The Manhattan Institute has sent me a link to a great commentary by Richard Epstein and David Hyman about why the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) — also known as “ObamaCare,” also known as “That Infernal Law” — will “end health insurance as we know it.”
Jerry Ellig of the Mercatus Institute, an arm of George Mason University, has posted another great article about PPACA, “Rushed Rules of Health Care Law Don’t Add Up,” about how poorly analyzed PPACA is.
Epstein, Hyman and Ellig are coming from the right and doing what the writers at The Washington Monthly — a Democratic-oriented magazine — used to do from the left in the late 1980s and early 1990s: Focus on making arguments based on facts and commonsense principles with broad appeal, grounded in the Bill Clintonian — and fundamentally Ronald Reaganian — idea that “The ideals that unite us are are more powerful than any differences that divide us.”
The Democrats, and some Republicans, including people at groups like America’s Health Insurance Plans, Washington, who came up with the basic ideas behind PPACA way back in the 1990s and early 2000s, seemed as if they were sincerely doing their best to take that noble idea to heart.
They came up with notions with bipartisan appeal such as, “We need a special health insurance program for children, because they have no power to decide whether they are free riders, or whether they go to the doctor at the right time or the wrong time,” and “We need better protections for patients who have disputes with insurance companies, and for patients who do their best to maintain credible health coverage and then become sick.” The result was the Orrin Hatch and Edward Kennedy sometimes ended up voting for the same bills.
Since then, the lobbying industry has expanded, because, let’s face it, money aside, it’s so, so much fun to go to Washington and belong there. It’s a blast to walk through congressional office buildings and know where in the maze in the basement to go to lunch. It’s really great to go in the Capitol itself and see interns and junior staffers pretending that they’re bored with it all.
My guess is that they all get along just fine with the lobbyists from the opposing side and go out to eat nachos together. But, because they are so smart and motivated and having so much fun, and they think of themselves as being engaged in gladiatorial contests of immense public importance, they get us all riled up.
Many people tend to blame the riling up on money, or corruption, or space aliens who’ve taken control of Washington and built a vast, subterranean network of tunnels that extends from Washington to Denver and sometimes becomes a seismically impressive nuclear battleground. My sense is that, especially in the age of the Internet, the people who have the most impact would probably continue to do what they do, roughly the same way, if no money were involved at all, just as poets continue to write poetry and independent filmmakers continue to make films, even though little or no money is ever likely to be involved.
The problem is that the most visible Republicans — certainly not insurance industry people — tend to make it sound as if we should indeed start a Hunger Games-type civil war against the Democrat infidels, before the Democrat infidels take away our guns and start the war first.
The most visible Democrats seem to have given up on the old Washington Monthly-style, consensus-building efforts and wandered into a hall of anecdotal mirrors.
During the PPACA congressional debates, Republicans were quietly delivering wonderful, precise, fact-based critiques of the weaknesses of PPACA. Meanwhile, on talk radio and talk TV, the main arguments seemed to be that President Obama was a Marxist Kenyan KGB Manchurian candidate who wasn’t his mother’s son and was keen on setting up death panels.
Democrats would respond by bringing out an endless parade of sick people, and relatives of dead people who used to be sick, to talk about horrible and expensive it is to be sick. Democrats also talked about how cruel and greedy the Republicans were, in an effort to gouge Republicans’ political eyes out as effectively as the Republicans were gouging Democrats’ eyes out. I don’t think the Democrats’ efforts were equivalent to the Republicans, but only because the Democrats were so easily distracted. They would try to destroy the Republicans as human beings, but then notice more bright shiny anecdotes about sick people and go fly away to pick those up out of the research rubbish pile.
Of course, the real faults with the bills that formed the rickety foundation of PPACA have nothing to do with whether Obama is a Marxist Kenyan, and hardly anyone in all of America, including the most conservative, tough-minded libertarian or the most luxury-loving health insurance company executive, disagrees with the idea that it’s horrible and expensive to be sick, or intentionally wants to make life harder for sick people.