Health Care Is Dead—Just Don't Tell the Left

If you needed any additional evidence that health-care-reform-as-we-know-it has gone the way of the Dodo, look no further than Obama's remarks on the subject today:  

"We've gotten pretty far down the road, but I have to admit, we've run into a bit of a buzz saw along the way. The long process of getting things done runs headlong into the special interests, their armies of lobbyists, and partisan politics aimed at exploiting fears instead of getting things done. And the longer it's taken, the uglier the process has looked."

If we're sticking with Paul Krugman's superhero theory of President Obama, then it appears that Scott Brown is his Kryptonite; the biggest initiative on the administration's domestic policy agenda is all but dead. Sure, Obama and the rest of the Democratic leadership are still making vague promises to stick with the health care reform project, but they're also saying that they don't have the votes, and that it's no longer their top priority (that would be taking on the Big Bad Bankers). The message now is, "Health care reform... um, it's great! We totally think so! Really! And we'll do it, or something kinda like it, you know, someday. Someday... later. Probably. Now watch me fight Goldman Sachs!" 

Liberals are pretty upset, and warning that if Democrats back off now, they'll suffer at the polls in November. Here's how the logic goes: Even if you accept that health care reform is unpopular, Democrats will still fare better if they go ahead and pass it. After all, most Democrats have already voted for health care reform, so pass or fail, Republicans are going to run health care focused ads against them. Democrats could decide to vote against a bill at this point, but it wouldn't change the Republican ads. At least if Democrats actually pass the bill, they'll have something to show for it—tangible benefits they present to the voters.

This argument sounds convincing at first, but I think it's flawed in a couple of ways. First is that passing the bill won't actually provide much in the way of tangible benefits by November 2010. Most of the spending—and thus the benefits—doesn't kick in until 2014. I also suspect that those inevitable Republican attack ads, which liberals are right to note will come no matter what the final outcome, will be far less effective if the bill dies a slow death on Washington's low-priority back burner. 

Think of it this way: If health care goes away, it will still be an issue in November. But a bill that doesn't pass isn't likely to motivate voters as intensely as one that does. Passing the bill, on the other hand, would focus and energize opposition against it. The liberal case for voting for the bill presumes that after it's passed, people will finally start to like it, that the case for its merits that they've been struggling to make all year long will finally sink in. But if Democrats haven't convinced people that it's a good idea in an entire year of debate—indeed, they've done just the opposite—what are the odds they'll be able to sell people on its virtues after passage? 

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  • ||

    what are the odds they'll be able to sell people on its virtues after passage?

    They're betting they won't need to. They're banking on the fact that welfare, once enacted, becomes sacrosanct no matter how terrible in concept or execution.

    There's a case to be made that this might not be true this time around, but I certainly wouldn't lay money on that proposition.

  • jester||

    "And we would've gotten away with it if it hadn't been for those meddling special interests." Nice, scooby-doo explanation, Mr. President.

  • Rich||

    +1

  • ||

    The base will save you. No worries. They will save you just like they saved Martha Coakley. So what if the "base" doesn't vote? If you lose all of the independents like Coakley did it doesn't matter if the base shits rainbows out of their ass.

    If you are a Dem, your best bet is to show some humility and tell your constituents that you feel their pain and you understand and are changing course and are going to concentrate on the economy. That and some actual action to do something besides steal might actually save a few of their sorry asses.

  • PIRS||

    Passing a Health Care Deform bill now, after the Brown win, would be like giving a middle finger to the voters.

  • Tony||

    Who still overwhelmingly support healthcare reform, only a stronger version of it than Congress was about to produce?

  • Enyap||

    So overwhelmingly liberal Massachusetts voted for an anti healthcare bill republican because they wanted a stronger healthcare bill? Keep telling yourself that Tony, if it makes you feel better.

  • PIRS||

    Tony is grasping at straws and repeating the socialist mantra. Health Care Deform, like Air America, is unpopular. That is why it is (hopefully) dead. We just need to drive a steak through its heart.

  • CTHORM@IBIS||

    Holy shit health care deform doesn't deserve a steak, it deserves a stake!

  • PIRS||

    Thank you for catching my spelling error! I agree

  • cult like free marketeers||

    I cant really believe anybody thinks that this bill is anything close to socialism. Its nothing of the sort. The health care bill isnt socialism, its actually a rather conservative bill that just sucks as a piece of legislation and should be killed on its merits. The kind of people that stand at tea bagger rallies and cry that obama's a socialist and a nazi at the same time are the most ignorant people around. Almost as ignorant are the self righteous free marketeers who are so stupid they cant realize that the financial system aka wall street, health care companies, oil companies, wireless phone providers and essentially every other major economic sector in this country are dominated by oligopolies. If your idea of free markets is even what we had for the last 10-15 years then you are just out of your mind. Oligopolies have been running every facet of the American economy for decades now, and nothing can be further from free market principles than having every financial sector dominated by oligopolies. You want competition and real free markets, bust up the oligopolies, create ACTUAL COMPETITION and let all these companies that cant swim sink. And throw em a cinder block on the way down.

