In what sense is Obamacare “conservative”?

J.D. Kleineke of AEI states an important half-truth: the architecture of Obamacare is consistent with conservative principles of competition, transparency, and personal responsibilty, and conservatives who denounce it are mostly incoherent and self-contradictory in doing so.

But it is only half the truth. The other half is that the subsidies built in to the plan constitute one of the largest downward redistribution programs ever created: about $200B/yr., forever.

Obama doesn’t want to say this because he fears losing upper-middle-class votes if Republicans charge him with “class warfare.” Republicans don’t want to say it because they want to conceal the actual class war they have been waging so successfully. Yes, Obamacare is consistent with conservative principles, but the GOP and its tame pundits are more than ready to rise above principle and do what the plutocrats want. Obama’s critics from the left have less of an excuse.

Comments

  1. Ken Doran says

    There is a strong tendency to overcomplicate this. Democrats overwhelmingly want a better, more cost-effective health care system; the ACA is an honest thrust in that direction, albeit with regrettable traces of a horse designed by a committee and showing characteristics of a camel. Republicans want to deny Barack Obama a success, and to keep government small because they (wrongly) believe that that will help the rich get richer faster. The amount of honest health care policy analysis occurring on and influencing the conservative side can fairly be approximated at “none”.

  2. agorabum says

    It all depends on how you define it; it changes the status quo, so it’s not conservative in the classic sense. But if the question is how to solve the problem of 50 million Americans with no health coverage, it is a fairly conservative solution to that problem; it seeks to bring those 50 million into the existing system with subsidies (and tax penalties), with modifications of the overall system at the margin to try and improve care and efficiency.
    But it is not Conservative in the Republican sense, because it actually does something to help poor people, and even worse, at the expense of the wealthiest Americans.
    Subsidies to insurance companies instead of single payer / nationalization: conservative.
    Helping the poor at the expense of the rich: mild democratic socialism (in the nicest way).

  3. Manju says

    The other half is that the subsidies built in to the plan constitute one of the largest downward redistribution programs ever created: about $200B/yr., forever.

    Can I have a cite here? (I don’t really doubt it, I just want to know how this calculation was made…before I use it against someone whining that Obama isn’t liberal enough)

    Obama doesn’t want to say this because he fears losing upper-middle-class votes if Republicans charge him with “class warfare.”

    Makes sense.

    Republicans don’t want to say it because they want to conceal the actual class war they have been waging so successfully.

    Doesn’t make sense. If this were true then why isn’t it true for any redistribution program.

    Americans, hell even the Keynes-Left, treat the market’s unequal distribution of capital as normal. Republicans don’t conceal it, they just say it doesn’t matter.

    I would think they would demagogue this stat.

  4. Altoid says

    I confess I haven’t read the op-ed (I’d rather save my views for Krugman’s blog). But setting aside the need for contemporary “conservatives” to bow to the free market, in the older conservative sense of conserving and expanding class-based social distances and privileges, there is an overarching conservative interest in pacifying and placating the underclass and making them political allies if possible. It was Bismarck who introduced social insurance to the German Empire, after all.

  5. NCG says

    Maybe I am naive but I don’t see why the left should feel guilty for pointing out what a mess the ACA is, compared to what a sensible policy would look like. That doesn’t take away the fact that getting it nearly killed his presidency and that we on the left should be grateful we got anything at all. It’s a tiny, very messy step forward that came at extremely high cost. Why should people lie about this, and why should saying it help a plutocrat? If voters can’t grasp this much — and I think there’s some evidence they can — then we’re pretty much bleeped anyway. What good does it do to lie?

    • J. Michael Neal says

      I don’t know of anyone who is saying that the left shouldn’t point out that the ACA is a mess. The problems come with those who say that and nothing else. Some of them actually mean that it’s worse than nothing, but even if that’s not your intention, if *all* you ever do is complain about it, that is the message you will send. Some then compound this by attacking Obama over it, as if he were the reason that this particular mess is the best that could be passed.

  6. says

    the subsidies built in to the plan constitute one of the largest downward redistribution programs ever created: about $200B/yr., forever.”

    So the forced transfer of taxpayer dollars from the middle class to the corporate coffers of the insurance companies that wind up with the loot constitutes a “downward” movement?
    I see you’re using the very latest Newspeak dictionary; mine must already be outdated.

    [cross-posted at WaMo's Ten Miles Square]