Token Dissonance

Black & gay, young & conservative. A Southern gentleman writes about life and politics after Yale


10 Comments

Winners & Losers

“The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” –Margaret Thatcher

But I'll settle for laws that ruin yours instead.  Somebody wins!

But I’ll settle for laws that ruin yours instead. Everybody wins (except you)!

If you’ve read This Town or one of its many reviews, or—heaven help you—you live inside the Capital Beltway, you’re comically and/or intimately familiar with the ethanol-rich flow of our capital’s lifeblood: the parties (here defined as social gatherings lubricated with intoxicating refreshments). We throw them for any and every possible occasion—holidays, birthdays, Thursdays, candidate debates, vote counts, the State of the Union, the Response to the State of the Union, federal government shutdowns, federal government re-openings, days that aren’t Thursday, etc. I’ve been to many an event that started because somebody found a bottle of wine in or around the fridge. (Protip: There is always a bottle of wine or spirits in the vicinity of a D.C. fridge.)

A recurring topic at recent parties has been the incredible rollout of Obamacare, which has been so remarkable as to warrant a mellifluous shout out from none other than Brad Paisley (a recurring feature in Obama’s White House) and Carrie Underwood at the Country Music Awards. Beyond the usual allegations of racism against anybody who criticizes anything Democrat-related, one of the recurring themes of reaction to the unaffordability of the Affordable healthcare has been to impugn the intelligence, morality, or priorities of those complaining about losing their plans.

One element of this approach is the classic Nanny-State offense: people are upset because they don’t know what’s good for them. President Obama pioneered this argument in early attempts to retcon “context” into his lie malleable promise that we could keep our health plans if we wanted them. The New York Times (D-Acela) caught the Hail Mary and ran with it, backed up by other liberal media. A number of my liberal friends have taken up this talking point by, among other things, somewhat-rhetorically asking what government-determined minimum provisions our pre-Obamacare plans lack. (They have generally avoided the awkward fact that many of these “better” plans actually offer worse coverage.)

The obvious rejoinder to this contemptible rebuke is that we dissatisfied taxpayers are grown men and women who are perfectly capable of deciding whether or not our current health plans suit our needs for prices we’re willing to pay. Nobody feels sorry for millionaires like Dylan Ratigan having to pay a few thousand dollars more for anything. Reasonable people do take umbrage at the idea of 60-year-old women paying out the nose for worse care they didn’t want. If I happen to be wrong about that, I eagerly await the Escalating Costs Affordable Household Act, in which the government will let us keep kick us out of our cars and houses because they don’t have 360-degree cameras or come with income-determined subsidized children cared for by live-in vegan housekeepers provided by the IRS.

A second element is one championed with didactic persistence by the likes of Greg Sargent, Ezra Klein, and other liberals: lots of not-remotely-rich people have to pay profoundly more for (worse) coverage because it helps the poor and elderly, and that’s worth the inconvenience suffered by those who were promised no inconvenience. When I bemoaned the fact that the cheapest ACA-compliant plan my insurer could offer me—a very not-rich twentysomething just a couple years out of college—would nearly double my premiums and hike up my deductibles (while offering me “benefits” I could never use), a number of my liberal friends echoed pro-ACA media in talking up the reasons why the higher costs for people like our friends (of all and no political persuasions) and me were necessary.

The rejoinder here became obvious through a question I publicly asked one of the defenders: “Are you paying for your own healthcare?” The answer, if it isn’t predictable, was: No.

And there’s the rub.

Many fine soliloquys and ostensibly thoughtful discussions of the many sacrificing for the few, the “better-off” investing in the “worse-off,” the “haves” doing their duty by the “have-nots” spring from the mouths and fingers of people who will not themselves have to sacrifice anything. It’s all well and good for New York Times editors, Washington Post columnists, MSNBC program hosts, or young liberals on plans provided by large employers (whose mandate was delayed) or their parents to wax poetic about the need to appreciate the “success stories” of Obamacare and accept the “tradeoffs” of the beleaguered middle as a regrettable price for progress because they—liberal professionals and professional liberals—are not (yet) paying that price.

It’s great that the president finally apologized for making losers out of millions of people through his not-so-Affordable Care Act and lying about it. But his contrition, even if sincere, is not terribly reassuring. It will not resolve the financial struggles to which he has consigned us “losers,” nor does it even suggest a commitment to concrete reforms that will alleviate the price the professional Left knows only in allegory. The liberal, pro-Obamacare people who are paying that price are largely shocked and appalled, as I noted in an earlier post.

Perhaps those liberal “losers” will now appreciate the tongue-in-cheek descriptor on my friend Ryan Fazio’s Twitter account: “One day I hope I’m rich enough to be a Democrat.”

Unfortunately for us, most of the government is run by people who are more than rich enough to be Democrats or more than well enough connected to avoid the consequences of Democratic “tradeoffs.” And unfortunately for us, those people still think they know better than us about what we need to know—or be lied to about—and what we need to have (or not have). Hence, we should read reports like the recent one in the New York Times with a heavy dose of cynicism:

“Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, introduced legislation this week to force insurance companies to reissue the health plans they have been canceling by the thousands. And officials in several states have sought assurances from insurance companies that people will not be dropped until the federal health insurance website is working.

The president did not endorse those specific efforts and did not elaborate on how he intended to help people who were faced with paying higher premiums for a new insurance plan. Mr. Obama said the White House was looking at a “range of options” to help people whose policies had been canceled.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the best way to help people keep the coverage they want is to let people keep the coverage they want.

