Imagine that you were trying to get me to do more exercise for my health. Maybe you argued that walking a mile a day would extend and improve my life. I countered, “There is no evidence that walking a mile a day is going to improve my health!” But one day, a paper appears in The Lancet, “Study shows Frank Moraes will have a longer and healthier life if he walks one mile per day.” My friend shows me the article. I read it and can find no fault with it. It absolutely is the case that walking a mile a day will make me healthier and happier; it’ll even make me a chick magnet. So do I start to walk a mile a day? No! Sure, walking a mile a day would be good for me, but the cost is too great: 20 minutes out of every day when I could be watching television and eating bonbons.
At that point, unless you were a complete idiot, you would know that this issue is not about the health benefits of exercise nor the time required to do that exercise. You would know that I just don’t want to exercise. But of course I wouldn’t want to say that because it makes me look like a lazy guy and all that. Somehow, though, when it comes to the exact same behavior in politics, everyone is expected to assume that anyone, like me in this example who constantly changes his reason for being against a policy, is a good faith actor.
This leads us to yet another great Jonathan Cohn article, Obamacare Critics Now Admit the Law Is Saving Lives, But Say the Price Still Isn’t Worth it. Earlier this month, I reported, Good Obamacare News Is No News to Conservatives. It was about how conservatives were ignoring data that indicated that the uninsured population was going way down and that having insurance was actually saving lives. Well, last week, Cohn found that a number of conservative wonks (and I use the term advisedly) have accepted these findings but have come up with a new reason to be against Obamacare.
You should read Cohn’s whole article (actually, you should read everything Cohn writes because he’s brilliant). Basically, it talks about how some Cato Institute drone figured out that for every life that was saved, we were spending $4 to $5 million. And that, is apparently too much. Cohn doesn’t accept that number, but more important, he goes on to show that this is the wrong way to think about the new law. Healthcare reform is not primarily about saving lives. It is about reducing medical bankruptcies. It is about providing people with peace of mind and allowing them to switch jobs and start business. And it is about trying to reduce healthcare costs which are almost twice as high as they are in other advanced countries that provide better care.
That’s all very important stuff. But do we really need to have this conversation? I mean, let’s suppose that someone does a very thorough analysis of Obamacare and comes to the conclusion that because of increased productivity and fewer emergency room visits that Obamacare actually saves money. Does anyone think that conservative healthcare “wonk” Avik Roy is going to become an Obamacare booster? Of course not! He would come up with yet another reason why Obamacare was terrible. There will always be another reason why Obamacare is unacceptable because the conservative argument against Obamacare is based on two things: it raised taxes on the rich by a tiny amount and it is a Democratic law.
So I go back to my original article, Good Obamacare News Is No News to Conservatives. Because there is no such thing as good Obamacare news for them. It is just an opportunity to nitpick the news and when necessary, to come up with another justification for why they hate the law. But Jonathan Cohn does yeoman’s work to keep these charlatans honest. Because eventually, their arguments are going to sound ridiculously thin. Like, “Obamacare is bad, because it gives an unfair advantage to poor people in the states that didn’t expand Medicaid!” Thanks Obama!