The Corner

Enforcement Cost-Cutting First!

Henry Clay” over at Frumistan argues that the template for defeating Obama-care is not the 1993 victory over Hillary’s health-care effort but rather the 2007 defeat of amnesty:

As with immigration, the stars are aligned in favor of health care reform.  Business and the unions are supportive of efforts by the President and Congressional majorities.  And while publicly promoting a modest and just end – universal coverage and decreased costs – these stakeholders are in fact prepared to cut a deal that will serve their own bottom-line to the detriment of middle class families.  While pitched as a moderate reform, the Democrats’ creation of a government option will lead businesses to drop coverage for millions of middle class employees who are relatively happy with their health care.  Those individuals will then be forced into a system where coverage and care are dictated by a government bureaucracy.  For the privilege of this decrease in quality, the middle class will eventually pay more in taxes.  And meanwhile, the truly wealthy will retain their ability to pay extra for any health care needs they have.

The President will no doubt speak of the need for shared responsibility to expand coverage, but Republicans need to reject a hasty reform cooked up among interest groups and politicians that will unduly burden middle class Americans. 

And just as they argued “enforcement first” with immigration, the GOP can argue that government must control health care spending before creating any new entitlements to health coverage.  At one point the President promised to prioritize reductions in costs over expanded coverage.  But to date, negotiations on the Hill have been almost exclusively on the design of a public option, while the President promotes empty promises of future savings.  Unless this changes, the middle class will inevitably be forced into a health care system for which it will pay more and receive inferior care.

A country already weary of bailouts and excess spending on behalf of wealthy interest groups at the expense of those who actually pay their bills will likely be open to a populist appeal on behalf of fiscal responsibility and middle class prosperity.  Republicans need to stop waiting for a rerun of 1993.  The example of 2007 should demonstrate that when it stands with the middle class, the GOP can succeed even without business allies.

I’d add that there’s also a direct connection between the legislative prospects of the two issues — victory for Obama on health care is a necessary (though not sufficient) condition for the success of any amnesty proposal later this year or next year. If Obama is seen to have been defeated on his signature issue, a good deal of his political capital evaporates, and without it the odds of passing an amnesty get even smaller than they are now. So, ironically, conservatives who want amnesty need to also hope for socialized medicine.

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