But it is unlikely the administration has any intention of allowing a proposal like Landrieu’s to become law since it would undermine the entire structure of the law. For this reason, as Avik Roy observes, “President Obama didn’t express any regret for the policies that caused people to lose their existing coverage.” To the contrary, as Roy explains in detail, Obama continued to lie about the effects of his signature law even while apologizing for those effects. The administration knew back in 2010 that number of people losing plans would be closer to $93 million (quite probably more) than “5 percent of the population.” The very design of the law ensures that mandated options for most people will be more expensive. And, perhaps most damningly, the aforementioned Nanny-State offense to protect people from their own autonomy has been the public position of the administration for years.

It is to this very Nanny-State offense—and to those who defend the law by rightfully attacking the previous awful healthcare regime—that Roy offers a succinct summation of the core problem with Obamacare as intended, passed, and effected against the Middle America:

“Any serious health reform program—left, right, or center—would involve some disruption of our existing health-coverage arrangements. What makes Obamacare such a deeply flawed piece of work is not that it disrupts our existing arrangements, but that it disrupts those arrangements by forcing people to buy costlier coverage.

And not only does Obamacare force people to buy costlier coverage, it most significantly punishes a population that is already disadvantaged in our current system: people of average income who buy coverage on their own, and don’t benefit from the heavy subsidies enjoyed by people with government- or employer-sponsored insurance.”

If I may state the obvious: the Affordable Care Act would never have passed in the first place if Democrats and the media were honest about these cancellations in 2009. If they had presented the “tradeoffs” for Obamacare’s winners and losers clearly and intelligibly, Democrats might have been forced to pursue more conservative, market-oriented proposals of the sort Republicans had been advocating at the time. But Obamacare’s proponents opted for misdirection, the law passed over prescient objections, and so here we are.

When the chips are down, and it comes to choosing between us and the healthcare law, the progressives in our government and their enablers in the media have made their choice abundantly clear: the law won.

Advertisements


1 Comment

The Silence of the Elephants

“Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further.” – Job 38:11

Is it still a majority if most folks disagree?

“I value your votes and vote your values. What more is there to say?”

Sometime last month, I was at a party full of energetic young conservatives from various parts of the country. The topic of the recent government shutdown arose. Everybody agreed that Obamacare is a nightmare and that the general public would soon come to see that liberal pipe-dream-big-government reforms are dark and full of terrors. But as the government was, at the moment, shut down, we all felt obliged to comment on that particular tactic.

In order to avoid a tedious dispute over the merits (or lack thereof) of either side—and to resist the enduring conflation of anecdotes with data—I will elide the conclusions we reached in favor of a simpler observation. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) spoke for nigh a full day to make his grand stand against the Democrats’ not-so-affordable-or-caring reform. In the process, he was joined or supported by many Republicans eager to signal their willingness to die on the hill of opposition to a bad law before God and man.

I point this out not because I mean to argue whether Cruz and his supporters accomplished anything substantial in all those 21 hours. I point it out only to compare it to Ted Cruz’s words on the Senate floor on Monday defending his opposition to a bill that would outlaw discrimination against LGBT Americans.

He said nothing.

It is remarkable to think that not even a decade ago, a bipartisan coalition opposed gay rights loudly and often in an era where prohibitions on gay unions were passed from Oregon to Virginia. Today, however, Ken Cuccinelli seems poised to lose a winnable election in a swing state with a marriage ban primarily because of his extremist reputation on “social issues” (including an inconveniently relevant attempt to eliminate LGBT employment protections at Virginia universities). And yesterday, not one of 30 Republicans who voted against cloture used floor time to speak against the Employee Non-Discrimination Act in the U.S. Senate.

Ted Cruz said nothing. Mike Lee said nothing. Marco Rubio said nothing. Jeff Sessions said nothing.

This isn’t to say that no Republicans spoke on the matter. To the contrary, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois gave his first floor speech in the two years since his stroke to urge support for the bill. He was joined in his affirmation by other Republicans including moderate Susan Collins, staunch red-state conservative Orrin Hatch, and Tea Party favorites Kelly Ayotte and Pat Toomey (former president of the notoriously primary-challenging Club for Growth)—none of whom, for what it’s worth, have expressed support for gay marriage.

Contrast this to the House, where Speaker Boehner joined his peculiarly silent Senate colleagues by announcing his opposition to ENDA through a spokesman. While the Ohioan did not step in front of a camera to explain why the law doesn’t deserve a vote, he did take pains to lie about whether current federal law already protects an American worker from being fired for being gay, as many people think it does. (It does not.)

If one weren’t careful, one might think there was no argument to be made as to why LGBT Americans should be subject to unjust discrimination.

Of course, there are plenty of actors willing to say a great deal about why ENDA is supposedly bad law. Some are sensible. Others, less so. And I suspect at least a few Senate opponents will find their tongues, if only for a moment, before the final votes are cast. The duo from Kentucky is even offering an amendment to attach right-to-work protections to the bill. Imagine that: with the passage of a single law, American workers could be free from unjust discrimination for being who they are or for refusing union coercion. (While I do dare to dream, I won’t hold my breath on that one.) But whether or not Boehner eventually yields to a position favored by a majority of voters in every state, it is time to take stock of how the tides have broadly shifted on social politics.

If any prominent elected official is willing to make a fiery denunciation of anti-discrimination protections for our neighbors and loved ones, let them do so openly and proudly. If there are sound objections to be heard, let us hear them in both chambers, and allow the American people to reach their conclusions. Opponents of gay rights will certainly find some wizened applause in certain quarters. Those understandably leery of anti-discrimination laws more broadly will have to weigh the options and effects. But whatever happens, allies of gay Americans may at least take some solace in watching how the remnant of anti-gay politics whimpers into a resentful and weakening crouch as a new generation of conservatives moves on to modern challenges worthy of our energy and effort.

The era of anti-gay political dominance—or even parity—in the national scene is over. The silence on the floor of the ENDA opposition merely shows that, finally, everybody knows it.