Jacob S. Hacker

Jacob S. Hacker is Stanley Resor Professor of Political Science at Yale University, is the author, with Paul Pierson, of Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class (2010) and American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper (2016).  

Recent Articles

The Road to Medicare for Everyone

Here’s how we get past the political obstacles that have kept America from making affordable health care a right.

Yesterday, Democratic Senators Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Chris Murphy of Connecticut introduced the Choose Medicare Act, which would enable Americans not already eligible for Medicare or Medicaid to purchase Medicare as their insurer, and enable employers to purchase Medicare for their employees. Americans of all ages would thereby be able to purchase a plan that allows no discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. The bill would provide more generous tax credits and eligibility thresholds than those currently in the ACA, and it insures coverage for all reproductive services. It improves the existing Medicare system (and hence, for seniors already covered) by allowing Medicare to negotiate prices for prescription drugs and setting an out-of-pocket maximum for medical services. And—by establishing in essence a public option—it could drive down private insurance premiums by creating genuine competition. The bill’s senate co-sponsors include California’s...

How Clinton Can Put Health-Care Reform Back on Track

More than ever, we need a public option—and other changes—to ensure the ACA achieves its ambitious, far-reaching goals. 

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
This article appears under the title "Stronger Policy, Stronger Politics" in the Fall 2016 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . You’ve heard of a beautiful failure. What about an ugly success? That may be the best way to describe the Affordable Care Act. It has covered millions of Americans—just this year, 250,000 Louisianans signed up for Medicaid in the six weeks after the state expanded the program under the law. And the ACA has widened health coverage without spiking costs; indeed, expenditures are way below initial expectations. But even if we could forget its shambolic launch, the ACA has hit some increasingly serious obstacles. Enrollment in the new marketplaces created by the law (aka “exchanges”) is below expectations, and the number of plans competing in them is falling, particularly outside dense urban areas. Premiums are set to rise sharply, and these increases could further destabilize the most troubled exchanges by driving...

Don't Dismantle Government—Fix It

Under assault from conservatives, government actually holds the key to American prosperity.

(Photo: AP/Carolyn Kaster)
Below is an excerpt from American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper , by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, published by Simon & Schuster on March 29. At the beginning of The Book of Laughter and Forgetting , Milan Kundera’s narrator describes a snowy 1948 scene in Prague, with leading communists addressing a crowd. One, Vladimir Clementis, places his fur hat on the head of his bald companion, Klement Gottwald. When Clementis is later purged and executed, the Party’s propagandists erase him from the photograph. All that is left is his fur hat. The enabling role of government is like that fur hat. Today, we see only tiny reminders of a much bigger reality. We know government built a road or a school but too often fail to recognize the many ways in which it built prosperity. More than simply discounting government, an increasingly vocal movement argues that it is “big government,” not private market failures or weak...

The ACA Has Survived Yet Again. Now What?

Obamacare has survived another brush with death. But realizing its full potential may not be easy. 

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
The Affordable Care Act has used up at least four of its nine lives. It was almost stillborn after Democrats lost their 60-vote Senate majority in early 2010. It survived a brush with death in the Supreme Court in June 2012—and yet another in that fall’s election. And just last week, of course, it was upheld by the Supreme Court in the most ringing affirmation yet. In each case, the existential threat was real. Surviving all of them was hardly foreordained. Say the law had a two-out-of-three chance of winning each time. Basic statistics tells us that the likelihood of four straight wins—if each episode is independent of the others—is less than one in five. For all the commitment displayed by the law’s architects and advocates, for all the extraordinary good that it has done already, the Affordable Care Act has also been extraordinarily lucky. The Road to Entrenchment But, of course, these episodes weren’t independent. With each challenge, the...

No Cost for Extremism

Why the GOP hasn't (yet) paid for its march to the right. 

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
According to the news media, 2014 was the year that the GOP “Establishment” finally pulled Republicans back from the right-wing brink. Pragmatism, it seemed, had finally triumphed over extremism in primary and general election contests that The New York Times called “proxy wars for the overall direction of the Republican Party.” There’s just one problem with this dominant narrative. It’s wrong. The GOP isn’t moving back to the center. The “proxy wars” of 2014 were mainly about tactics and packaging, not moderation. Consider three of the 2014 Senate victors—all touted as evidence of the GOP’s rediscovered maturity, and all backed in contested primaries by the Establishment’s heavy, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:...

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