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Mar. 22 2010 - 3:54 pm | 932 views | 1 recommendation | 13 comments

The GOP’s health-care fantasyland

WASHINGTON - MARCH 16:  Several hundred demons...

Image by Getty Images North America via Daylife

Seven years ago, Republicans passed and approved a massive new health-care entitlement. The prescription drug benefit cost for seniors is likely to cost $1.2 trillion over ten years. Although libertarians and conservative activists despise the legislation, I don’t have a problem with it. Enabling seniors to buy prescrption drugs has saved and extended lives, such as my late grandaunt Dottie’s and perhaps some of your relatives as well. Yes, the benefit is expensive, and that means the government can’t spend money on other necessary things. But the bill helped ensure President Bush’s re-election in 2004, and if you’re a social conservative like me, that fact sure beat the alternative.

This week, Democrats are certain to pass and approve their own massive new health-care entitlement. The response from Republicans: the health care bill is the end of the world! Newt says it won’t stand. McCain wants to repeal it. Even Paul Ryan, the doyenne of Sam’s Club Republicans, calls for repealing the law bill, though he doubts it can be repealed.

Republicans’ opposition to heath-care reform isn’t serious. It’s based in political fantasy. For one thing, conservatives neglect their own role in making the legislation possible. As Daniel Larison points out,

Elections do have consequences, and this bill is one of them. I hope all the Iraq war supporters on the right are pleased with what they have wrought. These Democratic majorities and the Obama Presidency would have been inconceivable had the previous administration not taken the country to war in Iraq and destroyed their party in the process.

Saying that Republicans destroyed their party by supporting the Iraq War strikes me as an overstatement. But certainly the political damage they incurred was a consequence of Kar Rove’s think-big-and-be-bold-baby! strategy.

If backing the Iraq War was the GOP’s political sin of commission, failing to devise a serious counter-proposal about health care is its sin of omission. Republican leaders and activists argued for starting over from scratch or “tort-reform-plus interstate insurance.” Given the real problems in the health care system, those proposals were unlikely to carry the day. Republicans offered nothing about preventing insurers from denying patients coverage based on pre-existing conditions and offered little about expanding access to health insurance. Rep. Ryan and others have put forth serious counterproposals, but Republican leadership and activists kept them at arm’s length.

Republicans will benefit this fall from the health care votes. They may take back one branch of Congress (the House), though taking the other as well (the Senate) strikes me as a reach. But their analysis of and solutions to health care reform don’t inspire confidence about their future endeavors, whether the issue is creating jobs or reforming entitlements. It’s not that Republicans lack good ideas about domestic reform. It’s just that these Sam’s Club policymakers aren’t the party’s leaders or activists.


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  1. collapse expand

    Great analysis. i’m curious what you think about the fact that now basically, for better or worse, the Dems own health care reform lock-stock and barrel. The history of entitlements usually goes that they’re bitterly fought over til they are passed, wherein they become sacrosanct.

    It’s hard to see how this could work out to be a long-term win for Republicans. And I’d even say in the short term, it won’t make much of a difference in the Fall. The Dems were going to lose before HCR. I doubt they’ll lose more because of it.

    • collapse expand

      You ask excellent questions. I don’t have ready make answers for them. Off the top of my head, I say that Democrats have now made inroads with three groups of (Northern) voters: baby boomers, young people, and the white working class.

      That said, the tab for health care is huge. So if the debt swells, Dems will need to find a way to cut costs, which won’t be popular.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        Pulling out of Iraq will be popular, and it will pay for healthcare.

        Obama even gave you Republicans a chance. Remember when he said “When you’re at home telling your constituents that this bill is a bolshevic plot to destroy America, you put yourselves in a corner and make it harder to work out a deal.”

        Republicans removed themselves from this debate. They thought it was more important to regurgitate Glenn Beck talking points than to do their jobs like adults.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand


        I know the numbers sound really big and they are but in context…it is over ten years…and comparison to say defense department monies…pretty normal. Now as our resident Catholic Pol consider that lobbyists hire prostitutes to attend poker games organized by companies Lockheed to get contracts to buy things that neither the military nor congress have ever asked for or need that cost every one of us trillions of dollars.

        Now here is what I do not get, even though I am a fallen catholic, I believe in Christian philosophy, Father Kelly in Brooklyn got to me, he said my jewish friends could get to heaven, that Jesus believes bullies can be saved, that helping the poor and rejected and sick made us better people, that to fight for the oppressed was christian…try it he said. Tell me how you feel.

        So why can a Christian Nation not question anything that involves creating weapons of war at the expense of helping the poor and sick? How can a group identified as the moral majority make a choice that paying for a weapon like the F-35, a weapon no one needs that replaces a weapon called the F-22 that has been proved to be useless in our current struggles and has been cut possibly support a new weapon that is over budget and doesn’t work?

        Why do I mention this?

        Because this country needs to come to grips with it morality. The distraction is abortion. I agree it is disgusting and tragic and I support any discussion to reduce the practice, same with the death penalty and torture.

        Let us make a moral choice because the defense program will cost one trillion dollars over ten years. More than the health care program that will benefit everyone.

        And when will you ever see an F-35? At an air show maybe?

        The Bush prescription benefit cost more than the current bill and went unpaid for…not even an attempt to say audit the billions that went into Iraq that disappeared that could have helped pay for getting medicine to our aged.

