5 Myths about ObamaCare Annihilated
I view the Washington Post as sort of the New York Times’ little brother. It’s definitely a liberal paper, leaning towards seeing left-wing politicians elected at every opportunity, almost constantly carping for greater government influence in our lives. It does, however, have a small contingent of vocal conservatives that brings some (weak) balance to the field, and it doesn’t seem to go as far as the Times does. Sure, there’s Ezra Klein, Greg Sargent, and then E.J. Dionne and Eugene Robinson, but on the whole its more sane.
But something I found on Twitter gives me pause.
It’s called “Five myths about the health-care law,” but I can’t tell if its trying to dispel myths or create them. It is literally so nutty that I had to scroll to the bottom of the second page to discover that its author was Walter Dellinger, a Clinton Administration lawyer and acting Solicitor General (you know, the guy who defends the government whenever it gets sued) and “filed a brief on behalf of the Senate and House Democratic leadership defending the health care law in the Supreme Court.” In other words, this isn’t journalism—not even really opinion “journalism,” but rather public relations using a poorly created facade.
As today is when the Supreme Court will be reviewing the case against Obamacare, it is all the more important to go through and knock out these misunderstandings so that the public will not be misled. Let’s begin:
1. The “individual mandate” forces everyone to buy health insurance.
I wouldn’t think this would even be debateable, since, you know, this is the whole raison d’etre of Obamacare and the individual mandate, but Dellinger writes:
A large majority of Americans, of course, have health insurance through their employers, Medicare or Medicaid and are already in compliance with this requirement. Given the relatively modest payment required of those who choose not to maintain insurance, no one is being forced to buy a product they don’t want.
The challengers argue that the mandate is a binding requirement that makes anyone who goes without insurance a lawbreaker. The government has determined, however, that those who pay the penalty, like those who are exempt from the penalty, are not lawbreakers. As a practical matter, the so-called mandate is just a relatively modest financial incentive to have health insurance.
Read that again. Only a political hack could somehow say that you’re not being forced to buy anything and simultaneously talk about the financial penalty that you’ll have to cough up if you don’t. It really doesn’t matter if you have insurance or not, at that point—it’s just splitting hairs—you’re being forced to pay out of your pocket for something you may not want. Your employers are being forced to pay (though many who didn’t get waivers from the law will likely drop their employee coverage.)
It is truly incredible that Mr. Dellinger can write that with a straight face. “You’re not being forced to buy something you don’t want. But if you don’t, we’re going to take the money from you anyways.” It almost sounds like a replay of the Detroit auto bailouts, only much more direct.
2. Only the individual mandate is at stake in the Supreme Court case.
Alright, I’ll give Dellinger this one. Since its writers neglected to put a severability clause in the legislation, if one piece goes, the whole darn thing goes.
The rest of Dellinger’s segment is utter garbage, of course—it’s all about “We have to force people to buy it in order to get off the free rider problem”—which naturally invalidates his first point:
Experience in the states has shown that if people can’t be turned down for health insurance, there must be an incentive for them to sign up for it before they have an accident or illness. The individual mandate was enacted to ensure that the central, nondiscrimination provisions can work as they were intended — to provide everyone access to affordable health care, regardless of their medical history or current conditions.
That “incentive” he talks about being the fine. Oh yeah. Not forcing you. Not at all.
I’ll give him a checkmark for this, if only because the actual title of the section is at least true.
3. If the court upholds the health-care law, it means Congress has the power to require Americans to purchase any product.
I’ll be blunt: Dellinger is just off his rocker on this one. He writes:
The mandate does not force people into commerce who would otherwise remain outside it. Instead, it regulates the consumption of health care, an activity in which virtually everyone will engage. Right now, people who go without insurance often shift the costs of their health care to other patients and taxpayers. That situation is different from what happens with any other type of purchase.
Except you admitted in #2 that, yes, Virginia, we are forcing people to buy health insurance. Which means you are forcing people into commerce “who would otherwise remain outside it.” Let’s be honest, here, this is nothing about the “regulation of the consumption of health care,” this is all about the consumption of health insurance, and a massive gimme to the insurance companies and HMOs.
He also writes:
The health-care case is a test of Congress’s power under the Constitution to regulate commerce among the states. One way to defend the law is simply to say that a requirement to purchase insurance or any other product sold in interstate commerce is obviously a regulation of that commerce.
The Obama administration is not relying upon such a sweeping argument, however, and its more limited claim would not justify any law that required Americans to buy products such as cars or broccoli.
Sure, for now. Have he ignored the past century of government expansion since Franklin Delano Roosevelt? Possibly, or he was cheering for it. Either way, Obamacare would provide a precedent for Congress and future administrations to force purchases on the public. This is how things go. It is not a “slippery slope fallacy” when its been happening for six decades.
4. The law is socialist.
Dellinger is both right and wrong on this one. The left has a great time moving the goalposts on socialism, continually saying “Well this expansion of government power isn’t socialism!” But let’s look at what it means. Google tells me that socialism is:
A political and economic theory of that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated…
Emphasis mine. It’s pretty clear, then, that you can make a good argument that Obamacare is a socialist piece of legislation. Personally, I think a stronger argument for the masses is cronyism, that is, this legislation is aiming at bilking the taxpayer out of more money and giving it to HMOs and insurance companies. People buy that more readily than socialism, but then, that’s just a PR angle.
As for what Dellinger actually says, it’s basically that “We’re not using a monolithic agency to administer this” and “Conservatives thought of this first!” As for his second point, no argument there, and this idea’s brainparents (namely, the Heritage Foundation) should be ashamed of coming up with it. As to his first: yes, he’s right, there is no one monolithic agency running this. There’s a whole slew of them:
5. The law is an extraordinary intrusion into liberty.
Dellinger flops the most here, because he simply doesn’t know the point of this entire debate. He writes:
Nothing in the health-care law tells doctors what they must say to patients or how those patients are to be treated. It only requires people to either have insurance coverage or pay a modest tax penalty.
Yet we aren’t talking about that! In two sentences Dellinger completely sidesteps the entire issue and proves he has no clue what he’s talking about. Why? Because he says in the second sentence why we are complaining about this—and also (yet again) invalidates his first point, that nobody is being forced to buy anything.
While we are concerned with the doctor-patient relationship, by and large, the real problem is forcing people to buy something that they may not want to. That’s the real problem here. While I am upset with what is being forced on doctors, I am far more upset that people are being forced to buy insurance. That will hurt Americans far more, and is a new and unprecedent breach of liberty (contrary to Dellinger’s position.)
Dellinger gets one out of five right, and even then only on a technicality. His piece, however, exemplifies the arguments used by Obamacare apologists everywhere. Namely, that they are inherently contradictory, misleading, often ignorant of what their opponents are actually saying, and because it bears repeating in a slightly different form, they say “A not B” and simultaneously say “B not A.” No wonder the country is split on repeal, and tilting slightly towards for repeal than against. Let’s see if these arguments hold up in court.