Jonathan Cohn brought up a very disturbing in issue in an article yesterday, The 5 Key Questions About Obamacare, Answered. The disturbing issue is not Obamacare or the questions about it. It is what Cohn was responding to: Peter Suderman.
I’ve written about Suderman a couple of times before. He’s a libertarian who writes for Reason and other publications. And he isn’t bad. He’s a smart guy. But he hates Obamacare. Well, let’s be honest: he would hate any kind of real healthcare reform. I’m sure if you got down to it, he hates Medicare and Social Security and pretty much everything the government does. He does, after all, write for Reason.
Cohn noted that Suderman brought up some real issues like the fact that a lot of new people are getting health insurance through the Medicaid expansion, which means that they are more likely to have difficulty finding doctors to treat them. You see, Medicaid doesn’t pay that well and so a lot of doctors avoid Medicaid patients. Of course, this is kind of a non-issue. What is harder: finding a doctor when you have Medicaid or finding a doctor when you have no insurance at all? This is all very typical of Suderman.
The question is why he is even allowed to write about Obamacare. He doesn’t like it because he doesn’t like it. Reading him write about what’s wrong with Obamacare is like listening to a 14-year-old hip-hop fan explain why classical music sucks. You aren’t going to learn anything about classical music; all you are going to hear are a bunch of excuses to justify why he doesn’t like classical music. That’s fine. Not everyone needs to like classical music. But it would be a waste of time to listen to this young man’s justifications as though they were something like actual music criticism.
As I discussed earlier this year, Another Libertarian Gets Trapped Talking About Practical Matters, Suderman will never get to the point of accepting Obamacare. His problem with the law is not practical; it is theoretical. And when all the practical complaints are exhausted, he will still be left with his theoretical opposition to the government being involved in healthcare — or pretty much anything else.
It bugs me that Cohn gives Suderman respect that he clearly doesn’t deserve, “Still, many of the flaws and complications that Suderman chronicles are very real and need to be accounted for.” I come back to this all the time. Conservatives insisted that we have this “free market” neoliberal healthcare reform policy. For example, one of Suderman’s totally valid complaints is that even though premiums will in many cases go down in general, individual premiums may go up and people may not be astute enough to realize that they must shop around next year just like they did this year.
But that’s the thing with neoliberal policy: it requires that people constantly be out there in the marketplace making sure that they are getting the best deal. Neoliberalism doesn’t care that people have actual lives to live because it sees people only as actors in the economy. And the reason we are stuck with neoliberal policy is that conservatives like Suderman demand it, even though in the end, they never support it. The libertarian take on healthcare reform is that we should do nothing, but if we must, we should go with neoliberal policy that harnesses the “magic of the market.” And with a major assist from the New Democrats who never tire of being “fooled” by conservatives into embracing policies conservatives demand, we get bad conservative policy that conservatives aren’t even willing to support.
So we have to put up with Suderman’s constant attacks on Obamacare. And those attacks will continue until Suderman just gives up and settles on his theoretical argument, which no one will be interested in publishing. Reason already has leather jacket wearing Nick Gillespie to write its theoretical articles, “The government has no business interfering with the private contracts people make!” But not to worry, there will always be new conservative poisoned legislation for conservatives to spend years complaining about. Suderman’s career is guaranteed!