Sometimes, I think I’m too hard on myself. There really is a big difference between being cynical and simply seeing reality clearly. This came to mind this morning reading Dean Baker, Why Would Anyone Think Republican Opposition to Obamacare Is Based on Ideology as Opposed to Just Money. It is in reference to an article by Jonathan Cohn. Now, as regular readers know, I think Jonathan Cohn is absolutely essential reading on healthcare issues. But he made the mistake of claiming, “[Republicans] simply don’t believe in universal health care.”
The truth is that no one knows for certain why Republicans absolutely, positively think Obamacare is the end of freedom in America, when it was their idea in the first place and they were all for it before the Democrats agreed to it. There are actually two parts to this, that I have discussed at various times in various ways. The main thing is that the whole Heritage Foundation plan that Obamacare is based on was never meant to be actual policy. It was only used to shoot down any more liberal policy like single-payer healthcare. This is what Jonathan Chait labeled, The Heritage Uncertainty Principle. The idea is that conservative healthcare reform only exists as long as it has no hope of implementation. The moment it becomes plausible, it is denounced by the very same conservatives as, “Socialism! Socialism, I tell you!”
Baker takes on the other half of the issue. But I’ve been talking about the same thing for years: the reason that Republicans hate Obamacare has nothing to do with the individual mandate or “freedom” or any of the dozens of other reasons they claim the law is Satan’s spawn. The reason they hate it is the one reason they never talk about explicitly: it raised taxes on the rich. Now it is true, that occasionally, a Republican will talk about how it raised taxes, but they will imply that it raised taxes on everyone and it didn’t. It didn’t raise taxes on a single person I know, and one of them is a millionaire.
Baker provides the scenario:
Suppose they don’t have deep convictions about universal health care insurance, but do have deep convictions about money leaving the pockets of rich people. Of course taxes were raised on the rich to cover part of the cost of subsidies in the exchanges.Suppose also they like a cheap docile labor force. The type that fears unemployment and also needs a full-time job just to get health care insurance. (This makes it easier to get good help.)
In this respect it is worth noting that the number of people working part-time by choice has increased by 800,000 over the last year. This is consistent with a story where people who don’t need to work full-time to get health care insurance will work less. This is great news for workers and bad news for “it’s hard to get good help” crowd.
If my suppositions are true then the Republican leaders would hate Obamacare even if they never gave a thought to universal health care and the government’s obligations to individuals. It’s a question of taking money from rich people, end of story.
Is this cynical? Actually, no. Political parties have constituencies. The Republican Party’s main constituency is the rich. They also pander to social conservatives and racists, but this is just out of necessity. There aren’t many rich people. And the social conservative and racist appeals don’t bother the interests of the rich, and (as with welfare “reform”) can often be used to further the interests of the rich.
I’ll admit: looking at the the world this way is Machiavellian. But the point of The Prince is to show a young ruler how to stay in power. It’s not like I think that all people would kill you as soon as look at you, if they thought they could get away with it. I actually believe in altruism and that it is a big part of how our species has managed to make it this far. But political parties survive by serving constituencies. This is how they are supposed to work. The only reason the Democratic Party is better than the Republican Party is that it serves a much bigger and more diverse constituency.
So yeah, Republican opposition to Obamacare is all about money. Most of the people who vote for Republicans don’t realize this of course. But all you have to do is look at the Tea Party to understand. A lot of the Republican base was very unhappy about the TARP bank bailout. (So were a lot of the Democratic base!) They grumbled but nothing happened. Then, when a Democrat was in the White House and actual homeowners were going to be helped, the group sprouted. It didn’t sprout because Rick Santelli ranted—he does that five days per week. It sprouted because the conservative elite took that same grumbling and pushed it via Fox News, hate radio, and well funded events!
But it’s all about what the rich want. And maybe someday, the people in the poorer classes who vote Republican will realize that the party doesn’t actually represent them. But that’s a different issue. In terms of looking at actual Republican Party policy, all you have to do is look at what the super rich want.