Monday, August 10, 2009

The Crazies Can Only Lose by Winning

Conservatives and Republican’ts have truly gone off the psychological deep end when it comes to fighting the health-care proposals currently being worked out by President Barack Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress. Desperate to regain power and to prevent their adversaries from making significant changes in the meantime, these people are spreading some incredible falsehoods, hoping that at least a vocal minority of Americans will be stupid enough to swallow their lies and assist them in creating an anti-reform backlash.

Charges that, under the Democrats’ plans, Americans will face health-care rationing? That Obama wants to mandate sex changes, fund more abortions, and subject the elderly to euthanasia? That illegal immigrants will be given free medical care under the new plans, and that private insurance coverage will be eliminated? Anyone who has studied the Democratic proposals knows that these are all lies. There’s not a bit of truth about them. Most outlandish of all, though, is the charge, leveled last week by Sarah Palin, the quitter of a former Alaska governor, that Obama intends to create “death panels” to ration health care coverage to children, based on their potential “level of productivity in society.” Even the barely surviving sane element of the GOP, represented by New York Times columnist David Brooks, was repulsed by that deplorable bit of insanity. Brooks called Palin’s attack “crazy,” and he remarked that “the crazies are attacking the plan because it will cut off granny. That’s simply not true. That simply is not going to happen.”

Brooks isn’t alone in his concern that Republican’ts are endangering their own credibility, if not their party’s future, by making such outlandish charges and convincing gullible right-wing voters to echo them, angrily, during town hall meetings. As reported in The Huffington Post, one of George W. Bush’s former strategists, Matthew Dowd, appeared this morning on This Week with George Stephanopoulos and “cautioned conservatives to not go too far in pushing back against Obama’s agenda, lest they be blamed for actually preventing people from getting better health care coverage. ‘I think the Republicans soon have to be careful of something,’ Dowd said. ‘I know Republicans are all patting themselves on the back and saying, “We’ve got the Democrats on the run, Obama on the run.” I don’t think it’s necessarily a good political place to be in by November if you’ve defeated any health care reform.’”

Meanwhile, former Bush economic speechwriter David Frum ponders the consequences of the GOP actually being able to defeat Obama’s health-care reform plans this year. At the conservative Web site New Majority, Frum writes:
What would it mean to “win” the healthcare fight?

For some, the answer is obvious: beat back the president’s proposals, defeat the House bill, stand back and wait for 1994 to repeat itself.

The problem is that if we do that ... we’ll still have the present healthcare system. Meaning that we’ll have (1) flat-lining wages, (2) exploding Medicaid and Medicare costs and thus immense pressure for future tax increases, (3) small businesses and self-employed individuals priced out of the insurance market, and (4) a lot of uninsured or underinsured people imposing costs on hospitals and local governments.

We’ll have entrenched and perpetuated some of the most irrational features of a hugely costly and under-performing system, at the expense of entrepreneurs and risk-takers, exactly the people the Republican party exists to champion. ...

Even worse will be the way this fight is won: basically by convincing older Americans already covered by a government health program, Medicare, that Obama’s reform plans will reduce their coverage. In other words, we’ll have sent a powerful message to the entire political system to avoid at all hazards any tinkering with Medicare except to make it more generous for the already covered.

If we win, we’ll trumpet the success as a great triumph for liberty and individualism. Really, though, it will be a triumph for inertia. To the extent that anybody in the conservative world still aspires to any kind of future reform and improvement of America’s ossified government, that should be a very ashy victory indeed.
Unfortunately, I think too few conservatives are thinking as clearly or as far ahead on this subject as Frum. Radio comic Rush Limburger, disgraced former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and their fellows are only hoping to weaken Obama in the short term. They can’t see that in the course of killing health-care reform, they might well be limiting their own chances of fixing the broken and insufficient U.S. health-care system somewhere down the road.

READ MORE:White House, Dems Organize Reform Pushback,” by Steve Benen (The Washington Monthly); “‘Death Panels’ for Dummies,” by Shannyn Moore (The Huffington Post); “Sweet Surrender,” by Steve Benen (The Washington Monthly).

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