At Salon, Michael Lind covers some of the same ground that Paul Krugman covers today -- both argue that what's complicated and cumbersome about Obamacare is the conservative part of it, the market-oriented part, the part that involves means-testing. But Lind goes further, charging liberals with laying the groundwork for the destruction of Medicare and Social Security at some point in the future.
How is that going to be our fault? Lind explains:
... partisan Democratic spinmeisters are now treating Obamacare, not as an essentially conservative program that is better than nothing, but as something it is not -- namely, a great victory of progressive public policy on the scale of Social Security and Medicare....I'm going to stop Lind right there, because he's gone way off the rails.
If Obamacare -- built on means-testing, privatizing and decentralization to the states -- is treated by progressives as the greatest liberal public policy success in the last half-century, then how will progressives be able to argue against proposals by conservative Republicans and center-right neoliberal Democrats to means-test, privatize and decentralize Social Security and Medicare in the years ahead?
I predict that it is only a matter of time before conservatives and Wall Street-backed "New Democrats" begin to argue that, with Obamacare in place, it makes no sense to have two separate healthcare systems for the middle class -- Obamacare for working-age Americans, Medicare for retired Americans. They will suggest, in a great bipartisan chorus: Let's get rid of Medicare, in favor of Lifelong Obamacare! Let's require the elderly to keep purchasing private insurance until they die! ...
Once Medicare has been abolished in favor of Lifelong Obamacare, perhaps by a future neoliberal Democratic president like Clinton and Obama, Social Security won’t last very long....
I don't know any liberals are who argue that Obamacare is a Platonic ideal, the best health care reform possible. Lind, I think, has the left confused with the right. It's right-wingers -- both teabaggers and establishmentarians -- who believe that Obamacare is a perfect object: in their view, a perfect concentration of pure evil. On our side, we don't feel that way. A lot of us would happily swap Obamacare for single payer. Even those of us who wouldn't can easily imagine improvements.
Obamacare may well succeed, more or less, but as a program it will never be loved the way Social Security and Medicare are. Instead, it will be a program for which a lot of people will be grateful, the way they're grateful for unemployment insurance and food stamps and FEMA aid other government programs that some people avail themselves of and others don't. Because it will always be somewhat difficult to establish eligibility for benefits, the program will always be fairly cumbersome and bureaucratic.
And because, as I said in the last post, everyone doesn't benefit, the right will always attack Obamacare as a program used by parasites and moochers. Right-wingers may not be able to get rid of Obamacare, any more than they can get rid of unemployment insurance, but they can sure as hell keep telling us that an awful lot of beneficiaries are lazy bums. And they will. Forever.
I'm not saying that there won't be efforts to voucherize and means-test Medicare and Social Security -- there will, and centrist will probably join leftists in arguing for these changes.
But they're not going to point to Obamacare as a successful model to emulate because the right, at least, will never fully embrace Obamacare. The right will always portray it as at least somewhat unsavory.