  • Hugh Akston||

    The really tragic part of all of this is that health care law really does need reform, and the administration had the momentum going into 2009 to actually innovate and make things better.

    That they blew it so thoroughly is not the work of the evil insurers and their filthy lucre buying the GOP, but rather the Democrats playing from the same old Euro-style command and control handbook. They failed because they don't seem to understand peoples' reluctance to concentrate healthcare decisions into fewer and fewer hands.

  • PIRS||

    I agree. At the tea parties I passed around this flier which I created :

    Five Common Sense, Free Market health-care Solutions

    1. Allow insurance plans to be sold in more than one state or region.

    2. Allow self-employed who buy their own insurance the same tax benefits as people with employer-based coverage.

    3. Expand availability of Health Savings Accounts which give the consumer greater control over spending.

    4. Legalize the re-importation of medications

    5. Reduce government regulations and red tape on the insurance industry. Heavy regulation creates an “iron triangle” effect enabling the largest companies to set the rules through their influence over politicians.

    Additional resources

    Cato on Healthcare
    http://healthcare.cato.org

    Reason Foundation on Healthcare
    http://reason.org/areas/topic/health-care

    By the way, feel free to use this if you want.

  • ||

    Those would be good steps.

  • Dan Lavatan||

    It seems odd to need to set up a special "savings account". They should just allow the decuction for medical expenses to apply to all income. After all, if you aren't alive you can't pay taxes.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    6. Break the AMA monopoly on the doctor supply.

  • RCTL||

    "They failed because they don't seem to understand peoples' reluctance to concentrate healthcare decisions into fewer and fewer hands." They failed because they took the same money that the republicans received from lobbyist (AKA as evil insurers). I am not convinced it is too late to bring about any change.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Liberals are pretty upset, and warning that if Democrats back off now, they'll suffer at the polls in November.

    The right-leaning voting public (and various Reason contributors) will tell the progressive base looking to send a message to their representatives how well things go when you send that message in general election instead of the primaries.

  • ||

    Deregulation. More competition in insurance and in medical services. More consumer choice. Disentangling health insurance from employers. Less bureaucratic decision-making about medical services, red tape, and expenses. Et cetera. Surely, some of this makes sense even to crazed lefties?

  • ||

    1. Allow health insurance companies to sell policies across state lines.

    2. Repeal the laws (federal and state) requiring hospitals to treat all comers in ERs without regard to how serious their need is or whether they can pay.

    3. Repeal state laws giving the AMA the authority to decide which med schools can produce doctors. The AMA abuses this discretionary power by bullying med schools to discourage them from accepting too many students and threatening existing doctors' market power.

  • ||

    I was thinking about number one, too, but I thought that was solely a state issue. I'm not sure whether the Congress has the authority to deal with that. Though, of course, there's little they aren't allowed to do anymore.

    Still, even if it weren't permitted as a legislative matter, the federal government could certainly promote such state-level reforms.

  • ||

    I was thinking about number one, too, but I thought that was solely a state issue. I'm not sure whether the Congress has the authority to deal with that. Though, of course, there's little they aren't allowed to do anymore.

    That's far more interstate commercey than medical reefer. Override all state laws about health insurance and let people shop around.

  • ||

    Yeah, I know, but the Court can get funny if it's an area "traditionally controlled by the states." Hard to see the future is.

  • ||

    This seems to be "regulate interstate commerce" to a tee. The whole point of that provision was to allow the federal government to stop states from putting tariffs or restrictions on eachothers' companies.

  • Dan Lavatan||

    Selling insurance across state lines wouldn't help that much as the companies would all just merge.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Dan Lavatan,

    Selling insurance across state lines wouldn't help that much as the companies would all just merge.

    Hey, Dan: They can do that right now. Your conclusion is a non sequitur.

  • RCTL||

    Tulpa, I agree with regard to not treating people who have minor medical issues in the ER but I can't think you are serious about ability to pay voiding treatment .

  • ||

    Brown supports health care reform

    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/p.....jXAulmAoQK

  • Jerry||

    Of course he 'supports' reform, because it gives him political bargaining power. If already came out against reform, he would just be another Republican nobody.

  • ||

    Can we finally celebrate? Cause i don't wanna start celebrating, and then find out this shit gets passed next week.