        We have lost our way. We have let horrible hateful people lead us. And are leading astray a large group of good people, religious people and our moral leaders are not saying a word.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    That was probably the best analysis I’ve read so far.

    This whole process has made me more cynical. The Party of No and Stupak’s fall from grace prove to me that principles are incompatible with politics. I suppose only those who are power-hungry enough to sell their souls are able to make it in this game. It’s a fundamental flaw in our system of government.

  3. collapse expand

    “If backing the Iraq War was the GOP’s political sin of commission, failing to devise a serious counter-proposal about health care is its sin of omission. ”

    I respectfully disagree with your analysis. Where the GOP sinned wasn’t in the omission, it was in the creation of an environment that made the omission a requirement. This has to do with the neoconservative movement, and most of this has to do with aligning conservatism with the religious right. When this was done, the conservatism that used to be rooted in doubt and stood questioning the conventional wisdom was replaced with a conservatism that was rooted in truth – its truth – and pretty much to the exclusion of any debate or reason.

    To wit:

    * It knew there were WMD’s in Iraq.
    * It knew it could create the prescription drug benefit you mentioned without funding in direct contrast with its fiscally conservative principles.
    * It knew it could advocate and perform torture in stark opposition to international treaties and The Red Cross.
    * It knew it could cut taxes amid all its spending because as Cheney famously said, “deficits don’t matter.”

    And there are many more.

    All this certainty and conviction, and what were the results? Time after time reason and time has proven their way to be flawed. But much worse than this, even today, they are incapable of openly debating issues and instead tend to treat any argument, and rational debate, with scorn. Why? Because they know the almighty truth and that is that. Frum spells it out better than I can here: http://www.frumforum.com/waterloo As he says, in such an environment even the moderate conservatives are trapped because how can they negotiate with anyone else if the party simply blasts anyone who disagrees with it as a RINO or worse as a ?

    The people between the 40’s aren’t buy this brand anymore. Even as the Dems pass this bill, a much larger entitlement, they are at least making rational arguments and attempting to fund the thing. The GOP may argue with the score and the assumptions, but shrill screeching is no longer being heard.

    Take the pay as you go vote the senate passed a couple month ago, not a single republican senator voted for it, why?

    Better yet, after the financial meltdown we’ve just been through and the resulting unemployment slump we’re in. Rational people see this and think that maybe repealing Glass-Steagall might have taken us too far, it seemed to work okay for the first 60 years, so some amount of financial re-regulation might be warranted. Meanwhile, John Boehner is vowing to fight for free markets or some such, all while screaming “Hell No” at the top of his lungs last night to legislation that also includes a fair number of republican proposals.

    The party has devolved to the point where it’s motivated by truth and outrage from heads like Rush, Hannity and Beck, who demonize any and all who do not agree with them. The problem is, while this might cater to the ultra-right, there is a vast middle that is simply incapable of taking them seriously. For this reason, I also disagree with you and the punditry that takes it as a foregone conclusion that the Dems lose this fall. If Obama pivots off this win and attacks financial re-regulation and is able to paint the GOP in an irrational corner again, watch out. Any hint of recovery in the job market and that great middle will break to a rational left over an irrational right any day. Why? Because given the choice between two parties that are equally compromised by special interests, the rational one wins.

  4. collapse expand

    I really am not sure how to take you now- I am conservative in principle. The republican party “in my opinion” is really putting themselves in a hard corner to get out of, they keep wanting to start over, but it’s just slogans, they show no interest in governing, when they met with Obama it seemed as if they all colluded an agreement not to talk with him. They need to do more than that, the times are passing them and us by, and Obama can only get better.

    • collapse expand

      After re-reading your post against another comment, I see I read poorly the first time, I am embarrassed, I read it too fast- I agree with the post, we have to do better or pray a serious third party appear, this just isn’t working, times are changing, the jobs seem gone for good, just terrible times, and an emotional last few days huh? Great post.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  5. collapse expand

    But the bill helped ensure President Bush’s re-election in 2004, and if you’re a social conservative like me, that fact sure beat the alternative.

    Really? I suppose, if Kerry had won (and of course some say that he actually did), abortion would still be legal in all 50 states, several states would have legal gay marriage, the Federal government would have increased its control over local schools, Social Security would not have been privatized, and roulette-wheel capitalism might have destroyed the nation’s economy.

    Instead, Bush was elected and we got… all of the above, anyway. “Better than the alternative”? What, exactly, did you “social conservatives” actually get out of Bush’s second term? As near as I can tell: absolutely nothing. I think maybe you haven’t thought the history of the past decade through very well.

  6. collapse expand

    OBAMAS BILL WILL FUND ABORTION! it funds Stem Cell research which then has to look for stem cells (only where from) which then seeks the Aborted fetuses to use, thus promoting Abortion … His bill funds Abortion, though many not see this yet… http://www.twitter.com/writtenviews

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    Mark Stricherz is the author of Why the Democrats are Blue: Secular Liberalism and the Decline of the People's Party (Encounter Books, 2007). He was born in San Francisco in 1970 and raised in the Bay Area. He graduated from Santa Clara University and the University of Chicago (M.A. in Social Sciences, '97). In between, he worked, as part of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, for an inner-city housing agency in Baton Rouge, La. His work has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, The New Republic, and The Weekly Standard, among other publications. He, his wife, and two daughters live in the Washington, D.C. region.

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