Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How Leftist Is Obamacare?

We discussed briefly in class how both parties in America have moved to the right over the last 30 years; so that Clinton was more conservative than Nixon or Ford.

David Leonhardt’s January 20th piece in The New York Times entitled “Centrist, and Yet Not Unified” echoes this point about the current healthcare bill.

The current versions of health reform are the product of decades of debate between Republicans and Democrats. The bills are more conservative than Bill Clinton’s 1993 proposal. For that matter, they’re more conservative than Richard Nixon’s 1971 plan, which would have had the federal government provide insurance to people who didn’t get it through their job.

Similar points can be made about other Obama policies:

Mr. Obama wants to undo George W. Bush’s high-income tax cuts, but would keep the basic Reagan tax structure intact.

Major pushes for a national healthcare policy were made under Truman, Kennedy/Johnson, Nixon and Clinton before Obama came along.

The current bills, for better and worse, are akin to a negotiated settlement to this six-decade debate. It would try to end our status as the only rich country with tens of millions of uninsured people, as liberals have long urged. And it would do so using private insurers and government subsidies, as conservatives prefer.

… Clinton pushed for putting a cap on the growth of insurance premiums … Today’s Democrats saw that move as too radical. …

The one big conservative idea that’s largely missing is malpractice reform. But the White House said several times that it was willing to negotiate on this issue.

I have serious doubts about whether the Democrats would negotiate in good faith on that last one, but there isn’t any serious argument that the Republicans were even willing to talk.

FWIW: Personally, I’m ambivalent about the politics here. Currently, both parties lean strongly towards centralization on most issues, so there isn’t as much substantive difference as many think. Bush’s spending record is a good example.

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