Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Republican Assault on Obamacare, Continued

A while ago I discussed what it is about “Obamacare” that so enrages Republicans (and other devotees of economism):
Within the last day, two further news items have cropped up that shed some further light on this matter. First is a Bloomberg editorial that addresses a new proposal emanating from the GOP that purports to be an alternative to the Affordable Care Act:

Finally realizing fully that they have no credibility at all so long as they simply throw stones at the Democrat’s health reform and offer nothing in its place, the Republicans have introduced a bill with two main provisions—individual tax deductions to aid in buying private insurance; and increased funding of public assistance for lower-income people to do the same. Bloomberg News jumps on the weakness of this proposal that’s ethically most significant—the fact that it would do nothing to increase the total number of people who now have health insurance. Bloomberg claims that Obamacare would reduce the rolls of uninsured by 25 million (out of an estimated 48 million), while the Republican bill would do zilch.

I certainly agree that the biggest priority is to insure more people. I would simply add another strange feature of the Republican bill that makes it silly to call it “an alternative” to Obamacare. It looks, for all practical purposes, just like Obamacare. The main provision of the latter is that it would juggle subsidies and tax breaks to get more people to buy private insurance.
That’s not so strange if you take a minute to remember where Obamacare came from. The model for this devoutly middle-of-the-political-road measure, which only a Tea Party wingnut could ever call “socialized medicine,” was after all the Massachusetts health plan that was the darling of then-Gov. Mitt Romney, until he decided to run for the GOP presidential nomination and then suddenly discovered that he hated the Massachusetts health plan.

Next up is Gail Collins’ New York Times column:

Collins asks: “Why do you think the Republicans have gone so completely lunatic when it comes to this issue?” Why threaten to wreck the global economy over shutting down this one piece of legislation?
Collins reminds us of what is normally supposed to happen within our political system when a piece of legislation like this becomes law, and a bunch of folks hate its guts. The bunch of folks are supposed to organize, elect candidates who believe as they do, and then repeal the offending bill in the next Congress.

So why don’t the Republicans take that approach? Why, as she says, do they act as if once Obamacare is allowed to take effect, it will cement itself in place as if it were an amendment to the Constitution?
Simple, she says—the Republicans are scared that when the U.S. public actually sees the Affordable Care Act rolled out, they’ll find that they like it. And that they won’t vote for candidates who want to repeal it.

So the Republicans are in the interesting position of opposing a law, and demanding brinksmanship to defeat it, because they are so worried about how popular it will be. I think that says something powerful, especially (as noted in previous posts) about the inherently antidemocratic nature of economism.

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