Here to stay Bradley R. Gitz

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - Free­lance colum­nist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, re­ceived his Ph.D. in po­lit­i­cal sci­ence from the Univer­sity of Illi­nois.

The Repub­li­can fail­ure to re­peal Oba­macare after seven years of prom­ises to do so can be gen­er­ally blamed on in­com­pe­tence and po­lit­i­cal cow­ardice, from Don­ald Trump on down and, more specif­i­cally, on the grand­stand­ing and de­sire for re­venge of one par­tic­u­lar Repub­li­can, John McCain.

But the broader logic of wel­fare-state lib­er­al­ism also made re­peal and any kind of sub­stan­tive re­place­ment some­thing of a long shot all along.

Yes, McCain, as is his wont, played to the gal­leries, de­fined as his lib­eral ad­mir­ers at the Wash­ing­ton Post and New York Times and across the Se­nate aisle among Democrats. He thus in­ten­si­fies his late-ca­reer push for the “Demo­crat’s Fa­vorite Repub­li­can” ti­tle pre­vi­ously held by the likes of Low­ell We­icker, Arlen Specter, and Jim Jef­fords.

When you sucker-punch your own party at the mid­night hour and reap praise from the likes of Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid, some­thing is wrong with the pic­ture.

That McCain is a self-in­ter­ested party of one was also reaf­firmed in a re­cent Politico piece by Philip Shenon on how the Ari­zona sen­a­tor, bit­ter from his loss of the GOP nom­i­na­tion to Ge­orge W. Bush, came aw­fully close back in 2001 to switch­ing to the Demo­cratic Party and thereby hand­ing it con­trol of the Se­nate. Plans were be­ing made for a press con­fer­ence to make the big an­nounce­ment when McCain was beaten to the punch by Jef­fords’ de­ser­tion; his grand­stand­ing play hav­ing been pre-empted, he ended up stay­ing with the party whose pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion he had just sought (and would later win), purely out of con­ve­nience.

At this point, it will be in­ter­est­ing to see if McCain, hav­ing al­most left the Repub­li­can Party in 2001 out of pique and a de­sire for re­venge on Bush and the party es­tab­lish­ment, con­sid­ers it again; whether, per­haps with the other Repub­li­can pari­ahs who voted against re­peal, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Maine Sen. Su­san Collins, they sell them­selves and con­trol of the Se­nate to Schumer and com­pany.

McCain, act­ing out of his usual petty mo­tives, clearly wanted re­venge upon Trump for his slight­ing of his war record, and it re­mains to be seen how much fur­ther his vendetta will go.

But po­lit­i­cal out­comes are ul­ti­mately about more than sim­ply the grudges and re­sent­ments of vain politi­cians, and any ef­fort to ex­plain why Oba­macare is still with us must also reckon with one of the few iron laws of demo­cratic pol­i­tics in the wel­fare-state age—that wel­fare-state en­ti­tle­ments, given time to be­come en­trenched, can never be re­pealed, how­ever costly and coun­ter­pro­duc­tive their con­se­quences.

Any hope that Oba­macare could be­come an ex­cep­tion to that law be­gan to fade five years ago when it was saved by John Roberts’ Se­be­lius rul­ing, wherein he sur­pris­ingly and ex­pe­di­ently “rein­ter­preted” the in­di­vid­ual man­date as a tax rather than a fine, and when, just a few months later, its name­sake only slightly less sur­pris­ingly won a sec­ond term as pres­i­dent.

With each pass­ing week there­after, the odds of any gen­uine re­peal and re­place­ment of Oba­macare re­ceded. Repub­li­cans in Congress could pass all kinds of mea­sures to­ward that end, but purely for sym­bolic ef­fect and know­ing full well that Obama would veto them. They could, in other words, reap the ben­e­fits of run­ning against Oba­macare with­out hav­ing to run any of the risks as­so­ci­ated with re­peal­ing it.

Bas­tiat’s law of “seen ben­e­fits, un­seen costs” still holds true—by con­cen­trat­ing ben­e­fits and dis­pers­ing costs, wel­fare-state en­ti­tle­ments quickly cre­ate in­vested elec­toral con­stituen­cies that care much more about pre­serv­ing their ben­e­fits than those pay­ing for them care about get­ting rid of them, and politi­cians will al­ways cater to the ef­fec­tively mo­bi­lized for­mer over the larger but ef­fec­tively dis­or­ga­nized lat­ter.

In the end, we must also rec­og­nize that the true force of “cre­ative de­struc­tion” in ad­vanced demo­cratic so­ci­eties is not, as Joseph Schum­peter once ob­served, free-mar­ket cap­i­tal­ism but wel­fare-state lib­er­al­ism, largely be­cause it inex­orably ad­vances de­spite and ac­tu­ally be­cause of its fail­ures.

No hon­est per­son, per­haps not even any of those Democrats in the Se­nate who voted as a bloc to save it, could ar­gue that Oba­macare has been a suc­cess in terms of im­prov­ing Amer­i­can health care and low­er­ing health-care costs. And no hon­est per­son could deny that it is also inex­orably headed to­ward col­lapse due to its myr­iad de­fects, prob­a­bly sooner than later, bar­ring any ex­pen­sive leg­isla­tive fixes to prop it up. It has, in short, gone a long way to­ward fin­ish­ing off what was an al­ready wob­bly Amer­i­can health-care sys­tem.

But therein also lies its beauty po­lit­i­cally, if not eco­nom­i­cally: By dev­as­tat­ing Amer­i­can health care, Oba­macare has pro­voked, as was in­tended, a de­mand for more gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tion therein; more pre­cisely, calls for the kind of sin­gle-payer, gov­ern­ment-run sys­tem that the left has long (mostly covertly) dreamed of.

Oba­macare didn’t ac­tu­ally “fail”— it is work­ing as de­signed by pro­duc­ing the kind of mess that will ul­ti­mately move us still fur­ther to­ward a so­cial­ized health-care sys­tem. As usual, the dis­tress caused by pro­gres­sive pro­grams cre­ates a de­mand for more pro­gres­sive pro­grams to al­le­vi­ate the dis­tress.

Even when it loses, pro­gres­sivism wins. Its vic­to­ries, like Oba­macare, are not only ir­re­versible, but their dis­mal con­se­quences pave the way for more.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.