Monday, October 28, 2013


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....

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'm going to stop Lind right there, because he's gone way off the rails.

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.


Victor said...

"...right will always attack Obamacare as a program used by parasites and moochers."

And this is potentially another reason that our righties will lose support - as more and more people sign-up for Obamacare, the more people will tire of constantly being told that they're parasites and moochers.

Our righties are now not only completely ensnared in their own echo-chamber, but growing more and more politically tone-deaf because of it.

Dark Avenger said...

"You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."

The New York Crank said...

What Dark Avenger said is true. But it'a also true that you can kill more flies with flyaper, or with a flyswatter, or with bug spray than you can with either honey or vinegar.

Yours Crankily,
The Department of Metaphor Correction

aimai said...

Actually, I think the Right wing will continue to wage war against Obamacare through challenging and destroying the subsidies because that will work. On the other hand the subsidies create a situation in which millions of people are, at it were, on the government teat in a really obvious way and shutting them off is going to be devastating to actual voters--in this case Republican voters--so in the long run this will be very hard to do for the REpublicans. As hard as doing away with Medicare which they want to do but they want to try to get the Democrats to do for them because they know its politically poison.

To my mind once the entire country has moved onto health insurance it gets incrementally easier to explain to people that we'd be better off having one single fee and one single payer. No one is going to understand why some should have gold plans and others bronze when people are living in the same world and subject to the same diseases.

Insurance companies and hospitals and providers are going to start moving towards something Swiss and that works fine for the Swiss and will work fine for us. Time will work this out and the system will stay in place.

Steve M. said...

No one is going to understand why some should have gold plans and others bronze when people are living in the same world and subject to the same diseases.

I don't think you and I live in the same America, Aimai. In the America I live in, inequality is rampant and people just sigh and live with it.

aimai said...

Inequality makes some people very happy, almost orgasmic. But I don't think it appeals all that much to everyone. I think having the exchanges lay it out for you makes things a lot clearer than they ever have been before.

Ten Bears said...

Stop calling it "Obamacare". It's racist and when you use the term the dogs win. It is the Affordable Care Act.