Commentary Magazine


Topic: universal health insurance

Who Will Write the History of the Battle Over ObamaCare?

President Obama characterized yesterday’s vote on the health-care bill as the nation answering “the call of history.” This turn of phrase is an accurate depiction of how he and his liberal supporters view both the issue and modern American history. From this frame of reference, health care is just the latest — and by no means last — step toward greater social justice in which the state assumes greater and greater responsibility for the lives of every American. Like unemployment insurance, social security, and Medicare, this bill’s purported goal of providing affordable health insurance to every American is seen by Obama and his backers as not only just but also inevitable, much the same way they think of the “New Deal” legislation passed by Franklin Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society.” They are convinced that, like those laws, ObamaCare will soon be seen not as a massive expansion of government power but as yet another chapter in America’s inexorable journey to social justice that will transform this law into a sacrosanct element of our political life.

Thus, going forward to the November midterm elections and beyond, the real question is not whether the bill will actually achieve universal health insurance without lowering the quality of care or raising costs; that is an impossibility. Rather, the question will be whether liberals in Congress and especially the media will be able to imprint the idea into the majority of American minds that, however messy its passage was and problematic the details may be, ObamaCare had to be passed and cannot be reversed.

The challenge for conservatives is more than merely pointing out ObamaCare’s shortcomings, its enormous costs, and its impact on a huge American industry. The challenge is also more than demonstrating how the health care that ordinary Americans get — and which the vast majority currently think is good — will decline. Conservatives’ real job is to attack the liberal narrative. What they must point out is that, rather than the next inevitable step toward greater justice, Obama’s “reform” is, in fact, a move away from individual freedom and toward the same nanny welfare state that Americans thought they had put to rest. Rather than a progressive innovation, ObamaCare is a retrograde move that seeks to drag American politics and the economy back to the mistaken emphasis on government power of the mid-20th century. Like so much of the welfare economics and failed liberal policies of that era, ObamaCare has the potential to do far more harm than good. Policies that are driven merely by good intentions and a belief in expanding government power can help derail the engine of American wealth creation and freedom — just as the devastating mistakes of “Great Society” liberalism did in the past.

It is an axiom that the victors write the history of battles and wars. If those who rightly see ObamaCare as a potential disaster want to win, they must not accept the liberal frame of reference about this issue or history. They must recast the both the debate just concluded and the one about to begin. It’s about freedom, not the liberal myth of government-imposed social justice.

President Obama characterized yesterday’s vote on the health-care bill as the nation answering “the call of history.” This turn of phrase is an accurate depiction of how he and his liberal supporters view both the issue and modern American history. From this frame of reference, health care is just the latest — and by no means last — step toward greater social justice in which the state assumes greater and greater responsibility for the lives of every American. Like unemployment insurance, social security, and Medicare, this bill’s purported goal of providing affordable health insurance to every American is seen by Obama and his backers as not only just but also inevitable, much the same way they think of the “New Deal” legislation passed by Franklin Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society.” They are convinced that, like those laws, ObamaCare will soon be seen not as a massive expansion of government power but as yet another chapter in America’s inexorable journey to social justice that will transform this law into a sacrosanct element of our political life.

Thus, going forward to the November midterm elections and beyond, the real question is not whether the bill will actually achieve universal health insurance without lowering the quality of care or raising costs; that is an impossibility. Rather, the question will be whether liberals in Congress and especially the media will be able to imprint the idea into the majority of American minds that, however messy its passage was and problematic the details may be, ObamaCare had to be passed and cannot be reversed.

The challenge for conservatives is more than merely pointing out ObamaCare’s shortcomings, its enormous costs, and its impact on a huge American industry. The challenge is also more than demonstrating how the health care that ordinary Americans get — and which the vast majority currently think is good — will decline. Conservatives’ real job is to attack the liberal narrative. What they must point out is that, rather than the next inevitable step toward greater justice, Obama’s “reform” is, in fact, a move away from individual freedom and toward the same nanny welfare state that Americans thought they had put to rest. Rather than a progressive innovation, ObamaCare is a retrograde move that seeks to drag American politics and the economy back to the mistaken emphasis on government power of the mid-20th century. Like so much of the welfare economics and failed liberal policies of that era, ObamaCare has the potential to do far more harm than good. Policies that are driven merely by good intentions and a belief in expanding government power can help derail the engine of American wealth creation and freedom — just as the devastating mistakes of “Great Society” liberalism did in the past.

It is an axiom that the victors write the history of battles and wars. If those who rightly see ObamaCare as a potential disaster want to win, they must not accept the liberal frame of reference about this issue or history. They must recast the both the debate just concluded and the one about to begin. It’s about freedom, not the liberal myth of government-imposed social justice.

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