One thing I’ve learned paying (probably way too much) attention to politics for the past 10 years is that most Republican arguments against any form of government program is mostly disingenuous. The reason for that is today’s American conservatives and Republicans just naturally – at their core – despise the very existence of ANY government program. How can they then sincerely be against a single program based on it’s own merits when you are ideologically against the very idea of government having any programs to begin with? They will throw out their own “facts” and figures just as a matter of protocol, to have the debate, but ideally they would just say “no!” and red stamp everything just because something is a government program. It is in their blood to simply be against. Maybe this intensity of anti-government is really more of today’s Republican Party, as they used to be, even just 20 years ago, much more reflective of conservative governments around the world. In other countries, from what I gather, liberals generally want their government programs to be more all encompassing, while conservatives have their own take on how to approach the very same government program – but in a more streamlined way – not just being all out against them in principle. Even when a government program does work, today’s American conservatives will not admit it, only seeking to destroy it in any way they can as they’re simply not in the business of government programs. So it’s really hard to take them seriously in any fashion when they say something isn’t working. They have been saying Social Security is “socialism” and that is has been bankrupting the country since the first day when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the bill creating it in 1935. Why? Because they want it to fail, even if it hasn’t. They don’t want to make it work, or fix it, or save it, or improve it, or strengthen it, they want to destroy it. President George W. Bush and congress tried this just a few years ago, and failed. Meanwhile wars that are not working they have no problem putting on credit cards with no credit limit – but I digress.
This thought process of simply being against is never more obvious than with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which was deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court this week. Let’s be very clear here. The individual mandate, to purchase health insurance, is a conservative Republican idea, and there is no getting around this fact. None. It is very well known that a program of single payer insurance, aka universal health care coverage, like what is practiced in most countries around the world, is what is favored by the majority of liberal Democrats. In the early 1970’s, to offer an alternative against the potential uprising of a movement supporting single payer, President Nixon proposed health care legislation (CHIP – Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan) mandating that all employers must purchase health care for their employees. Because of the Democrats stubborn unwillingness to compromise – as they wanted more than what the president was willing to offer – the plan went nowhere (which Sen. Ted Kennedy later regretted for not striking a deal). In the late 80’s, seeing another push for single payer, in what they saw was the potential election of a Democratic president in the next cycle (President Clinton in 1992), the conservative Heritage Foundation shifted in 1989 the mandate focus from the employer to the individual, as a matter of personal responsibility. This became known as the individual mandate, and was supported by President George H.W. Bush as an alternative to Governor Clinton’s compromise offer to single payer during the ’92 presidential campaign – an adoption of President Nixon’s employer mandate plan. After Clinton’s election, First Lady Hillary Clinton was named as chair of the Task Force on National Health Care Reform to promote the plan nationwide. Republican opposition – ironically, to Clinton’s conservative health plan – was heavy. They introduced two bills to Congress, both including the new individual mandate, simply for political theater. The bills were supported by Senators and Congressmen with names you may recognize to this day: Bob Dole, Charles Grassley, Ted Stevens, Orrin Hatch, Dick Lugar, Arlen Specter, Judd Gregg, Jesse Helms, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Trent Lott, Frank Murkowski and Strom Thurmond, amongst many others. They knew their bills would go nowhere because Democrats again wanted more (the employer mandate) and would not support it, so they had no problem proposing bills that would inevitably die in congress, just to make it look like they were serious about getting reform done. By September of 1994 the Clinton plan was dead, and so was health care reform yet again, exactly as the Republicans wanted. There was no credible push for an alternative plan of their own, they simply react to destroy, and once the smoke has cleared, nothing.
Now we have President Obama. Like most liberals, Obama is ultimately for single payer, and was as such during his primary campaign against Sen. Hillary Clinton. She knew from her earlier fight with the task force in the early 90’s that the individual mandate – the conservative Republican plan – was now the way to go if they wanted to get something done. Once in the White House, Obama knew it was time to compromise (or call the Republicans bluff – depending on how you look at it), and adopted the idea of the individual mandate, instead of fighting for single payer or the employer mandate. So, the Democrats, after decades of not giving in, finally came around in the name of compromise and bi-partisanship. With control of the White House and both chambers of congress, they could have pushed for single payer, but they compromised and went with the Republican plan. How on earth could the Republicans vote against their own plan, their own conservative ideas that they fought and championed? If they did, either they were never for it to begin with, or they just have to be against whatever the other guy is for, even if it’s their own idea. To them, politics is no longer about helping or doing the people’s work, it is about winning, in name only, like a contact sport. And really, how on earth could they be against not only their own plan, but a plan that was tested, works, and was championed by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney – who is now their 2012 nominee for President (notice that in Romney’s governor portrait above, the health care bill – his signature act – sits on his desk emblazoned with a medical seal)? Well, they always find a way. First they were for the mandate, now they are against it because a Democrat is for it. Mitt was for his plan (oh, and thanks Mitt!) when it was a Republican idea, but with the Democrats having adopted it, he’s against it. Now that the court is calling the penalty for not buying insurance a tax, the Republicans and Romney are shifting the argument yet again, saying they are against it because it is “raising taxes”, even though Romney had no problem calling it a tax as governor. Again, any justification to be against, and they will grasp onto it, beat it into the ground until the issue fizzles out, and let it slip from the minds of voters.
To defend the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, many on the left are understandably making the point that Republicans were for mandates in the years before, as I have noted above. Even though that’s true on paper, I call horse pucky on that. They were only for them as a smokescreen for being against any form of real health care reform. This falls in line with their pattern of simply being against government programs in general, despite their merits and potential. They say instead to “repeal and replace”. But replace with what? There has never been an alternative plan they actively pushed to get through when they had the chance, and there never will be. Whenever the Republicans have power and free reign to push through their own health care reform, they do nothing. All they do is try to destroy any Democratic attempt to get something – anything – done. They wanted the Affordable Care Act to die in congress, or to die in the hands of the Supreme Court, and then reform would be dead for another 20 years. When the Republicans say they want to replace, do not believe it for a second. They are against. They will always be against, and history shows it.
When conservatives say now, after the opinion by the Supreme Court, that the Affordable Care Act is “the greatest destruction of liberty since Dred Scott”, is like 9/11, is a call for armed rebellion, is fascist, or is the final push to a move to Canada (that has universal single payer health care, and gay marriage) they either have no comprehension or understanding of pretty much anything because they have drowned themselves in Fox News talking points, or this “loss” has completely driven them off the deep end. They will try and scare you into submission and believing in all this, but these are last calls of desperation. They call the very conservative Chief Justice a traitor and impeachable because his opinion was that their conservative plan was constitutional. Rand Paul, who lives and dies (supposedly) by the Constitution as a libertarian, said “Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be ‘constitutional’ does not make it so. The whole thing remains unconstitutional.” Another “tea patriot patriot” from New Hampshire wished colon cancer on the Supreme Court justices. This is complete and total delusional insanity.
Conservatives have completely lost their minds over this, but we only have them to thank for the Affordable Care Act. So, my Republican friends everywhere, whether you believed in it or not, the liberals and Democrats should and do thank you oh so sincerely for your conservative ideas. America will be all the better for it. Once it is deemed successful, I am sure we will see you re-writing history, claiming it as a Republican idea. Until that time, I wish you all the health in the world.
“Without adequate health care, no one can make full use of his or her talents and opportunities. It is thus just as important that economic, racial and social barriers not stand in the way of good health care as it is to eliminate those barriers to a good education and a good job.” – President Richard Nixon, 1974