Now that the dust has settled and smoke has cleared from the Republican insurgency that attempted to thwart Obamacare on the pain of forcing a government shutdown and perhaps even default, it seems obvious that the Tea Party Republicans had the right idea, but the wrong strategy. Obamacare is destined to fail. Democrats own Obamacare. All the Republicans had to do was stand by and watch as it imploded, and probably not for very long after implementation. And then, rightfully and legitimately so, blame its architects. Obamacare passed without a single Republican vote. When Obamacare fails, it is apt to utterly destroy the Democratic Party.
As Clive Crook over at Bloomberg opined, Democrats now own the totality of the health care delivery system in the United States. Did it take four hours to see a doctor in the emergency room after cracking your tibia? Call a Democratic congressman. Are your prescription medications not available because of supplier shortages? Write the President. It doesn’t matter what ails you; it doesn’t matter that your insurance coverage went up for reasons completely unrelated to Obamacare; any aspect of the health care delivery system that fails you is the problem of the Democrats. The Republicans should be overjoyed that the ACA was passed during the short period when they held no legislative or executive power. It is a political gift that will keep on giving, so long as the Republicans don’t do something equally as stupid as they’ve done recently, and engineer another faux crisis to try to kill the Democrats’ baby.
The Republicans who led and participated in the insurgency are something of wistful Romantics, believing that committing political suicide in the service of stopping Obamacare would prove the verity of their belief that Obamacare threatens the very fabric of America. The government shutdown and threatened default were like Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg, with Ted Cruz playing the role of Robert E Lee. In neither case could the assaults have been successful, except to prove the depth with which the insurgents believed in their cause. In both cases, the commanders well knew that fighting the battle, even committing suicide in doing so, was more important to the troops than winning.
The Republicans would do well to take a more Machiavellian approach if they truly wish to do something useful for the country. Stand back and see what happens. And when the Obamacare crisis that is sure to come finally arrives, be well-positioned to make sure it is not wasted. Just like Obama made quite sure that he didn’t waste a bit of the financial and economic crises afflicting the country upon taking office, using the cover of economic calamity to ratchet up the depth and reach of federal power, not least its intrusion into the very essence of being human by taxing (or penalizing, however you prefer) the mere existence of a body much like a state government might tax a piece of real estate or a vehicle, the Republicans should use Obamacare’s failure and the ensuing crisis it engenders to begin dismantling the federal welfare state. Or, to simply begin the process of dissolving the Union. The federal welfare state has become so utterly corrupt and sclerotic that perhaps the only way to fix it is to destroy it.
In many ways, Obamacare represents the culmination of a relentless increase in federal power and reach, begun with Lincoln’s victory in the Civil War, and enjoying its fullest expression in the Administration of the black president that Lincoln’s victory made possible. Lincoln preserved the Union and freed the slaves so that Barack Obama could enslave the people, and thereby ultimately destroy the Union. History is ironic, if nothing else.
Contrary to what the medical community might believe (see this article in the WSJ by a doctor predicting the calamity that will ensue when his brethren quit practicing medicine), Obamacare will fail not because doctors won’t get as rich as quickly as before, or because it will cause a shortage of doctors, but because its foundational premise is flawed. It depends on young and healthy people volunteering to subsidize the care of sick and elderly people. For a young healthy person, purchasing one of its policies is effectively volunteering for charity, but with a bureaucratic flourish even the most inefficiently run charitable organizations can’t rival. When the young and healthy refuse to volunteer, Obamacare will die. Except that will surely be when the Progressives will try to argue for mandatory participation. And that will be the crisis the Tea Party Republicans must not let go to waste. Then it will be time to burn the house down. The answer to problems caused by too much government is not more government. (Just as the answer to problems caused by interest rates that are too low is not to further decrease interest rates).
If the Tea Party plays it well, the crisis could very well return a great deal of power to the states. It might even yield a splintering of the country along geographic regions (e.g., Old South; Mid Atlantic; Northeast; New England; Mid West; Mountain West; Southwest and Pacific Coast—sort of how college football conferences are distributed nowadays, or at least were until conference realignments ceased to make geographic sense). Whatever happens, the crisis that comes when Obamacare fails miserably should be leveraged to reduce the overall breadth, depth and reach of federal government power for decades to come. Thus will be Barack Obama’s ultimate legacy.
Obamacare might, because it is so awful, even cause an improvement in the overall health of Americans. If the revamped health care delivery system means that actually fewer people can use interventionist medicine as a crutch for propping up their refusal to take care of themselves, Obamacare might accrue more benefit than simply being the spark that lights the fire that burns the whole federal welfare edifice down (private, public, individual and corporate—don’t let any of the crisis go wasting). Imagine, people who are compelled by the disaster to take some ownership of their own physical well-being. Americans might yet get a glimpse of what surviving and flourishing was like before the nanny state came along to rip the souls right out of their bodies.
For the first time in a long while, I am optimistic about America’s prospects as the land where individual freedom might again matter, where people aren’t reduced to simply being cogs in a machine. It will take the coming disaster of Obamacare to finally turn the page on this dark chapter of American history, a chapter that earnestly began during the senior Bush’s administration, and one that saw the federal government become like a black hole, sucking all the energy and matter in the country into itself and oblivion. Once the hole collapses on its own weight, which it will with Obamacare, a new, and newly energized, American system might be born. Bring on Obamacare. Bring on the failure.