Monday, March 30, 2015

How Paranoid is My Side?

I make it my general rule not to comment on a Presidential election until the primaries begin.  Still, it is hard not to notice that the Republicans are in full I'm-more-crazy-than-you-are mode, blasting Obama for failing to start several perfectly good wars and pledging Obamacare delenda est (Obamacare must be destroyed).  The obvious question is, will they actually act on it if elected in 2016?  After all, stripping millions of their health insurance cannot possibly be popular, and the memory of Iraq hangs heavy enough to make a lot of people wary about large-scale ground commitments.  

The most extreme version is the fear that if the Republicans win the triple crown, they will use "budget reconciliation" (i.e., the rule that a budget can pass the Senate with a simple majority) to repeal Obamacare in its entirety and implement the Ryan Budget, i.e., turn Medicaid into a block grant and Medicare into a voucher system, as well as starting all the wars Republicans are blaming Obama for not starting.

Color me skeptical.  This sounds very much like fear-mongering on my side.  Root-and-branch extirpation of Obamacare will, after all, strip millions of their health insurance overnight.  During the last election, the Ryan Budget proved so unpopular that Democrats could not convince focus groups that Republicans would actually do something so suicidal.  And one war is quite enough.  (Too much, in fact). Thus it seems most unlikely that Republicans would immediately upon entering office strip millions of their health insurance and start phasing out Medicaid and Medicare.  That sounds like a good way to hand the Democrats a landslide in the midterms (maybe even a veto-proof majority), and possibly commit permanent political suicide.

Of course, it is possible that Republicans would think it was worth it.  Many Democrats, after all, are prepared to say that if the legacy of Obamacare, i.e., the extent to which it expands access to health care, remains, then any political losses that result will be well worth it.  Republicans may feel the same way.  If they can only destroy Obamacare, it will be next to impossible to revive, and any collateral damage will be well worthwhile for the sake of Freedom.  And converting Medicaid to a block grant would not be easily undone, while and resulting damage would take place too slowly to do much political damage.

Medicare is another matter altogether.  Medicare, after all, is used by the Republican base, so all current and near-term beneficiaries would be spared.  This means that plans to voucherize Medicare would not take effect for another ten years, which is plenty of time for Democrats to repeal them. Well, two out of three ain't bad.

In short, I am inclined to think that if Republicans win the triple crown in 2016, it will force them to deal with political reality, including the reality that taking people's health insurance is wildly unpopular.

But then again, I don't really want to take the chance, either.  So my advice to Democrats is to be demagogues.  Warn voters that Republicans want to take away their health insurance.  Have people insured through Obamacare follow Republican candidates all around asking why do you want to take my health insurance away.  Put Republicans in the awkward position of having to say, "I'm sorry to take away your health insurance, but the fact that you have it has ended all liberty and turned us into a Communist dictatorship.  I'm sure you would agree that giving up your health insurance would be a small price to pay for escaping the nightmare of oppression that has resulted from you having it."  Somehow I don't think that will go over well.

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