It’s one thing to have Howard Dean holler (he hollers even in print, it seems) to “kill the bill.” It’s quite another to have David Brooks, after the most reasoned balancing of pro’s and con’s and much heartfelt agonizing, say “kill the bill.” Well, he didn’t say it that way, but he’s figured out that it’s worse than doing nothing:
If you pass a health care bill without systemic incentives reform, you set up a political vortex in which the few good parts of the bill will get stripped out and the expensive and wasteful parts will be entrenched. Defenders say we can’t do real reform because the politics won’t allow it. The truth is the reverse. Unless you get the fundamental incentives right, the politics will be terrible forever and ever.
That means “kill the bill.” He’s got the reasons why we should. There’s no real health-care reform in all those pages. He says that “it will cause national health care spending to increase faster,” and it will increase demand but not the supply of health care in the short run, causing prices to skyrocket. He knows that “you can’t centrally regulate 17 percent of the U.S. economy without a raft of unintended consequences.” Medical innovation will get creamed. And there’s no hope for real cost control after this thing passes. His logic is impeccable.
So why doesn’t the White House agree? The president was supposed to be an evidence-driven, nonideological sort with a philosophical bent. Lots of smart people told us so. Well, truth be told, the White House never really cared about what was in the bill. The Obami never told us what they wanted, because they didn’t really know or didn’t think it mattered. They only wanted a bill. Their real interest was twofold: get a huge political win and plant the sapling for a European-style social-welfare state that couldn’t be ripped out once planted.
Maybe the Obami were right and they can get the Congress to pass a very bad bill that everyone — from Brooks to Howard Dean to Jim DeMint to ordinary voters to MoveOn.org to talk-radio hosts — has figured out really stinks. But it’s getting harder to do so with a straight face.