Thursday, May 8, 2014

Obamacare as legacy

I'd like to revisit something that Bill Kristol wrote back in 1993 about health care reform. At the time, he was talking about President Clinton's failed attempt to reach that goal. But his words not only speak to the total obstruction from Republicans on this issue, they also give us a window into the idea of Obamacare as the critical transformative legacy of this Presidency.
Passage of the Clinton health care plan, in any form, would guarantee and likely make permanent an unprecedented federal intrusion into and disruption of the American economy--and the establishment of the largest federal entitlement program since Social Security. Its success would signal a rebirth of centralized welfare-state policy at the very moment we have begun rolling back that idea in other areas...

But the Clinton proposal is also a serious political threat to the Republican Party...

It will relegitimize middle-class dependence for "security" on government spending and regulation. It will revive the reputation of the party that spends and regulates, the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests. And it will at the same time strike a punishing blow against Republican claims to defend the middle class by restraining government.
In that last paragraph, Kristol outlined the basic philosophical difference between Democrats and Republicans: Democrats believe that government spending and regulation help the middle class and Republicans claim that efforts to restrain the government help them. What he suggested was that health care reform would legitimize the Democratic position "at the very moment we have begun rolling back that idea in other areas."

In other words, Kristol said that when it comes to the epic battle between the two parties about the role of government, health care reform would transform the debate. That indicates that even beyond the positive outcomes of Obamacare, its passage and implementation will finally tilt the scales away from the Reagan philosophy of government as the problem. That's what Republicans believe!

I'll grant you that a lot of the American public isn't there yet. But with the passage of every milestone indicating its success, we get closer to the day that happens. The replacement of Obamacare as the central issue for Republicans in the 2014 midterms by Benghazi! demonstrates that at some level they know that is underway.

That's why I'm actually grateful to Republicans for re-naming the Affordable Care Act as Obamacare. It reminds me that when Scott Brown was elected to replace Ted Kennedy as the Senator from Massachusetts, and almost all others gave up hope, President Obama stood strong. He took the heat and continued the fight until it was done.  Over the course of history, that will be his legacy.

Now, as my friend Robinswing would and tell that!

1 comment:

  1. Kristol may be right in his analysis, if you look past the loaded words he uses. "Intrusion", "Disruption" and "Dependence" are all keywords that reveal his inner thinking: that any attempt to use the government to help people is, de facto, an invitation to slavery.

    At least that is what he wants one half of his audience to take away from the argument. The other half of his audience is supposed to listen to the political analysis while the previous half is just supposed to run screaming for the hills any time someone with any connection to the government actually suggests they might be able to help them.


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