Politics is, to a degree we don't often notice, mostly about talking. Politicians describe what they do in heroic, usually martial terms—they "fight" for things, they wage "battles," and so on—but what they actually do is talk, and talk, and talk some more. They talk on the floor of Congress, they talk in committees, they talk to constituents, they talk to each other. There are a few of them, oddly enough, who are not particularly good at talking. But the successful ones are almost all good talkers. So it isn't too surprising that Ted Cruz, the former debate champion who is known as an exceptionally good talker, is able to get up and talk about the satanic plot that is Obamacare for 18 hours straight. There's something fitting about this last stand.
Let's recall that just a few days ago, Cruz was being branded a traitor by Tea Partiers simply for acknowledging that the defunding effort will fail in the Senate. So what better way to get back in their good graces than a grandiose, utterly futile symbolic gesture? That's pretty much what the Tea Party is all about, after all. Cruz's long speech won't change anything, either on the question of whether the Senate will pass a continuing resolution defunding the Affordable Care Act (it won't) or whether the ACA will take effect (it will). But in case you are one of the 99.99 percent of Americans who didn't bother to tune in to this remarkable feat of rhetorical endurance, here's a good description:
As he outlined his opposition to the health-care law, Cruz's hours of oratory against the law touched a broad mix of subjects and sources, including lyrics from a song by country music star Toby Keith; excerpts from the book "Atlas Shrugged," a favorite of libertarians; quotations from the popular reality television show "Duck Dynasty;" the unemployment rate among African American teenagers; how his father, Rafael Cruz, used to make green eggs and ham for breakfast; a recent acceptance speech by actor Ashton Kutcher at an awards show; and the restaurants Denny's, Benihana and White Castle.
That's not to mention the Nazi analogies. When I tuned in this morning, Cruz was reading from Ayn Rand again, no doubt stirring the hearts of douchebag frat boys across the land.
Meanwhile, on the subject of this whole spectacle, today the Obama administration released data on what premiums will be on exchanges in the 36 states where the federal government is running the new health-care exchange or partnering with the state to run the exchange. And the results are ... fairly reasonable! There's variation between states, but the premiums have turned out to be lower than previous estimates. For instance, the average premium after subsidies for a mid-range "silver" plan for 27-year-old with an income of $25,000 is $145 a month. For a family of four with a $50,000 income, it's $282 a month. That's not nothing, but it's affordable.
Rates will vary depending on your age, income, where you live, and what plan you choose, and of course this is only for those who aren't getting insurance through their employers, which is most people. But the release of these data coming alongside Cruz's speech is a window into how things are going to go from here on out. On one side, you've got a Republican angrily shaking his fist, predicting all manner of horrors, talking about Nazi appeasers and reading from Ayn Rand. On the other side, you've got evidence from the real world that things are going to turn out reasonably well.