Ruminations, September 29, 2013
What’s the real debate over Obamacare?
-- Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne appearing on PBS's "NewsHour" on September 20, had what he thought was a eureka-moment:
“I have started to believe that [Republicans are] not afraid of Obamacare because they think it won't work. They're afraid of it because they think it will work.
“And [Senator] Ted Cruz [R, TX] almost said that when he said, look, this is our last chance, because people will get hooked on Obamacare.
“People don't get hooked on bad programs. They get hooked on Social Security. They get hooked on Medicare. And so I think there really is this fear, we can't let this have a chance.”
Is Dionne right? Has Dionne hit on something? Could it be that his observation is right but his analysis is wrong?
Why are the Republicans so opposed? For that matter, why are the Democrats so much in favor?
It’s part political. After all, Republicans and Democrats are politicians; how could they not look at something politically? But it is more than that.
Democrats are big-government types. They tend to believe that if well-meaning people run things, they will eventually get it right. Look, for example, at World War II. It was government-directed and we won it. Yes there were mistakes and some misappropriation of funds, but in the end it came out right. Democrats tend to look at businesses, especially big businesses, as self-serving organizations that do not have the public interest at heart.
Republicans are essentially small-government types. They tend to believe that even if well-meaning people run a big organization, they will become a self-serving bureaucracy and get things wrong. Look for, example, at the Department of Education; since its inception, the 5,000 employees have overseen a drop in the educational achievement of the United States’ school systems. Republicans tend to look at big government with distrust; as career bureaucrats who have their own self serving interests at heart.
There is some truth in the views of both parties. But that being said, why has there been no room for compromise? Why is the issue of Obamacare so self-defining to both parties?
Is it political? Let’s remember that Obamacare passed Congress with no Republican votes. It would seem that if one wanted a truly landmark program, one would seek bi-partisanship and the input and support of at least some of the opposition – but the Democrats did not do that. Further, when Republican Scott Brown won the Massachusetts Senate seat, he did so on the promise that his vote would be the one to derail Obamacare; and thereafter, the Democrats had to backdoor Obamacare to pass it. So we can see that one-sidedness of the legislation and the backdoor maneuver has generated a great deal of Republican hostility – induced by Democrats to be sure but it is there.
Let’s get back to E.J. Dionne. He said that Republicans are afraid of Obamacare because they think it will work. Aside from the political opposition, he is partially right – but.
Republicans truly believe that Obamacare is a disaster, but they can’t fix the bill because the Democrats will not bring the a bill to the floor because they are afraid of what might happen if Obamacare were allowed to be modified by Republicans. And furthermore, the Democrats are afraid of any criticism that the debates may engender and the resulting reaction of the voters to this criticism.
But are the Republicans, as Dionne said, afraid that it might work? In a sense, yes. But it’s not a simple yes. The Republicans are as afraid that it might work as much as the Democrats are afraid it might fail. To draw a parallel, the Democrats are defending Obamacare with all the vigor that the European Monetary Union (EMU) is defending the euro.
The euro? In a sense, the euro is working. But to make it work, the EMU is subverting the purpose of the currency. If the EMU had not been so intent on showing the world that it was sophisticated and financially adept at creating a currency that would flourish across national boundaries, across disparate economic plans and various governmental systems, they would have long ago allowed Greece, Portugal, Spain and others to revert to their original currencies and the European economic crisis would be over or on the road to recovery with no bail-outs. But to the EMU, European economies have become subservient to maintaining the fiction of a national European currency.
Obamacare has taken on a similar aura to that of the euro. Health care costs, availability and efficacy have become subservient to having a government run health care system. Bailouts and new programs will become necessary to maintain this system – and, the more ingrained that Obamacare becomes in the American economy and health-care system, the harder it will be to fix it without limiting its cost, availability, efficacy and its share of the economy.
So Dionne is partially right when he says that Republicans are afraid of Obamacare – but, not because it will work but because to work, it will have to be managed by an entrenched bureaucracy.
And when Dionne says that people don’t get hooked on bad programs, has he never heard of subsidies? We have subsidies for oil, peanuts, sugar and welfare. Are all of these good programs? And, if we were to step away from government programs, don’t people get hooked on methamphetamines – a decidedly bad program?
So what’s the solution? You tell me.
Quote without comment
Former Pope Benedict XVI, in his 2010 book, Light of the World. The Pope and signs of the times, commenting on the unprecedented debt in the United States and other countries: “[Isn’t this an] “insanely big moral problem? … we are living at the expense of future generations. In this respect it is plain that we are living in untruth…. [H]uge debts are … treated as something that we are simply entitled to. … [A] global examination of conscience is indispensable.”