Lanhee Chen and Conservative Apologetics

Lanhee ChenLanhee Chen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institute. And he had some advice for his fellow Republicans this morning, On Republican Priorities, Obama May Have a Point. That title makes Chen sound far more reasonable than he is. He starts by claiming that Obama has “lost almost all credibility” defending Obamacare. But he says that Obama may have a point when he says that the Republicans have not offered up what they are planning to replace it with. (Note to Mr. Chen: nothing.) He says that Republicans should debunk this claim, adding, “Now it’s time to coherently articulate a vision for what should replace the fundamentally flawed health-care law.”

Let’s stop right there. This is a conservative line that drives me nuts. It’s true: Obamacare is fundamentally flawed. And why is it fundamentally flawed? Because conservative fucktards like Lanhee Chen claimed that they were all for this “free market” approach to healthcare reform. But of course, the moment that the Democrats compromised and gave them their totally fucked up insurance company giveaway, the Republicans jumped back as though a cobra had just been dropped at their feet. Their great answer to healthcare reform was now, “Socialism!” Give me a fucking break!

But Chen is just getting started. He tells us, “Republicans aren’t lacking for ideas about what to replace Obamacare with.” According to him, conservative think tanks are overflowing with great proposals. Before getting to them, let’s just be clear. If the Democrats repealed Obamacare and tried to pass any of these “plans,” the Republicans would again turn on a dime and complain that the new plans were straight from the anus of Satan.

First he says there are real divides among the Republicans about how to provide healthcare to the tens of millions who don’t currently have it. But really there aren’t. He says that some conservatives “reject the very notion that expanding access to health insurance is a priority.” This is all tactical because none of them want to do anything. There are those who come right out and say that they don’t want to do anything. Then there are those who say they really do want to do something, but somehow whatever proposal is offered just isn’t quite right. Bottom line: they are against reforming the healthcare system because the people they care about are already served and they don’t care about the others.

He also notes that a big sticking point is cost. Oh yes, cost is always a big issue for Republicans. At least it is when they aren’t in the White House. And it is when the money might go to poor people. But when it will go to corporations or farmers or just rich individuals, the spigot is always on.

When he gets to all the great ideas that conservatives have regarding healthcare reform, he mentions only two important ones. The first one is an oldie that would make the current system worse: allow people to buy insurance across state lines! What this would do is allow young, healthy people in (say) California, which has laws requiring a certain level of coverage from insurance companies, to buy insurance from Mississippi, which has no such laws. This would make the insurance risk pool much more expensive in California. So this would lower health insurance costs on exactly the people who don’t need help while it increased costs on the people who do. It’s the perfect conservative policy. Brilliant!

The second one is also an oldie: tort reform! Prevent people who have been harmed from suing. Republicans love this because they always want to screw the poor and benefit the rich. Estimates are that lawsuits increase the cost of healthcare by—Wait for it!—upwards of 1%. That’s right! The second big policy idea of the Republicans would at most decrease costs by 1%. But what it would do is make the rich even richer. Again: the perfect conservative policy!

You may have noticed that the Republicans always find a way to propose the same ideas that they like for other reasons for every problem that comes around. Healthcare unaffordable? Tort reform! City smog getting you down? Tort reform! Can’t afford college. Reform the fucking tort system!

Chen also mentions “changing the existing tax treatment of health care.” That should be done but it is not going to make a big difference. He also thinks there should be more transparency in medical billing. Again: okay, but hardly an earth shattering idea. The thing to note about all of this is that even under the best of circumstances, all of these ideas combined would not even begin to accomplish what Obamacare already has. So Obama’s original criticism that Chen claims could be easily counted has gone unanswered by him or any other conservative I’ve ever heard from. (Note: all of Chen’s “great ideas” are the same garbage we always hear from conservatives.)

Lanhee Chen is involved in the great conservative cause: providing reasonable sounding excuses for why the Republican Party is totally useless. As with the Republican establishment, Republican intellectuals are primarily interested in providing political cover. I can see why someone like Josh Barro is so hated in the Republican Party. He actually has policy ideas. People like Lanhee Chen offer nothing but apologia for the cause. The modern conservative movement is rotten to its very core.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Lanhee Chen and Conservative Apologetics

  1. That saw about allowing people to buy insurance across state lines — it’s one they’ve been trotting out for years, ever since conservatives had to scramble to find a reason to hate their own policy proposal — would not, I think, be restricted merely to low-regulation states like Mississippi. I’ve thought for a while it would include shady companies in US protectorates like Guam or the Marshall Islands, where regulations do not exist.

    Contrary to what you’ve written before, conservatives DO have an ideology. It’s just not a political one, in any sense that we think of politics as the art of governance. It’s merely "grab everything you can before the burning building collapses," justified by some unholy philosophical admixture of latter-day evangelical and economic extremism. Give credit where credit is due; I can’t think, offhand, of a totalitarian ideology that ever nakedly admitted its principled abhorrence of principle before. Most at least pretend to some sort of morality.

    Conservatives love the phrase "creative destruction," meant to suggest that old, worn-out industries are painfully replaced by new, more universally beneficial ones. (There’s some truth to that notion, although I wouldn’t necessarily make the common mistake of preferring slave-labor IPads to union-made anything else.) In any case, the phrase is apt. The destruction created by rampant greed is quite creative. It finds new ways to do the same damn thing all the time.

