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Friday, September 29, 2017

Big Government: A Formidable Adversary



Voila -- my latest article, about the failure of the Graham-Cassidy Health Care Bill, and the great difficulty we conservatives will have in reversing the relentless expansion of government.  The article has already appeared in the Olean Times-Herald and will doubtless appear elsewhere soon.  Enjoy!

The Failure of Graham-Cassidy is a Wake-up Call to America

With the annoucements by Senators Paul, McCain, Collins, and Cruz that they would not vote for the Graham-Cassidy Health Care Bill, which aimed to repeal and replace Obamacare, the latest Republican effort to undo President Obama's signature achievement once again met with failure. There is a lesson to be learned in this debacle about the insidious cunning of modern liberalism.

Above all, the reason why numerous Republicans shy away from repealing Obamacare, and why almost every association of doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies opposed Graham-Cassidy, is the same reason why virtually every expansion of government since the dawn of the 20th century has remained in place, and virtually every attempt to shrink government has failed. Simply put, liberals know what they are doing. Every new government program, and every new line in the budget, creates a constituency – a “special interest”, if you will – that thereafter will bitterly oppose the revocation of whatever preferment they have received. Obamacare is no different. It unleashed a vast new revenue stream for the states, which receive federal money to support their health insurance exchanges, and which receive even vaster amounts of federal money to support the expansion of Medicaid. Any attempt to dismantle Obamacare will thus endanger the fiscal well-being of the states – and, by extension, the profits of doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies. Not surprisingly, craven politicians are loath to take this step.

Say what you will about Obamacare, but at its heart is the expenditure of gargantuan sums of taxpayer dollars in order to subsidize medical care for poorer Americans. On some level, this is of course a noble cause, but the political and financial reality is that Obamacare did not fundamentally alter the dysfunctional dynamics of our health care system. It merely poured money into it in order to expand access. Thus, Obamacare has had the effect of enriching numerous people, like doctors, hospital administrators, and insurance executives, who were already rich, but, naturally, could stand to be richer... The same is true for all government programs. Even the most well-meaning of social services serve ultimately to transfer government funds into the hands of the private sector providers of food, housing, child care, counseling, cell phones, and, yes, medical care, to the relevant beneficiaries. True, many, even most, Americans support shrinking government in the abstract, but their tepid support for government cutbacks cannot prevail in the face of the much more passionate and organized opposition that emanates from the constituents, which is to say the recipients, of government spending. The designers of Obamacare surely knew this: they knew that, once a vast new government entitlement program was created, it would be virtually impossible to destroy it. The millions of people who had gained access to health insurance, and more importantly the handful of multi-millionaires and billionaires who had gained new profits, wouldn't stand for it. And here we are. This is why government spending, as a percentage of GDP, has been growing in a nearly continuous fashion since the beginning of the 20th century, and why all the hot air emitted by politicians about cutting the size of government has led precisely nowhere.

The sad truth is that conservatives need to accept two harsh realities if we are ever to make any progress in reversing the tide of government expansion. One, the Democratic Party will never cooperate with efforts to restrain government, because government spending is the bread and butter of Democratic politics, and an ideological commitment to finding governmental solutions to every conceivable problem is a defining characteristic of modern liberalism. Democrats will reflexively oppose any and all attempts to cut government spending, and they will inevitably describe such proposals as “inhumane” and irresponsible. And two, Republican politicians, despite their rhetoric, are by no means reliable “yes” votes on bills that aim to cut federal spending, return power to the states, or otherwise dent the growth of government. Republican Congressmen and Senators are invariably afraid of being labeled as “heartless” for seeking spending cuts (or even for opposing spending increases), and, truth be told, government largesse benefits Republicans almost as much as it benefits Democrats. Every politician, even President Trump, seeks to gain popularity by showering the needy (and sometimes just the grasping) with public funds... This is how Washington works – nay, how America works – whether we like it or not.

If there is any answer to this curse of steady government expansion, it is the election of more true conservatives to public office. Indeed, the failure of Graham-Cassidy may ultimately be reducible to the fact that Republicans lost two Senate seats in 2016, and thus their majority became precariously thin. In 2018, we have a golden opportunity to expand the Republican majority in the Senate. That might allow for real reform – and for the fearsome dragon of Obamacare to be slain at long last.

Dr. Nicholas L. Waddy is an Associate Professor of History in the State University of New York and blogs at: www.waddyisright.com.

2 comments:

  1. Dr. Waddy: Well analyzed and well said. You build to a very plausible point, I think, which is that we must elect enough true conservatives, with the guts to support our courageous President, to outvote the waverers. We are off to a good start with the advent of Roy Moore, I think.

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  2. Yes, there's safety in numbers, I would say -- if, for instance, all 100 Senators were Republicans, I think we could rely on at least 51 of them not to be boneheads... A tall order, though! I must admit, I don't know much about Roy Moore. Now HE would be good fodder for an article right about now. He'll be in the public eye a lot from now on...

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