Ramesh Ponnuru now works at Bloomberg View, which goes along with my theory that any smart conservative will eventually end up with a good job at a mainstream news outlet because there are so few conservative writers who aren’t totally insane. But while I like him and think he often has really insightful things to say about American politics, he is usually just a conservative who can’t see beyond his limited worldview. Take, for example, his article today, Sorry, Obamacare Is Still Unfixable.
Earlier this year, I wrote, Ramesh Ponnuru Obamacare Warning to Conservatives. That was in reference to his article warning that Obamacare was not about to “implode.” But I criticized him for implying that conservative complaints about Obamacare were substantial. They aren’t. And to be honest, I don’t see that Ponnuru’s complaints are either.
In today’s article, he attacked the plan of Senators Mark Warner and Mark Begich to add “copper” plans to Obamacare. These would be plans with low premiums and high deductibles. Ponnuru says that such plans might hurt Obamacare, “That migration could, however, make the exchanges less stable by reducing the amount of money that healthy people are putting into them through their premiums.” It’s possible, but given the conservative tendency to always assume the worst about Obamacare and always be wrong, it is hard to take the “could” complaint very seriously.
But Ponnuru’s complaint especially annoys me because what Warner and Begich are doing is trying to appease conservatives. It is conservatives, after all, who are always yelling about how “catastrophic insurance” is the solution to all our problems. But once such things are on the table, they complain about high deductibles. Indeed, Ponnuru complains about the ridiculously high deductibles in the current “bronze” plans. And I agree: it’s terrible. And I don’t like the idea of “copper” plans. I wanted and continue to want a more liberal plan. The current plan is extremely conservative. Democrats are working to make it even more conservative. And the reaction by conservatives is that moves in their direction are no good. Because, let’s face it, Obamacare will never be any good. There is no “replace” of Obamacare; conservatives just want to kill it.
This brings up an issue: is healthcare in the United States better under Obamacare than it was before? I think the answer to that is clearly and resoundingly, “Yes!” That should be the question for conservatives like Ponnuru, just the same as it is for liberals like me. It shouldn’t be, “Is Obamacare better than whatever solution you have in your head?” I’m not saying that Ponnuru is being disingenuous, but it is just too easy for people (Like me!) to get lost in theoretical-land and not deal with the world as it is.
Ponnuru ended the article in a way that makes me even less keen. He wrote, “An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll earlier this month found that only 36 percent of the public favors Obamacare.” That’s true, but hardly relevant. People don’t even know what Obamacare is. It is just that the word “Obamacare” has been vilified like the word “liberal” — and by the same people. No change to Obamacare will make “Obamacare” popular. Even if it was reformed to consist only of tort “reform” and huge tax cuts for the wealthy, conservatives wouldn’t like it because it has “Obama” in the word.
I am sure that Ponnuru knows this. So the end of his article is nothing but conservative propaganda. And more generally, but to a lesser extent, that’s true of the whole article. Ponnuru is better than this. Sadly, the conservative movement is not.