  2. @JMF – But the ideology that you’re talking about is just nihilism! In a certain way, the Republican Party is like an old constituency party. The problem is that their constituency is far too narrow for a major political party. But they do represent the interests of their rich constituency.

    As for the insurance: that’s likely the case. The whole point of the proposal is to harm the states’ rights. (Funny how states rights are important when it comes to discrimination but not healthcare!) If the feds regulated a certain level of benefit, there would be no point of the proposal. And that gets back to one of my points: once these proposals were discussed seriously, most of the Republicans would run away screaming, "Socialism!" At this point there just aren’t any ideologically palatable solutions for the conservatives. I wrote about this:

    [url=]Republicans Have No Healthcare Ideas[/url]

    Although I believe in creative destruction, in the modern world it is highly disruptive. Combining creative destruction with a full employment law would work very well. Conservatives have an incredibly primitive understand of how the economy works on the ground. According to Mitt Romney, when loads of people are put out of work, they can just go and make television shows. For Romney types, people are like game pieces.

  3. It’s primitive because it’s not just ideological (I like this, this suits me) but it’s totemic. It’s medicine-man, shaman stuff, and it HAS to work (or else the shaman gets killed and replaced by someone else.)

    At one point I mentioned to my Bain brother liking certain films starring the actress Cate Blanchett, and his response was that he can’t watch her because the rock star she’s fucking has said disparaging things about the market. That’s how deep the psychosis goes. I don’t like the politics of, say, actor Jon Voight, but I think he was pretty good in "Deliverance," and I certainly wouldn’t avoid seeing a movie I was interested in because he was among the cast. John Malkovich is reputedly a right-winger. Doesn’t make "Dangerous Liasons" suck.

    (Makes me think of how these people venerate "freedom," yet conservative Christians often screen their children from worldly media and want to ban stuff like Howard Zinn from the schools. If their ideas are so fabulous, shouldn’t they win out over the competition?)

    I actually was thinking about nihilism in the context of media, specifically modern cable shows. I read this response of yours not long after I saw the first episode of the new "Breaking Bad" (on AMC’s website, I don’t have cable) and read a really incisive criticism of the show as a whole afterwards:,101439/

    A lot of what that review criticizes is apt. But it holds up as a gold standard "The Sopranos," which I would say is just as dramatically, believably flawed as "Breaking Bad" (if not much more so.) Both are solidified by great lead actor performances. And both, I’d argue, owe their popular success to exploiting nihilism. "Mad Men" (which I have a hard time watching, although the production values are great) is in the same boat. Everyone’s corrupt; there’s no such thing as idealism, except for fools. (There’s an article in there, if you want to write it, or maybe someday I will.)

    The thing is, idealism is for fools (holy fools, perhaps) . . . but so is nihilism! And right now, only nihilistic fools are seen as holy! (By a culture that celebrates Jesus, an idealistic fool as distinct as any in literature.) I’ve enjoyed the first few episodes of "Orange Is The New Black" because even though the premise isn’t exactly believable, and the main character is borderline annoying, the presentation of prison inmates and prison wardens isn’t nihilistic or idealistic. Some are shits, some are decent. It lacks the subtlety a Robert Altman could have given to the subject (if he was alive and did such a series, we’d know why the shits are shits and empathize), but, hey, NetFlix would never have given Robert Altman a series, any more than HBO would have. (Oh, wait, HBO did . . and it was a pretty cool series!)

  4. @JMF – I always go back to Reagan and his unholy alliance between the libertarians and the social conservatives. It not only showed that the Republicans didn’t really believe in anything, it showed that those two constituencies didn’t really believe in what they claimed. The libertarians may claim they are for freedom, but what they really care about is low taxes. Social conservatives may claim that they care about the Bible, but what they really care about is keeping women down. The Democratic constituencies may be broad, but they aren’t opposed to each other.

    Interesting take on the shows. I don’t think of them as nihilistic though. They are more postmodern in that they don’t provide an absolute meaning. Instead, meaning is just a matter of perspective. One of the best things about [i]Breaking Bad[/i] has been the maturation of Jessie. He’s become the only character in the story with a soul. His speech at the NA meeting about killing the dog is perhaps the high point of the series.

    A much better series was [i]Deadwood[/i]. It did a great job of providing motivation for horrible characters. In fact, now I look back on [i]Breaking Bad[/i] and find it a little embarrassing. It is very much like a super hero comic–right down to the unbelievable high tech lab and plot-focused characters. It wouldn’t be a stretch for them to bring back Gus with a prosthetic face.

  5. I keep having people recommend "Deadwood" to me, so I’ll put it on my library list.

    "BB" is pretty much a soap opera for males, albeit a quite skillfully filmed and edited one (as, I suppose, many soap operas are.) I’m kinda annoyed that it’s such a pop-culture thing at this point that I can’t wait for the library to get it, so I have to watch the AMC feed (with annoying ads.). Five weeks from now, every website imaginable will have ruminations on what the ending meant, when all I want to know is did Enrique finally sleep with Madeline or some such.

    One good thing from the first new episode; finally, Hank fucking figured it out. Took him long enough! Expert crimefighter, my ass.

    A show I found not nihilistic was "Big Love." It got very stupid, very fast, alas. At the beginning, though, it did a good job of showing how faith gave strength to one man (Bill Paxton, who is terrific) without short-shrifting how the doctrines of that faith harmed his family, particularly his kids’ sex lives.

    I’m on "Deadwood." "Star Trek: Into Darkness" just got bumped off the list . . .

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