  • PIRS||

    I agree. We must not let up our guard. Please, keep calling your members of congress. There has been talk of breaking the bills up into many, much smaller bills. We can't let any of them get passed. Please, keep calling Congress. Do not let them think our guard is down.

  • ||

    I was certain that some giant clusterfuck of a health care bill would be passed by this congress.

    I admit I was wrong.

    Nonetheless, I wwill remain a cynic.

  • Paul||

    Fear not, J sub D. If history is our guide, out of the ashes of a failed healthcare initiative could come HIPAA II, the Revenge of HIPAA. Or, HIPAA, This Time it's Personal. Or my favorite, HIPAA goes to Washington.

  • Grampa||

    I'll take HIPAA Replacement.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    J_D said

    I was certain that some giant clusterfuck of a health care bill would be passed by this congress.

    I am still reeling from the possibility that we will be spared: bright streaming light, heavenly music; the works.

    I still consider it possibly that the Dems will manage to wedge one or two little---but none the less unhelpful and counterproductive---provisions through somewhere or another. Because if Obama doesn't sign a Health Care Bill (tm) he's teetering on the brink of political ruin.

  • Dan Lavatan||

    The Democrats could try and pass this on the general principle of frog boiling. They won't, and the left would probably be better of voting for the greens in any case. At least they have some integrity.

  • Enyap||

    I saw his speech on tv in the gym today, ironically Cult of Personality started playing on the radio.

  • ||

    Ricky Bobby: "Why do you wanna listen to the tv and the stereo at the same time?"

    Cal: "Cause i like to party!"

  • Enyap||

    Because my gym has a tv and stero playing.

  • Ziggy||

    "The long process of getting things done runs headlong into the special interests, their armies of lobbyists, and partisan politics aimed at exploiting fears instead of getting things done. " You mean like the pharmaceutical lobbyist which you bent over for??

  • ||

    Sure, Obama and the rest of the Democratic leadership are still making vague promises to stick with the health care reform project, but they're also saying that they don't have the votes, and that it's no longer their top priority (that would be taking on the Big Bad Bankers).

    I could tell health care reform was dead by the fact that NYTimes.com didn't say anything about it on it's frontpage yesterday.
    It was all about financial regulation. Health care was conspicuously absent.

  • ||

    Overall, this whole this has worked out just about optimally for libertarians.

    Health care reform is dead. But it was such a slow, long, agonizing death scene, with so many back-from-the-grave and oh-ho-he's-not surprises, that in the process it managed to suck all the air from can-n-trade and institutionalizing too-big-to-fail.

    Cap-n-trade is all but dead, and financial reform is looking shakey. It's looking increasingly like not a single one of Obama's major priorities will get done -- other than a whole lot of pork-barrel crap from the stimulus bill.

  • ||

    Yet with all of their failures, the Democrats' desire to wreck the economy, grab power, and reward their cronies were also highlighted. It's almost a perfect lose-lose situation.

  • Old Mexican||

    It could get worse:

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/casey/casey38.1.html

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    Your link doesn't work.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    And I say now is the time to vote for Obama (and R's across the board in congress).

    He's nearly impotent now, and in a year it'll be completely.

    This is the best kind of president you can hope for these days.

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    Of course in the next election you probably need to vote just enough of those R's back out to keep their attention.

  • MJ||

    "The long process of getting things done runs headlong into the special interests,..."

    Yes, those people who are'specially interested in not being compelled by law to purchase government approved levels of health care insurance.

    "Special interest" is such a null word, useful only for demonizing opponents. Everyone who has a policy opinion based on a narrow rationale is a "special interest".

  • ||

    At the next TEAbagger rally maybe they should sell T-shirts saying:

    HEY, I'M ONE OF THOSE SPECIAL INTERESTS!

  • Ebeneezer Scrooge||

    All of us are a special interest now.

  • ||

    "We're all special interests now."

  • ||

    Less dead now, isn't it?

  • Steve Smith||

    LOL

  • greg||

    perhaps now reason.com will have to go "the way of the dodo."

  • David||

    Wow, it's clear now that this article was incredibly prescient and well-thought out. All those crazy liberals who said it could still be passed were clearly smoking their crazy liberal sparkle-dust.

    Cheers to the great minds at Reason.com

  • David||

    Wow, it's clear now that this article was incredibly prescient and well-thought out. All those crazy liberals who said it could still be passed were clearly smoking their crazy liberal sparkle-dust.

    Cheers to the great minds at Reason.com

  • In Your Face Radio||

    Hey Pete, is it less dead now? Signed, A bunch of crazy liberals looking for a tree to hug.

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