does any parent want that for their children?

Politically, Obama suffered a five point fall because of the rollout and you-can-keep-it pledge. But won't he win the war? Whether four or seven million are on the exchanges by March and whether the total benefitting (including Medicaid extension) is 20 or 25 million and costs grow half or a third as much, isn't it very likely that "at the end of the day" millions will get some or better health care and trillions cut from health care expenditures? When that happens - and with Benghazi, the IRS etc. in the Schiavo-Sherrod dustbin of history, won't Republicans then just start searching for the next Munich/Katrina?? Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

On The Pope vs. The Limbaugh and Religious Corporations. What does Mary make of the Pope's apostolic against "trickle down economics" as unjust because it naively relies on the rich and powerful to be fair? She thoughtfully explains her Church's tradition of volunteer charity and why it's wrong to "politicize" what the Pope said. In her view, like William F. Buckley Jr., the Pope was condemning "not capitalism but capitalists."

Jonathan, after describing some Papal history regarding workers and wages, thinks that the words of Pope Francis are a break with predecessors who almost always sided with not only capitalism but also capitalists. As for Limbaugh's statement that "this is just pure Marxism coming out of the mouth of the Pope," Alter cheekily calls that "pure chutzpah." He asks Mary to denounce Rush for denouncing the Pope. Instead, she lauds her Pontiff for starting this conversation and notes that Rush didn't say that the Pope was himself a Marxist, only that some of his language was.

Speaking of Religion, the Supreme Court in the Hobby Lobby case last week agreed to decide if observant owners of a company could deny female employees the health insurance benefits of certain mandated reproductive services. Mary thinks yes because religious freedom was a primary foundation of our Constitution. Jonathan thinks otherwise because a private citizen can't cite his religion to escape a secular law that didn't discriminate against any particular faith.

Then there's the constitutional problem that for 224 years there's never been a ruling that the owners or managers of an artificial entity have any religious rights that could outweigh the religious rights of some of its alive employees. As for "corporate personhood," that converts a metaphor into a legal principle that would permit the anarchy of some companies obeying the law while others don't. Can Orthodox Jews who segregate by gender in their synagogues be allowed to have separate entrances in their businesses? Scalia thought not when writing for the majority in Employment Division v. Smith in 1990 about a worker who said his religion allowed him to use an illegal drug. If the Justice reverses himself now, he would confirm -- as Bush v. Gore and Citizens United implied -- that he's a just an RNC member in robes who elevates his personal religion and party over judicial precedent and norms.

Quick Takes: Bill O'Really's? War on Xmas; BezosAir; Zero-Tolerance.

We listen to Bill O'Reilly inveigh against "creeping secularism and left-wing groups like the ACLU" trying to make Merry Christmas taboo. Alter thinks this is simply a December sweeps strategy since no law is making Macy's or NBC or anyone say "Holidays" or Christmas. Mary agrees that's no conspiracy afoot but worries "about a cultural shift where political correctness makes people feel self-conscious, even me."

As for Amazon drones that deliver packages not missiles, both agree that Jeff Bezos's comments weren't just a stunt before the holidays (er, Xmas shopping) to drive traffic to his site. (Jonathan honorably reminds us that he's in no position to attack Bezos since it's Amazon that finances his new subscription-only show Alpha House.)

One last Consensus Alert: both agree that the zero-tolerance policy toward students who violate school rules is an unhelpful one-size-fits-all policy when it comes to youthful mistakes. Jonathan then adds that, especially in a week where we celebrate Nelson Mandela's life of forgiveness, we should bring the same attitude to people jailed for life for three-strikes-and-you're-out infractions (as well as young minority men serving long jail sentences for first-time non-violent drug offenses).