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Entire Democratic Party pretty much lining up behind single-payer
Not because they've changed their minds about anything, but simply because they now think they can get away with it politically. Are they right?
If you recall the debate in Congress over ObamaCare back in 2009 and 2010, there seemed little doubt that Democrats with filibuster-proof majorities would pass something. The debate was over just how socialistic the bill should be, with some supposedly "moderate" senators like Montana's Max Baucus resisting taking things too far in that direction.
Otherwise, we might not have gotten a bill that maintained a nominally "market-based" system involving private insurers, even though they have to operate within a system totally controlled by the government. We might have just gotten rid of private insurers altogether and forced everyone to rely on the government for their health care, as Barack Obama himself has said in the past that he favors.
Well. It's eight years later. The pathetic Republican Congress has failed to repeal ObamaCare, and now Democrats think the body politic is ready to go full socialist. So suddenly it appears that the party consensus is to go pedal-to-the-metal it its advocacy of single-payer. It's not that they ever didn't want single-payer. They just used to think the public wouldn't accept that socialist a leap. Now, apparently, they believe they've got you more hoodwinked than they did eight years ago:
The push for government-funded health care once was relegated to the fringes of the Democratic Party but has made its way into the mainstream. The latest example of this was former Sen. Max Baucus saying last week that lawmakers should start looking at single-payer.
"I just think the time has come," he told NBC News, after making similar remarks at a public event in his home state of Montana.
Baucus led the Senate Finance Committee during ObamaCare talks and acknowledged he opposed single-payer at the time, because it was “branded as socialistic by too many people.”
Times have changed – at least among Democratic lawmakers.
Sanders plans to introduce his bill on Wednesday, along with “Senate co-sponsors.” Sanders recently confirmed one of them – Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. – and another, California Sen. Kamala Harris, also revealed to constituents she plans to co-sponsor the bill.
Harris is considered a potential 2020 presidential candidate and her early endorsement of Sanders’ plan indicates how the legislation could emerge as a litmus test for other 2020 candidates – demonstrating their alignment with the liberal wing of the party.
In a fundraising email at the beginning of the month, Sanders vowed to “run Medicare for all like a campaign” – pointing to the pressure his supporters will exert on members of Congress.
What does Baucus mean when he says "I just think the time has come." That has always been a curiously nonsensical phrase that politicians use. What does the passage of time have to do with whether an idea is good or bad? Has the time come for public defecation? For universal heroin addiction? For a new Billy Joel album? Of course not. Time doesn't make terrible ideas good. They are always terrible.
Socialized medicine didn't become a better idea in the past eight years, but Baucus now perceives that Democrats can safely push it - and that the media are now willing to help them do so. They perceive that the public has drifted far enough to the left on policy matters, and this one in particular, that this is now a plausible sell.
Are they right? They might be. I've seen polls that show significant support for single-payer even among Republicans, which is probably one of the reasons congressional Republicans are reluctant to push very hard for free-market health care solutions. They see polls that they take to mean the public wants the government paying their health care bills.
But I think Democrats have a false sense of security on this issue. First of all, it's one thing to read a poll saying people like the idea that someone else pays their doctor bills. Once you actually try to do it, you have to start dealing with the reality of what it's going to cost. Just to give you an idea, Medicare and Medicaid now run close to $1.3 trillion a year, and that only covers senior citizens and the poor. What do you think it will cost when you're trying to cover everyone in the country?
I've seen estimates as high as $3 trillion, and that's before you get into the question of who's making your health care decisions for you. (Hint: It's the people paying your bills.) And if you think the 1 percent are going to cough up that much money, I've got a surprise for you. The 1 percent doesn't have that much money. If you have even the faintest hope of raising that much money via taxation, you're going to have to soak the middle class.
Once that starts to become clear in public debate, watch what happens to those poll numbers. The media will do their best to downplay the cost, or to claim it actually "saves money" because it gets everyone covered or whatever, but when people are facing the prospect of a real jacking of their tax liability, they're not going to believe that nonsense.
There's also the fact that this won't be politically possible for Democrats until at least 2021. I would think President Trump would never sign such a bill, but before you even get to that question there's the reality that the mid-term electoral map looks terrible for Demcorats in 2018. They might - might - defy expectations and hold their own, but they certainly aren't going to win the type of majority they would need to pass something like this.
In 2020, however, you're looking at a different dynamic as many of the first-timers elected in the 2014 red wave are up for re-election and will have to defend their seats. If President Trump limps into his re-election campaign unpopular, and the Democrats run a good candidate (i.e., someone as unlike Hillary Clinton as possible), then you might have the potential for an outcome that would allow them to at least attempt to pass single-payer.
And make no mistake: If they can, they will. The purpose of the Democratic Party is to put as many aspects of American life as they can under the control of the federal govvernment. Only the limits on their political power prevent them from making everything in this country the property of the state. So if you really don't want to see this happen - and you certainly shouldn't - the time to think about that is before you take part in handing power back to them, now or at any point in the future.
Dan's new novel, BACKSTOP, is a story of spiritual warfare and baseball. Download it from Amazon here!