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Obamacare: Let Us Not Talk Falsely Now

Posted on March 24 2010 8:00 am
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It took 30 years to put limits on what welfare recipients can receive. The entitlement state mentality sometimes seems built into the DNA of advanced economies. Repealing the Orwellian sounding “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” is a pipe dream. They won. The earliest this can even be addressed is the Spring of 2013. A Constitutional challenge is a desperation ploy and won’t work.  I hope the States go for it, of course, but it seems implausible. Change the word “fine” to “tax” and they solve half the constitutional problem.

Ten days ago Judd Gregg also waved the specter of effectively shutting down the Senate through a never ending process of amendments during the reconciliation process. But that tactic lost its sting when Obama fake promised an executive order limiting abortions to buy Bart Stupak’s vote. Judd’s threat was all swagger and no mojo.

Republicans should have supported Health Care Reform when in power from 1995-2005. They didn’t, at least not with a quarter of the intensity of President Barack Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But that’s yesterday’s news as is Obamacare. I am not suggesting that Republicans don’t have something to run on this Fall, nor that it won’t be politically successful. But opposition to Obamacare is not uniform in nature, nor even fully based on free market principles. The most vocal opponents have been Medicare recipients; not exactly proponents of sustainable market based solutions to our health care fiscal problems.

Our current highly regulated health care system, with its massive Government intervention and poorly constructed incentives, is not sustainable. This is obvious. But we have seen this coming for a long time and have done nothing except add to the problem. True reform would have included: tax equalization of all forms of health insurance, taxing health insurance benefits (while lowering marginal tax rates), restricting  insurance mandates, allowing free insurance markets across state lines, tort reform, gradually increasing the Medicare eligibility age, and weaning the nation off a third party payment system.

Merely unwinding Obamacare does none of this. Republicans have never been passionate reformers of health care when in power. It is easy to be passionate about goals and principles when you know they will never be voted on, but much harder when they will be. Republicans have not been successful at persuading people that market based policies work best in health care. This failure made us vulnerable to what has transpired. Of course, Obamacare simply extends the errors of Medicare and other parts of the system to the population as a whole. It’s like being caught with one foot in quicksand and solving the problem by going waist deep because “something must be done”.

Conservatives must not get hung up on over turning Obamacare per se. Pick your cliché, but that horse has left the barn. We have 3 years to prevent further damage to free market principles. Let’s focus on that. The Conservative Movement’s political message must be forward looking, affirmative, relentless and rest squarely on “common sense market based solutions”. This includes health care reform, but not to the exclusion of all else. Then, if we are lucky, conservatives will have returned to power and maybe this time we can begin reestablishing these principles in all areas of our public policy.

But whatever we do, let’s not get stuck in rewind howling at a wind that just blew us down. Let’s get up, dust ourselves off, and make sure these guys don’t pass cap and trade by the summer.

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