Saturday, May 6, 2017

The incoherent beliefs of the Freedom Caucus

Time to pick on some old grad school colleagues-- Dave Hopkins and Matt Grossman.  They have been making some waves for a while with an argument that Republicans have gotten more ideologically extreme over the last few decades in Congress because they and their base care about ideological purity, whereas Democrats are basically a coalition of interest groups who make policy compromises.  I have picked on this argument before because I just don't believe it, and never really did.  {cough, cough... Trump...}  They have a book coming out soon on Oxford, and when it's out, I'll link to it when I pick on them, but I'll still call bullshit on the argument.

Anyway, I've been wading through a lot of the ridiculousness of the House healthcare vote, and it strikes me as a demonstration of the ideological incoherence of the Freedom Caucus, and their, dare I type it... impurity.  You see, here's how Obamacare dealt with pre-existing conditions:  insurers had to cover people with them, without charging customers higher rates.  That's regulation.  Conservatives hate regulation.  Regulation is bad, m'kay?  Oh, wait, they like those regulations.  Fuck.  Never mind.

Where was I?  Oh, right.  Regulation.  Conservatives hate regulation.  Except the regulations they like.  But not the Obamacare regulations, 'cuz those are the bad regulations, m'kay?  So, fine, regulation is bad.

You know what else is bad?  Taxation for the purposes of redistribution.  That's bad.  OK.  Got it.

Which is worse?  Redistribution or regulation?

...

Uh...

Now, if you listen to conservative rhetoric, you'd probably walk away with the idea that redistribution is worse.  The conservative rhetoric on taxation often equates it with theft, and equates the recipients of redistributed money with layabouts, and there is no "pledge" on the Republican side against "regulation" that compares to the Grover Norquist pledge against raising taxes.

Yes, conservatives hate regulation (except the regulations they like) and hate redistribution, but I think you would be hard-pressed to make the case that they hate regulation more than they hate redistribution.  So, if forced to choose a lesser of two evils, they should choose regulation over redistribution, right?

That isn't what the Freedom Caucus did!  They did the exact opposite.  The Obamacare method of dealing with pre-existing conditions was regulation-- insurers had to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions without charging more.  The FreedomCaucusCare method?  Let states opt out of that regulation, and instead, create high risk pools, funded with taxpayer money.  That's redistribution.  The Freedom Caucus chose redistribution over regulation.

Why?  They could defend it on the grounds that states choose rather than having the federal government choose, but as I have written many times before, I don't think that anyone really has that strong a commitment to abstract concepts like "states' rights."  After all, ask these same people what they think about legalization of drugs at the state level.  Or euthanasia.  They are conservatives, not libertarians.  If they could outlaw all abortions at the federal level, they would.  Again, they are conservatives, and their commitment to "states' rights" is, like everyone in history who has ever used the phrase, a bullshit cover.

No, the real reason they preferred redistribution to regulation is...  they weren't thinking about what they were doing.  They rushed this thing through with no planning, no consideration, no study, no nothin'.  All they knew is that it wasn't Obamacare.  Yes, their commitment to hating Obamacare was so strong that it made them choose redistribution over regulation even though any serious examination of conservative ideology would lead one to think that regulation is the lesser evil within the substance of the ideology itself.

Why?  Because the Freedom Caucus isn't really about ideological purity.  I don't even think they understood what they were doing.  They were just lashing out.  That still says something important about the notion that the rightward movement in the Republican Party is motivated by the drive towards ideological purity, and I'm still callin' bullshit on that.

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