Monday, March 22, 2010

The Health Care Follies Continue

Ah, it finally passed.  But do the follies continue?

Well, they do in ways I don't think the President and his allies have considered.  Kudos to the Dems for finally figuring out that DemonPass was one of the dumbest friggin ideas in the history of their party (and this is the party that birthed the Carter Administration).  Instead of eviscerating two core concepts of democracy, the Democrats chose to eviscerate only one, by merely ignoring the will of the majority of the American people.   They will probably pay the price for their arrogance at the ballot box come September -- the GOP's Fire Pelosi site is going to score over $840k today and tomorrow (I'll be adding to the till myself later today).  And Jim Geraghty lists out a ton of potentially vulnerable Democrats this fall, including my own Congressman, Gerry Connelly (heard him on the radio complaining about Northern Virginia's potholes and how they were impacting his staffers; hopefully in November, we can free him up to do some of the work repairing the potholes himself). Geraghty's core point is right -- that there's a ton of Democrats out there who can be defeated this fall to pay for their vote, and begin the process for repealing the bill.  Heck, I'd just plan to go after every Democrat, even the ones who voted against the bill -- they're the same people who voted for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, didn't they?

Powerline lists some silver linings, including...
Paul Ryan has emerged as one of the conservative movement's strongest spokesmen. In the years to come, I think we will hear the words "I'm a Paul Ryan Republican" with increasing frequency.

The health care debate has energized the conservative movement and awoken the sleeping giant, that is, the American people. The Democrats misinterpreted their electoral victories in 2006 and 2008 as a mandate for socialism. Now a majority of voters are intent on disabusing them of that misapprehension. Just about all of the political energy today is on the right--a remarkable fact, only sixteen months after the Democrats' high-water mark in November 2008.
Paul Ryan is an f'n rock star. I'm ready for Paul Ryan for President 2012 at this point, although he'll probably turn up as Tiger Woods go-between for extra-marital romps with our luck. But this speech is nothing short of awesome, and the type of rhetoric conservatives need to use in attacking this bill.

But back to the real issues before us.  Randy Barnett brings up an important question -- what does it mean for the future of democracy when a bill like this is passed over the passionate wishes of so many?  Other than the idea that Democrats are screwed in November?  Megan McArdle nails the point that many Democrats are missing right now...
Parties have passed legislation before that wasn't broadly publicly supported. But the only substantial instances I can think of in America are budget bills and TARP--bills that the congressmen were basically forced to by emergencies in the markets.

One cannot help but admire Nancy Pelosi's skill as a legislator. But it's also pretty worrying. Are we now in a world where there is absolutely no recourse to the tyranny of the majority? Republicans and other opponents of the bill did their job on this; they persuaded the country that they didn't want this bill. And that mattered basically not at all. If you don't find that terrifying, let me suggest that you are a Democrat who has not yet contemplated what Republicans might do under similar circumstances. Farewell, Social Security! Au revoir, Medicare! The reason entitlements are hard to repeal is that the Republicans care about getting re-elected. If they didn't--if they were willing to undertake this sort of suicide mission--then the legislative lock-in you're counting on wouldn't exist.

Oh, wait--suddenly it doesn't seem quite fair that Republicans could just ignore the will of their constituents that way, does it? Yet I guarantee you that there are a lot of GOP members out there tonight who think that they should get at least one free "Screw You" vote to balance out what the Democrats just did.

If the GOP takes the legislative innovations of the Democrats and decides to use them, please don't complain that it's not fair. Someone could get seriously hurt, laughing that hard.
To further the points made by McArdle and Barnett, Medicare passed the House with 316 votes -- nearly 100 more than Obamacare.  In other words, the bills had popular bi-partisan support -- Republicans and Democrats were out there selling the merits of the new program.  Now?  Now, you have an entire portion of the electorate that is energized in opposition to this new entitlement, and there is no one on that side who will sell the concept to them.   That's problem #1 -- you have people who are invested in the failure of Obamacare.  And they will work to see it happen, whether that means figuring out ways to drive up costs for government and destroying the fiscal solvency o fthe system (an admittedly nihilistic view that will gain currency over time) to the civil disobedience and costly lawsuits that people will launch in an effort to stop the program.

But the bigger problem is #2 -- This changes the rules, forever.  The Dems passed a massive "reform" bill to remake 1/6th of the U.S. economy, with no support from the other side of the aisle.  So don't expect the GOP to just opt to "ignore the will of the people" when they have a chance to kill Social Security, Medicare, or Obamacare -- expect them to conceive some brilliant legislative strategem to gut all three programs.  I'm serious -- can't anyone else see a circumstance where a "fiscal emergency" leads Congress to decide that these obligations simply aren't pressing enough to be paid?  Hey, six years ago at this time, only about 1% (if that) of the American electorate knew the name Barack Obama.  Things change quickly.

I have no problem in government passing a different policy than the people think is right, if those elected representatives can make a reasoned argument for why they're right and their constituents are wrong (I'm reasonably certain that this could be the basis of an honorable debate in the case of an issue like immigration). That has not happened here -- instead, it's more fairy-tale economics and petulant foot-stomping by the President. In choosing to do this, our political class (or, to be accurate, a portion of the political class) has trashed much of the remaining respect many people have for our system of governance. That's not a good thing, no matter what one thinks of health care reform. The process lay bare the seediest elements of legislative sausage-making. Or as Alcee Hastings put it...

As an aside, does it say something for Democrats that their party ran an impeached federal judge for office, then put him on the Rules Committee?

I know the conventional political wisdom is that this health care bill can't be repealed.  But conventional political wisdom also said you don't pass something like this bill without some support from the other side and without popular support.  That conventional wisdom's out the window.  The other one might go next.

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Anonymous Loyal Reader ST said...

Way to brilliantly anticipate Joe Biden's remark today (with your comments re: Paul Ryan)!

4:41 PM  
Blogger Raje said...

I'm looking forward to being asked to introduce President Obama at a future bill signing.

8:31 AM  

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