Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Health Care

The Older, Deeper Error

David Frum is very wrong in his argument that Republicans should have tried to compromise with the Senate health care bill as the basis for some right of center tweaks.  The problem was that a national version of state-mandated comprehensive health care prepayment really is a move in the wrong direction whether it is financed by taxes on income, investments, energy (seemingly Frum's preferred method) or high-end health insurance policies.  And Obama wasn't going to go for a real left/right compromise (one that might have included direct subsidies for health insurance with opening up the market for HSAs and high deductible policies).  Obama wanted a reform that would be transformative from the left.  His first preference was for a straight single payer system.  His second choice was for a public option that would get us to single payer on the installment plan.  His third choice was the corporatist arrangement we just got.  This was the leftmost bill he could get past his swollen congressional supermajorities.  It was never about the Republicans (though it would have been nice if they would have signed up for some bipartisan cover).  It was about what "moderate" [spitting sound] Democrats could be bribed and browbeaten into accepting.

I think that the strategic error made by conservatives and Republicans was more subtle and  older.  I think that if conservatives and Republicans had done a better job (and worked alot harder) at explaining right-leaning ideas about health care policies, the Democrats would not have been able to seize the initiative in quite this way even if with their supermajorities.  There is a reason why Obama and Pelosi aren't trying to return to the pre-Reagan marginal tax rates or launch a principled frontal attack on 1996's welfare reform or try to ban a bunch of rifles.  Conservative victories in the realm of public opinion placed limits on what a liberal President and liberal congressional leadership are willing to do.  The conservative error was in things that were unsaid and undone since the failure of Clintoncare.  So much time time wasted on arguments about my tax cut is better than your tax cut, compassionate conservatism, John Kerry looking French, and elitists picking on Sarah Palin because she grew up in a small town and didn't go to an Ivy League school.  Now, when conservatives try to explain the Ryan Plan or the Goldhill strategy of the incremental Levin-Capretta strategy, they start at square zero with the average American,


Categories > Health Care

Discussions - 5 Comments

Look who led the Republican Party during those years:

--Robert Dole: Capitol Hill apparatchik (albeit one with a strong allergy to public sector borrowing).

--Trent Lott: the ultimate Capitol Hill apparatchick, on the payroll of the United States Congress from age 25 to age 64, after which he took up lobbying.

--Dr. Newton LeRoy Gingrich: consumed by his character and personality defects.

--John Boehner: does not care if he appears vacuous.

--Tom deLay: an embarrassing operator.

--George W. Bush: absolutely insouciant about questions regarding the scope of state action or public sector borrowing.

--Richard Cheney: apparently persuaded by Mr. Reagan's career that W's approach to public finance was passably prudent.

--John McCain: knows little and cares less about economics and finance.

--Dennis Hastert, Wm. Frist, and Richard Armey: [insults left to those more knowledgeable than myself].

I like Dick Armey and if I do not like Bill Frist, I cannot remember why.

To the post, yes, the right takes the defense of individual liberty as self-evident truth and it is no longer self-evident truth. That's why the cheerleaders of the right are so popular despite their rhetoric -- I mean Rush and Beck and others.

A rhetorical reconciliation of modern problems with the principles of liberty and self-government (as opposed to a large central government) and other such conservative arguments would be very useful.

Art Deco and Pete, excellent points.

So, Art, besides Ron Paul, is there anyone in government, recent past or present, that you DID like or approve of?

My point is, if you think we have the votes/clout to vote in a Congress that is ideological "pure," you are wrong. Instead of casting aspersions on past GOP leaders (an utterly futile activity), let's focus on the most dire of enemies -- the socialist left.

And yea, I know, people like Beck say that this is a game whereby "progressives" distract us (i.e., forcing us to pick between liberal and liberal lite). Unfortunately, this country is far gone, and that's the choice Americans get. What's needed is a tax revolt (which is doable) and targeted elections (i.e., putting in "purists" where we can, and supporting less savory characters where we have to). Just like the Cold War, we will end up voting for snakes and sell-outs on occasion. That's real life, buddy.

Perhaps I ought to clarify my point.

I the political system, you have structural elements and you have the kultursmog. In any age, a certain type is attracted to the political vocation, works to hold office, and makes his way in the matrix that is public opinion to do so. I think Alan Ehrenhalt explored this phenomenon in The United States of Ambition, but I have to admit that reading that (much praised) volume is something still on my to-do list. Given the country in which we live and given the internal dynamics of the political class, what sort ends up being our leaders?

Now, if you watch C-Span, you can say what sort are not among our leaders: the eloquent. Perhaps people adept at a certain sort of salesmanship are among them, and those with a certain sort of people skills. I suspect you get a great deal quite like Gerald Ford: people who hold office because the mundane business of being a politician is agreeable to them. They have certain biases given who they are and where they have been, but not much vigorous conviction.

With regard to that last point, one place they have been is among each other. There was an article in The Public Interest some years back which discussed the correllation between terms of incumbency and propensity to favor public expenditure. The verdict? ceteris paribus, the longer a politician is in office, the more he favors state allocation of productive resources.

Pete wants Republican leadership on a matter of policy, as do I. The trouble is, the machine does not, as a matter of course, throw up authentic leaders or folk who have more than an instrumental view of policy. Policy is fodder for advertising and fund-raising campaigns. My guess is that is not altogether true of Dr. Gingrich, and not true of Dr. Armey or Capt. McCain. The thing is, McCain is indifferent to wide swaths of public policy and Gingrich has....issues.

We have to hope for the future, recalling, though, that hope is not optimism.

As an aside, I find it amusing that you confound me with a Paul-bot. I have no use for the man. One of his liberal critics referred to him as 'a parody of an early 20th century politician', and I find that spot on. I can profit from some of the articles in Chronicles (by Chilton Williamson and Phillip Jenkins, among others), but in general find the palaeo strand of contemporary political thought to be sterile and a public nuisance. I am not much of a libertarian, either, bar having an allergy to the manipulation of markets through regulatory controls, tax breaks, and public subsidies.

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I think you should check out this thread just for Art Deco's comments.  I agree that it makes no sense to look for real leadership on health care policy from the Republican congressional leadership.  But I also don't think that the... Read More

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