Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Strategery of Health Care Reform - Good and Bad for Democrats

Saturday, President Obama mocked the idea that Republicans were giving honest and unbiased advice that voting for the HCR bill would be a career-ender for Democratic members.  Let's examine that.  The GOP advice is certainly not exactly selfless, but there's little doubt Democrats are going to take a hit for this vote.

What's Bad for Democrats:

-This will probably cost Pelosi control of the House, and it's looking increasingly likely that Dems may lose the Senate too. (With or without Harry Reid.)

-This bill is decidedly unpopular with independents and in swing districts, and I expect Republicans will win virtually every swing district in the nation as a result of this vote. Democrats will probably even lose some of the seats of members who end up voting against it.

-Lawsuits will keep this fresh in the public's mind through November. Democrats may move forward on different legislative issues, but this idea is sticking around.

-For those who put a lot of stock in Keynesian stimulus, doesn't the idea of front-loading taxes for later entitlements sort of go against the professed economic religion du jour?

-You can't tell me that favors weren't promised, even beyond what might be in the legislation.  These deals will leak out.  Slowly. 

What's Good for Democrats:
-As pretty much everybody knows, this bill will be virtually unrepealable, and certainly not repealable until 2013 in the event that Obama loses re-election.  Then the GOP will get about one shot at undoing the damage.  While most of the benefits don't kick in for years, and most of the taxes kick in much sooner, there are enough goodies front-loaded in this that voting to repeal it will draw vocal objection from a well-chosen politically protected class of people. 

-The political line of scrimmage will be permanently moved to the left.  In the UK and Canada, where government intervention in health is more obvious, conservative parties have been put on the defensive with respect to health care schemes.  The Iron Lady broke the coal unions, but she couldn't break the NHS.

-To the extent that this legislation fails to (1) control costs and (2) improve outcomes, there will be further push towards explicit socialization of health care rather than the make-believe free market we're going to have.  The answer to a failing program is always more money.  One wonders if this is actually the whole point of the Obama plan - to fail so miserably as to ensure future "progress".

More Bad for Democrats:
-Obama's political capital has been exhausted.  No more controversial legislation is going to get through.  

-This represents a major step towards bankrupting the country.  Obamacare makes future Medicare reform impossible, as he's already raided it for other benefits and entitlement spending.  There's no more money to be found without undoing Obama's promises.

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