The Debate is Over

The debate about Obamacare is over, according to a presidential pronouncement, and it seems a shame. There was a lot more grousing about it that we’d plan to do, now we’ll have to cancel that sarcastic skit we’d written for the upcoming “Gridiron” show, and the public is stuck with a spectacularly stupid law.
Perhaps the debate will rage on, despite the president’s protests, but he does seem to have an eerie power to end any arguments that he’s losing. The Benghazi scandal disappeared from the news shortly after his Secretary of State declared “What difference, at this point, does it make?” The Internal Revenue Service’s harassment of conservative non-profit groups has been similarly ignored after the president dismissed it as a “phony scandal,” even though the woman at the middle of it of all has quite genuinely invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The arguments about fiascos from Fast and Furious to Solyndra to whatever happened to all that stimulus spending have all been as abruptly truncated.
All those cancellations of policies and increases in health insurance bills and the death panels passing judgment on grandma and the rest of it will make Obamacare harder to ignore, but the left’s power to put an end to losing arguments should not be underestimated. Even with the coldest winter in memory stubbornly stretching into April after a decade-and-a-half of global cooling the debate about anthropogenic global warming has been declared over, and most of the media have obediently obliged. A relatively recent bout over the five millennia-old tradition of marriage has also been stopped on a technical knock-out, and the half of the country with lingering doubts has effectively been banished from the mainstream of contemporary society. Any debate about the social acceptability of white racism has been thoroughly ceased, which is a good thing, but some very non-racist debate about affirmative action and inner-city crime and other issues that have baleful effects on minorities have also been stopped.
Around the time of the president’s first election Time Magazine declared on its cover that “We Are All Socialists Now,” and that seems to have settled that. If America isn’t quite yet socialist by consensus, we’re at least far enough along that the Majority Leader of the United States Senate can confidently slander the Koch brothers as “un-American” for their pro-capitalism activities and anybody with concerns about that $17 trillion of debt is easily dismissed a radical anti-government kook. Arguments about the basic assumptions of the New Deal welfare and regulatory state were declared over more than 60 years ago, with even such a stalwart Republican as Ronald Reagan being unwilling to do more than try to retain their old limits, and they’ve been barreling towards their illogical conclusions ever since.
We think that these debates never really go away, though, even if they have to be revived by catastrophe. We’d also like to think that Americans still have a stubborn unwillingness to submit to stupid laws, and that enough argument can avert catastrophes, but that’s debatable.

— Bud Norman

Another Conspiracy Confirmed

All of the right-wing wackos, including ourselves, have long suspected Obamacare is intended to so thoroughly wreck the American health care system that the public will at last accept a Canadian-style single payer system. Several left-wing wackos of our acquaintance think so, too, but regard it as a delightful trick to be played on their fellow citizens. More sensible people have regarded this as a far-fetched conspiracy, reasonably believing that no one in government would ever attempt such an audacious and unlikely ploy, but now we see that Sen. Harry Reid has made a full confession.
The Senate’s majority leader, who did much to push the legislation into law despite widespread public opposition, even after voters in ultra-liberal Massachusetts went so far as to elect a Republican to stop him, gave up the game during a public television appearance in his home state of Nevada. “What we’ve done with Obamacare is have a step in the right direction, but we’re far from having something that’s going to work forever,” Reid said. When asked if the meant the country would have a system without private insurance, he answered “Yes, yes. Absolutely, yes.”
There will likely be more of this sort of talk as the failure of Obamacare becomes ever more apparent with its haphazard and selective implementation. The law was imposed on an unwitting public with plenty of grand promises that everyone would at last have health insurance, premiums would go down, the national debt wouldn’t go up, no one’s existing coverage would be effected, employment would flourish, and all that talk about rationing and “death panels” was just a lie told by hateful people, but that’s getting harder for likes of Reid to say with a straight face. Our government now concedes that tens of millions will remain uninsured and pay for the privilege, premiums are rising in most states and are forecast to further rise, Congressional Budget Office projections made after all the accounting gimmicks expired show a dramatic cost increase, millions are going to lose their employer-provided policies, a delay in the employer mandate until after the mid-term elections acknowledges that it is driving a trend toward part-time jobs, and even such Democratic heroes as John Dean are publicly fretting about the law’s rationing board. No longer able to deny the facts that are showing up monthly in people’s mailboxes, Obamacare’s defenders are forced to talk of what comes next.
There will be efforts to blame it all on the Republicans, of course, and Obamacare’s eponymous president has already declared that opposition to the bill is motivated solely by some sick desire to deny people health care, but as the poll numbers for the law worsen with each passing day this will be harder to sell. Even with a billion-dollar advertising budget it is difficult to convince a majority of Americans that they are mean people who want others to die. Better to argue that greedy corporations and their Republican puppets won’t simply won’t permit Obamacare’s miracles to occur, and start making grand promises about the day when the free market for health insurance is at long last vanquished. Like Pee Wee Herman falling off his bike and saying “I meant to do that,” the laws defenders can ultimately boast that socialized medicine was what they had intended all along.
It might even work. Many people prefer to blame some rich they don’t know rather than the politicians they have voted for when things go wrong, and insurance executives make for especially appealing scapegoats. A single-payer system can be more easily explained than the complexities of a free market system, too, and its inherent flaws more easily obscured. As strange as it might seem that the public would accept more government as the solution for problems caused by government, they do it all the time, and in recent memory responded to a government-engineered financial crisis by electing candidates promising ever more government control of the economy.

Still, there are hopeful signs that it might not work. Obamacare remains unpopular despite an unprecedented public relations campaign and the best efforts of the media to demonize opponents, and the same people so over-sold the law that even most apolitical types can’t help noticing how ridiculous they are. Whatever quarrels people have had with their insurance companies will soon pale in comparison to their complaints with the government’s heavy-handed role, and that “Flo” woman from the Progressive ads now seems a far more attractive spokeswoman for her industry than Obama is for his. One should never underestimate the Republicans’ ability to waste a good issue, but failing to take advantage of their opposition to Obamacare will take some doing.

Republicans are already making an effort, of course. An internecine battle is now underway in the party between those who want to de-fund Obamacare and those who would rather let its flaws become so tangible that more Democrats will join with the unions and the red state incumbents in rushing away from the law. De-funding Obamacare is a politically risky proposition, as it will allow the law’s die-hard to defenders to spend the rest of their lives insisting that it would have worked just as promised if not for those human-hating Republicans, and if a government shut-down is the result much of the media will revert to its usual role of writing sob stories and casting blame to the right, but letting it become fully implemented poses risks to the people whose lives are dependent on a functioning health care system. We’re inclined to side to with the de-funders, but hope they’ll go about it shrewdly enough to win the battle for public opinion despite the powerful forces arrayed against them.
Whatever happens in the upcoming budget fights, Reid is quite right to believe that Obamacare won’t last forever. The most important matter, then, is that he be proved wrong about what comes afterwards.

— Bud Norman