'Obamacare for the Internet,' and 4 Other Ways Republicans Tie Everything to the ACA

Why Ted Cruz (and every other conservative) tries to link every government program to Obamacare.

This morning, the White House issued a statement clarifying the president's new, I'll-never-have-to-run-again thinking about net neutrality. Shortly thereafter, he earned a Twitter condemnation from Senator Ted Cruz.

The "Obamacare of" permutation generated a lot of laughter, but if anything Cruz was late to the field. Five years after passage, conservatives have found that comparing any government program to Obamacare works to immediately brand it as horrible and unworkable. It's a sure bet, like casting Channing Tatum in a summer movie.

‘Obamacare for banks’

I heard this version of the trope in person, at a pre-election rally in Wisconsin starring Representative Paul Ryan. He ran down the list of Obama administration outrages, and told the crowd to fear financial reform. "If you don't know what Dodd-Frank is," said Ryan, "it's Obamacare for banks." Days later, on the road to his easy re-election win, Sen. Mitch McConnell promised to untangle "Obamacare for banks." The Ryan/McConnell meaning was best explained two years earlier, by conservative scholar Peter Wallison, who argued that Dodd-Frank "leaves the members of the massive financial services industry as privately-owned firms, but blankets them with so much regulation that they are no longer really independent operators."

‘Obamacare for education,’ 1.0

The rebellion against national curriculum standards known as Common Core started with conservatives, who named the state-driven education dogma "Obamacore." Utah Senator Mike Lee, whose connection to Tea Party thinking is as sturdy as Cruz's, dubbed Common Core "the Obamacare of education" because it would lead to a "D.C. takeover of schools." It gained momentum when unions saw a good theme and adapted it for themselves. "“You think the Obamacare implementation is bad?"  American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten asked last year. "The implementation of the Common Core is far worse."

‘Obamacare for education,’ 2.0

It lacks the real populist oomph of the anti-Common Core campaign, but supporters of for-profit colleges have attacked the Obama administration's fitful attempts at regulation by raising the Obamacare specter. "The people who gave the world ObamaCare think they also know the best educational options for students," editorialized the Wall Street Journal this spring, after the White House rolled out a "gainful employment" standard that threatened enrollment -- and more importantly, student loan business -- at the University of Phoenix et al.

‘Obamacare of real estate’

This hasn't really caught on, but in March, Bush administration veteran James K. Glassman argued that a new Senate proposal to consolidate government lending practices would mean "a complicated apparatus disturbingly similar to Obamacare." If the administration moves ahead on these rules–something it can achieve without deference to Congress–expect the "Obamacare" demon to be summoned again and again.

If the government's taking action, if the government "thinks it can do better" on this or that aspect of the economy than the unfettered market, Republicans will point to Obamacare.

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