Editor's Note: This is a guest editorial by Lloyd M. Green, an official in the Bush 41 Justice Department, now a resident of a blue suburb. His piece below, "Healthcare as Campaign Spoils," is a powerful diagnosis of Obamacare:
Healthcare as Campaign Spoils
Obamacare is an attempt at inter-generational and inter-demographic wealth transfer. It is an effort to redistribute income and benefits to the core of Obama’s support and the urban precincts of Blue America away from older and suburban Americans. The winners and losers under Obamacare dovetail with the “cross-tabs” of the 2008 election. That is, a look at the numbers within the numbers shows that the young and multicultural stand to gain. By contrast, the older and wealthier stand to pay. In a campaign interview last year with CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo, Candidate Obama refused to back down when asked about raising taxes for distribution's own sake in the midst of a recession. President Obama is keeping his word.
From a policy perspective, the president’s proposals would penalize the elderly by making Medicare the source of “savings,” re-introduce the redistributive ethos of the Great Society, and resurrect Welfarism. Thus, having endeavored to make healthcare into political spoil system, middle American pushback should come as no surprise to Team Obama--even if it did come as a surprise. Obamacare is not about a healthier America. It is about rewarding Obama’s backers at the expense of the rest. It is about turning healthcare into campaign spoils.
In the 2008 election, Obama was elected in spite of America’s older voters--not because of them. Obama lost the 65-and-up vote, 53 percent to 45 percent. On the other hand, young voters went for Obama by better than 2:1. Further, in a break with the past, young voters were actually a greater segment of the electorate than seniors. As grandma and grandpa were staying home on election day, the Millennial Generation was running to the polls to vote for The One.
Rightfully, America’s elderly have plenty to worry about. At the outset of the healthcare debate, Obama mused to The New York Times that 80 percent of healthcare costs stem from end of life treatment. The president also said that paying for a hip replacement for a terminally ill elderly patient posed an ethical dilemma, as in the case of his own grandmother. However, Obama added that had it come to it, he would have paid for his grandmother’s hip. Topping it off, Obama intoned that what “I’ve been constantly searching for is a ruthless pragmatism when it comes to economic policy.”
Obama’s concern for the grandmother who raised him is loving, and his observations on end-of-life costs cannot be ignored. Still, there is a disconnect between Obama and the elderly, and Obama and working class America. Instead of desperately clinging to their religion, Middle Americans are sensibly standing by their healthcare. The reality is that most Americans have health insurance. The reality is that more than 8 in 10 Americans are satisfied with their own healthcare, according to CNN. So, in essence, Obamacare is economic tribute by the rest of us to the young and vibrant members of Blue America, who don’t have health insurance. And now, thanks to the rest of us, they will.
Another look at both the polls and Paul Krugman’s latest Times column tells us that Obama’s numbers have returned to earth, that Obama is not universally adored and that his healthcare plan is in trouble. Put differently, today is the day after the day after the day after. The Inauguration is over. Bono has left his gig at the Lincoln Memorial and gone home. The First 100 days are past and the giddiness is over. We are dealing with reality.
Americans want improved health and healthcare. Americans want scientific advances, including strides in stem-cell research. And yes, Americans want the government to spend money on those programs that stand to help all us, not just a segment. They want Serious Medicine.
What Americans do not want is to be put in harm’s way for the sake of some grand political cause. Nor are Americans inclined to discard those who spend a lifetime working and raising a family.
Having essentially mused about throwing grandma under the bus in an on-the-record interview, Obama should not now be flummoxed by feisty seniors. Having branded low-tax proponents “selfish” during the campaign, the president cannot now complain of their vitriol. Finally, having acknowledged his desire to redistribute wealth and bragged of his ruthless realism, the president cannot now expect sheep-like docility and acquiescence from America.