One of the biggest stories this week has been the no-surprises announcement from Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) of his candidacy for president in 2016. Senator Cruz made a name for himself in 2013 from his filibuster of a government funding bill over his opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which resulted in a three-week government shutdown. In an amusing coincidence, it turns out the senator will enroll in a health insurance plan through an ACA exchange since his wife will leave her job with Goldman Sachs during his campaign.
I don’t necessarily view it as hypocritical of Sen. Cruz to do this, much as I wouldn’t see it as hypocritical of an NRA activist to obey a local firearm registration law, despite what others may say. But it does highlight what I’ve seen as one of the most egregious examples of a recurring theme of his intellectual dishonesty, and I’ll explain why I think this makes him unfit for either the Republican nomination or the presidency.
Like other critics of the ACA, Sen. Cruz has charged that Congress “exempted” itself from the law. This is a remarkable mischaracterization. Members of Congress (and their staff) would have been “exempt” in the same way that anyone with employer-sponsored coverage (the majority of non-elderly adults) is: they already have insurance. The law specifically required members of Congress to go through exchanges to get their insurance, however. Certain provisions of the law concerning plans that predate the ACA were delayed by a year for Congress and numerous other groups, yet this was not any kind of meaningful special exemption.
This speaks to a darker motivation that many politicians share. Senator Cruz is a brilliant, highly-educated man. Despite this, he espouses ill-informed opinions on a variety of subjects. He characterized net neutrality as “Obamacare for the internet” and believes that the planet shows no signs of warming, despite the fact that the very scientist he cited disagrees with the senator. I’ll attempt here to illustrate how off-base his net neutrality views are:
Obamacare, or the ACA: a comprehensive health insurance reform package passed in 2010.
Net neutrality: the concept that internet service providers and governments must treat all content equally, essentially extending the common carrier concept that governs telecommunications to the internet.
The fact that someone as smart as Senator Cruz appears to be can advocate these absurd stances (his Facebook page was full of well-informed supporters calling him out for his net neutrality stance) means that he’s shamelessly pandering to his supporters in the telecommunications industry and attempting to rile up his less-informed constituents over another supposed Obamacare-esque scheme against American liberty. He did more than any one man to shut down the government in 2013, a gambit that did nothing to stop the implementation of the law he opposed, backfired on his own party, and cost the country as much as $20 billion. To this day, he has yet to apologize or express any regret, nor to do anything but shift the blame on others. Indeed, the shutdown may have undermined his own goals, since it overshadowed the heinous IT issues HealthCare.gov and other exchanges experienced in October 2013–issues that could have rendered President Obama’s signature domestic achievement dead on arrival with more media attention. The people of Texas, the Republican Party, and the United States of America all deserve better leaders than Senator Cruz has been or will be.