13 January 2012

An Individual Mandate Challenge

In a comment over at my history blog, I recently threw out a challenge. A commenter had called the Affordable Healthcare Act of 2010 “taking control of the entire medical establishment.” Given that the program is designed to preserve and even drive business to private insurers, that Congress shied away from creating a public option to provide competition, and that the system falls far short of the single-payer system that works better for our neighbor Canada, that view strikes me as ludicrous.

I hypothesize that characterizations like that (other examples include “socialized medicine,” “death panels,” “baby-killer,” and so on) are so inaccurate and so ignorant of the spectrum of health-care policy proposals that they can’t be a product of rational thought. Rather, they reflect deeper fears that the critic is unable to acknowledge.

But there’s a simple way to refute my hypothesis. Show that significant figures in the Republican Party used such rhetoric about the same health-care policy before Barack Obama became a prominent proponent of that approach.

I invited anyone to find three examples of significant figures in the Republican Party calling Gov. Mitt Romney’s program for Massachusetts something like a “complete takeover of the health care system” before Barack Obama won the 2008 Iowa caucus and became a presidential frontrunner.

Those three Republican figures can even be Romney’s opponents in the 2008 race. One can even be Ron Paul. But their criticisms can’t simply be “My plan is better than Mitt’s.” They have to be at the same level of extreme vituperation and accusation that Republicans have used about the same program after it became associated with President Obama.

So far no one has replied. And with good reason. In today’s Boston Globe, Scott Lehigh explains:
…the moment Obama came out for an individual mandate, which back then was an idea acceptable to Republicans like Romney and Newt Gingrich, conservatives decided they loathed it because it was an idea acceptable to Obama. That doesn’t make much sense but, hey, that’s politics.
Back in June 2011, Lehigh documented how the Heritage Foundation not only invented the individual mandate but had people advocating for it in the mid-2000s. (Obama, of course, ran against the individual mandate in the Democratic primaries, then moved right and adopted it to placate the insurance industry.)

If people can’t find even three examples of significant Republicans harshly criticizing the policies they now call “Obamacare” before Obama came on the scene, then that’s evidence that it’s not the plan those critics really fear. It’s the man.

Instead, this is an example of what I call “OIP Derangement Syndrome.” That’s the feeling some people have suffered ever since they realized that, despite their own preferences, Obama Is President. Their viscera go “OIP!” and they stop thinking rationally. I plan to highlight more examples of OIP Derangement Syndrome in coming weeks. There seems to be a steady supply.

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