Monday, March 22, 2010

Thoughts on ObamaCare's Brave New World

I get the sense that very few people are non-plussed by the passage of President Obama's healthcare reform bill last night--you are either enthusiastically happy with the new bill or vociferously unhappy with it. Some mildly-interelated thoughts for both camps:

* As a political matter this was a destabilizing act. Passing a gargantuan piece of legislation with permanent  consequences for the country using only the support of one party (and against bipartisan opposition) against significant popular unhappiness with the legislation will have large political consequences, both immediate and long-term.

Seats that were safe will not be. Candidates who are not ready for prime-time will find themselves winning the political lottery. ObamaCare will destabilize the political environment in the same way the Iraq war did, upsetting coalitions, elevating new figures, and dooming once solid-seeming politicians on all sides.

* No Democratic politician can any longer credibly claim to be anti-abortion. This is particularly worrisome because once abortion becomes a purely party-driven issue (as opposed to a mostly party-driven issue) it will become even harder to find common ground of the "safe, legal, and rare" variety. By necessity Democrats will cease to be pro-choice and become objectively pro-abortion.

* For people who like to think of themselves in ideological, rather than party-based, political terms, ObamaCare is a hard lesson. When push comes to shove, political parties matter, quite a bit. Any Republican who, say, voted for Jim Webb as a sensible, hard-nosed Democrat over George Allen, a bumbling, embarrassment of a Republican, is now confronted with the stern truth about the power of parties. To paraphrase the great Midge Decter, at the end of the day you have to join the side you're on.

* At the same time, George W. Bush deserves at least some small sliver of credit for ObamaCare. He was so careless with the final term of his presidency, so completely uninterested in the fate of the Republican party apr├ęs moi, that he helped Democrats to the Congressional majorities which made this possible.


Alexander K. said...

Re your last point - not a "small sliver", but rather a large sliver, to be shared with the incompetent and corrupt Republicans in Congress from 2005-2008.

I think that the passage of Obamacare via the gigantic Democrat majority that resulted from Bush's second term pushes me over the edge on Bush's presidency from "on balance good" to "on balance bad".

MK said...

I disagree with the last point. I'd say the last two years of the Bush presidency, which included avoiding a GM bankruptcy on a Republican's watch, TARP, and the surge, were his two best years. If only Dems had taken Congress in 2002, we may have been spared Iraq War 2.0 and maybe even Katrina ineptitude.

Jacob said...

I really think you have to explain this sentence: "No Democratic politician can any longer credibly claim to be anti-abortion."

In the current tax system, there are massive subsidies to private insurance market which includes plans that cover abortion (e.g. the RNC's insurance plan). Under HCR we'll be moving to a model that actually restricts this.