Sunday, July 9, 2017

Whither classical conservatism? Part VI: Healthcare recklessness and Obamacare repeal

Picking up where I left off with Part V, classical conservatism withered (see what I did there?) as the GOP essentially found themselves having lost to modern liberalism.  The welfare state expanded under the New Deal and the Great Society, and the GOP just couldn't go back.

Even with Obamacare, the GOP has essentially admitted defeat.  By not using the nuclear option to do a full repeal, the GOP is accepting much of the framework of Obamacare, and some of the current Senate "replacement" plans are moving leftward, to the chagrin of Rand Paul, and if they pass the Senate, to the chagrin of the Freedom Caucus.  Now, Trump has been saying that the Senate should go nuclear and do a full repeal, but that ain't gonna happen.  Without a full repeal, the GOP is admitting defeat on much of Obamacare, and accepting the continuation of policies they fought tooth-and-nail.

Yet, they can't accept the status quo.  If you can't accept the status quo, or go back, that sort of leaves you out of options for classical conservatism.  No Burke, no Oakeshott.  What is left is reckless anti-intellectualism, and it is worth discussing how fundamentally anti-conservative, in a classical sense, the process has been.

The systems that the GOP is proposing do not in any way resemble older healthcare models.  They can, in no way then, be called Burkean.  There is something aristocratic about tax cuts, sure, but even the tax cuts are being stripped out of some proposals as a hypothetical way to get to 50+Pence votes in the Senate, but aristocracy itself isn't even the central point of Burkean conservatism.  Burkean conservatism is fundamentally traditionalist.  To propose a system with no tradition behind it is anti-Burkean.

Oakeshott?  The GOP's approach is reckless in the extreme.  Oakshott favors, above all, caution and stability.  Not only is the party proposing drastic change, they are actively rejecting the notion of thinking through the consequences.  The GOP doesn't even want to hear from the Congressional Budget Office, much less a single policy expert.  No studies, no serious hearings, nothin'.  Nada.  Zip.  Zero.  Zilch.  Even more than Burke, Oakeshott was motivated by the law of unintended consequences, and the GOP isn't even willing to think through any consequences, intended or otherwise.  Consequences aren't the point.  The point is:  repeal Obamacare for its own sake.  Except that it isn't even a real repeal, because they don't have the courage to use the nuclear option!

So, let's be clear about consequences here.  If the regulations about coverage for "pre-existing conditions" remain in place, but the mandate to buy insurance for healthy people goes away, the healthy people are less likely to buy insurance.  Insurance is a low-profit-margin business.  It doesn't take that much of a change in the risk pool to start a "death spiral," where the pool of customers is too unprofitable for the company to stay in business, and everything collapses.  That's why the GOP is playing around with a "waiting period" where a lapse in coverage means you can't get coverage for a while.  It is a different form of incentive to keep the healthy people in the insurance pool.  (Whether it can get by the Byrd Rule is a big question, but a separate one...)  Would it work?  They HAVEN'T A FUCKING CLUE BECAUSE NOBODY HAS EVER REALLY STUDIED IT.  But, they are admitting the basic concept of why the mandate is there.  Remember, after all, that it was their idea in the first place, and they used to support it.  Here, for example, is Chuck Grassley, who was a major player in the healthcare debate in 2009 and 2010, arguing for a mandate before the GOP decided that it was Hitlerism cuz' Black Hitler supported it.



So, here we are with a party struggling to think of something to fill the gap that they know the mandate fills, with no study, no serious thought, and total reckless abandon.  Why not just stick with the mandate?  That thing that they actually supported, which serves the purpose that Chucky-boy just explained, and which they are struggling to meet with something like the lapsed coverage provision (which might not get through the Byrd Rule anyway)?

Because...

Yeah.  Nothin'.  Because classical conservatism is dead in the GOP.  Obamacare passed, and they freaked the fuck out, even though it was basically RomneyCare, which was the Heritage Foundation's counter-proposal to HillaryCare back in 1994.  They have just enough practicality to understand that the mandate really serves a necessary policy function, like Chucky argued, but no attachment to either the principles of Burke or Oakeshott, making them willing to experiment with wild, untested ideas that haven't been so much as explored by any serious scholarship.

Michael Oakeshott would be horrified and disgusted.

This is what happens when a movement loses, freaks out, can't go back, and won't accept the status quo.

I still have more, but again, we'll see if news intrudes on this series.  I'd like to write about the problems created by not having classical conservatism in the system...

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