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Frum Forum


Obamacare: It's Not Over Until He Signs It

October 27, 2009

By David Gratzer

“Did the Democrats become Calvinists when we weren’t looking? Lately they’ve been talking an awful lot about predestination. They want to claim that Obamacare’s victory is foreordained, that the health care debate is over and — surprise, surprise — the liberals won.”

So begins Mr. Continetti’s thoughtful editorial, “The Inevitability Myth,” in the current issue of The Weekly Standard. He offers three reasons why Obamacare isn’t inevitable.

“The Landscape. “Our government rests in public opinion,” Abraham Lincoln said in 1856. “Whoever can change public opinion, can change the government.”

Public opinion is not on the Democrats’ side. Most Americans remain satisfied with their health care...

The Money. A glance at the polls reveals the alarm at our ballooning national debt. The Congressional Budget Office concluded that the Senate Finance Committee’s health care bill would pay for itself in its first 10 years, but only by imposing taxes and cutting Medicare. There is no reason to believe that the reform that comes to a floor vote will resemble the Finance bill. This bill is far too stingy for liberals. They are ready to add to the debt in order to achieve their social vision. They want universal coverage. They want more generous subsidies.

But a left-liberal health care reform is a dicey proposition...

The Calendar. Obama originally wanted a bill before summer’s end. Didn’t happen. Back in September, lawmakers expected Pelosi to hold a vote by the end of that month. No go. Then the deadline was the end of October. Another fantasy. Now we’re told the vote won’t come before early November.

But November features off-year gubernatorial elections that look favorable for Republicans...“

(The first point, on polling, is drawn out and explored in a must-read op-ed by Arthur Brooks in Monday’s Wall Street Journal.)

It’s not a legislative victory until there’s, well, signed legislation. The point is hardly profound, but it is important to remember. Part of the success to date for the Obama White House is in pushing the inevitability argument.

So — just to establish that I haven’t consumed any Kool-Aid — I recognize that Democrats have the momentum. Party divisions have quieted down; with a fall vote possibly days away, they maintain a massive majority in the House and filibuster-proof majority in the Senate (that even death and state law haven’t reversed); and practically every lobbyist in Washington supports the effort.

Strangely, though, just as we seem on the brink of a vote, with every moderate Democratic Senator and a couple of Republican liberal Senators in need of reminding how important this all is, the GOP has opted for a bizarre, populist strategy. Read the bill. Some conservative allies have amended this, to include study the bill.

It’s difficult to argue against that point. It’s also difficult to take it very seriously. The problem with ObamaCare will not be found in page xxx of the final Senate draft. The problem with ObamaCare is front and center: At the end of the day, the package of reforms is a dud. Even the “moderate” Baucus bill is pricey and clunky. At a time of massive deficits, Washington would spend more; at a time of ripe with government mismanagement, Washington would control more.

Republicans have opted out of the process. Years from now, historians will decide whether that bold approach was tactically shrewd. But there’s plenty to think about today: it’s the fourth quarter, we’re behind, and the other team has the ball.

The GOP needs to hit hard on its criticisms. The GOP must offer plausible alternatives. Athwart history, perhaps.

Perhaps not.

Original Source:



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