As the effects of the Obamacare rollout hit and thousands, which may well in the end be millions (by official estimate) lose the insurance coverage they like and are forced to buy coverage they don't want, sometimes at higher prices, I find myself a little puzzled.
How hard would it be, really, for supporters of Obamacare to admit that they were wrong, that the package their leaders came up with was a dud, that it's harming people, and that it needs to be changed? Look, I'm not talking about their being converted to free market economics! But how about just admitting that the Obamcare requirements for so-called "minimal coverage," which include maternity coverage for 60-year-olds, are overly stringent and are causing unnecessary hardship? If catastrophic only plans could be included in the exchanges and allowed for employers to satisfy government requirements, that change alone would mitigate some of the insane effects we are seeing here.
Why should this be a matter of die-hard ideology on the left at all? Surely, it seems, this ought to be a pragmatic matter, one of those prudential things that government used to tinker with before politics got so polarized. It isn't in itself one of those allegedly divisive social issues (is it?). Sure, we constitutional die-hards are going to say that the federal government is far exceeding its constitutional authority, but we can treat that as a separate issue for purposes of asking the question: Why are supporters of Obamacare so intransigent, so utterly and absolutely determined not to admit that it is bad policy and is hurting many of the people it was intended to help? Why, when one brings up all the companies that are cutting worker hours below thirty (google it and see the enormous confirmation that this is happening) to avoid the Obamacare mandate of insuring these workers, do supporters either a) ignore the point altogether, b) deny that this is really happening, which gives a whole new meaning to "being in denial" or c) claim that the fault lies with the evil employers rather than with the policy makers who ignored this obvious effect of their law?
Why do we not find bipartisan support for scrapping Obamacare and seeking something better, less drastic, with fewer bad effects?
Some, even more cynical than I, would say that the entire goal is to create a failure and thus create support for single-payer.
I won't deny that that may be a goal of some of the architects, but it cannot explain the blinkered support of Jane and Joe Facebook, who refuse to admit that Obamacare is hurting people even as each day brings new evidence. I give Jane and Joe credit for wishing people no harm, so what gives?
For whatever they are worth, I put forward two theories, which are compatible with one another.
Theory 1: Obamacare has become a political loyalty test. If you don't support it, you give up some kind of internal or external label, or you worry that you must adopt some kind of label ("conservative," for example). Keeping loyalty to Obama himself and to his plan as being all for the best in the best of all possible worlds is more important to some people for what it symbolizes to them politically than is a willingness to do sober cause and effect analysis and admit that the plan needs changes.
Theory 2: Rose-of-gold economic ideas have become so ingrained that supporters genuinely believe that this can be made to work simply by fiat. "Better coverage" can simply be mandated for all and paid for somehow. Insurance plans that were more bare-bones were bad and evil, "not worth keeping." They should not have existed; thus forcing people not to have them is doing those people a good turn. People don't know how bad they had it! Employers who cut hours below thirty to avoid providing expensive additional insurance coverage are also bad and evil, and we should find a way to stop them if possible. In other words, whatever the bad effects of Obamacare might be, they are someone else's fault, not the fault of the policy makers nor of the policy, because only evil will can thwart good intentions in the realm of delivering needed goods and services.
What is particularly striking about the doubling down that is taking place here is what it augurs concerning every aspect of politics. What this tells me is that there is no place where left and right can come together and simply consider plain prudential predictions (or even existing outcomes) and try to make things better than they were before. It just isn't going to happen. There is no common ground, even pragmatically speaking, even where the allegedly more incendiary issues are not central.
Was there ever more common ground? I'm inclined to think that it hasn't always been this bad. After all, Hillarycare didn't pass back in the 90's. People saw that it would cause harm and shied away from it. Policy makers worried that they would lose their jobs if they rammed it through and people were dissatisfied with it. No longer.
As I ponder, discouraged, on what all of this means, I can only say that there is a long road ahead. That long road, moreover, will more and more take the form of having fewer and fewer friends who can even agree that some practical policy is bad when the evidence is sitting in front of their lying eyes. Isolation, fragmentation, and distrust will grow at the level of personal relationships.
There is plenty to be discouraged about on the social issues scene--abortion, the increasingly triumphant homosexual agenda, the elites' rampant promotion of filth and promiscuity to our children.
But when the world of bare-bones practicality is also sharply divisive, then we are indeed a divided nation, and there may be no going back at all.