The other day I twitter-twatted this missive to my
legions of 43 Twitter followers:
And while I was obviously trying to be funny, I was also at least partially serious. If Obamacare survives (and it’s still not completely out of the woods yet) it will become an exremely popular piece of legislation that politicians will endanger at their own peril.
As an example, let’s look at Ronald Reagan preaching to his conservative choir about the evils of socialized medicine back in 1961.
That’s an actual LP that Reagan recorded to convince Americans that the Democratic proposals for what would eventually become Medicare would lead to a result in which children would ask their parents why they didn’t defend freedom. Yes, Medicare was originally opposed as the end of freedom as we know it in America.
How has that turned out? Well, we’ve seen the signs:
And it’s not just the Tea Partiers marching to save the end of freedom called Medicare. In 2010 Republicans won the House partially by running ads that (dishonestly) attacked Democratic House members who voted for Obamacare and to “cut $500 billion from Medicare.” That same talking point was inserted into Mitt Romney’s reaction to the SCOTUS decision to uphold Obamacare.
(And by the way, you really have to hand it to Romney for having the Reaganballs to attack President Obama for cutting Medicare while simultaneously embracing the Paul Ryan budget that ends Medicare. It’s really something to see.)
And so Republican leaders are now vowing to make a concerted effort to completely repeal Obamacare. It’s their platform. They seem to believe they have no choice, and I think the reason is obvious. They know that the Democrats have given them an enormous gift by deferring the most important benefits of Obamacare until 2014. If the Republicans can kill it before those benefits kick in, then they will be able to keep the majority of Americans convinced that it was a bad program. If they can’t, then they will never be able to repeal it, ever, and they know it.
Conservatives who were shocked and angered last Thursday by the SCOTUS ruling, by Friday were energized about the “sleeping giant” that had been awakened and the increased enthusiasm that would surely propel Mitt Romneycare Romney to victory in November.
John Boehner gave an interview with Norah O’Donnell in which he could not come up with any specific Republican alternative to Obamacare. He simply repeated his talking about about a “common sense approach” over and over.
Mitch McConnell went on Fox News to say pretty much the same thing. Watch this (via Balloon Juice):
McConnell lets the cat out of the bag here, when he was asked about the 30 million additional people who will be insured under Obamacare, and what the Republicans would do about covering them. His answer: “That’s not the issue.”
It’s nice to hear that confirmation of the theory that I offered last week.
I suspect that what it might actually come down to is this: conservatives aren’t really interested in providing universal coverage. It’s just not that important to them. They don’t think that access to health care should be considered a right.
Republicans created the Ronald Reagan Free Rider problem that has been driving healthcare costs through the roof for almost 30 years, but they have no plan to fix it, and when it comes down to it, they’d probably just rather not fix it anyway. I’m not accusing them of wanting poor people to die due to lack of insurance; I just don’t think they care that much. Other priorities.
One thing the healthcare debate has done is expose this conservative principle. In addition to McConnell’s admission on Fox News, we have this conservative quote from Tyler Cowen:
Trying to equalize health care consumption hurts the poor, since most feasible policies to do this take away cash from the poor, either directly or through the operation of tax incidence. We need to accept the principle that sometimes poor people will die just because they are poor.
That’s what is at stake on healthcare in November. The working Republican strategy for dealing with poor people when it comes to healthcare is “let them die.” They usually do a much better job of hiding that principle but recent events have exposed their true feelings. And make no mistake, if Mitt Romney wins in November and the Republicans retake the Senate, they will repeal Obamacare and put their “let them die” policies in place.