Saturday, November 21, 2009
Who Will Win The Healthcare Vote?
For Politico's "Arena" section:
And the winner of the healthcare vote tonight is going to be … politics. In my view, that’s a good thing. Or, more precisely, it’s a good start. In America, the people should rule--and the American people want more healthcare, not less; 67 percent of Americans don’t think they are getting the treatment they need, and only 16 percent think they are getting too much treatment, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Powered by lopsided numbers such as those, the voters will eventually win this fight. Indeed, they already are winning it.
So what we have seen, and what we will continue to see, is the gradual peeling back of all the rationing and rationing-esque “reforms” dreamed up by the national policy elites. Those elites are plenty smart, but the grad-school group is committed to an intellectual model that the American people reject. Think of it as the healthcare equivalent of cap-and-trade--that is, a too-clever-by-half scheme that works well on a Cambridge chalkboard, and nowhere else. Those politicians who are overly impressed by eggheads and foundation-money glitz might buy into avant-garde claptrap for a while, but eventually, the more survival-oriented politicos will read the unmistakable smoke signals wafting up from the flyover folks: “Knock it off!”
A healthcare case in point is the thundering repudiation of breast-cancer-screening guidelines this week. It’s hard to think of a purer example of the gap between policy and politics: The policy experts, conclaved in some ivory tower, and seeking to do their part to advance the rationing agenda, issued guidelines that were immediately cut down by opposition fire, like British Tommies at the Somme. The guidelines were machine-gunned by politicians of both parties, reflecting not only public opinion, but also much media opinion. Hats off, in particular, to ABC’s Robin Roberts (herself a breast cancer survivor).
Meanwhile, as context, President Obama, like President Clinton before him, is still plodding forward, with General Haig-like determination, despite bleeding heavily in the polls. Obama, a clever fellow but not much of an historian, seems serenely happy following a doomed downer of a plan.
But as noted, the political class is wising up: If the American people want more healthcare, then the risk-averse-est course is to give them what they want. And that’s why all the cuts are fake, destined to be overturned by this Congress, or any and all future Congresses. It’s the triumph of politics, as a long-ago budget cutter, David Stockman, once ruefully described it.
Some day, maybe, the policy class will figure out how to turn fiscal lemons into economic lemonade. That is, if people want to live longer and healthier lives--not only in the US, but around the world--then that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. Whole new industries could be created, providing jobs and growth, as well as better medicine. The American people can’t quite articulate that bright future, because that’s not their duty; it’s the duty of the thinking classes. But as we have seen, the thinking classes are on their own ideological jaunt, quagmiring down in the deadest of political dead ends.
So in the meantime, the American people will watch--that’s all they can do. They will vote “no” on rationing foolishness, and so will their elected representatives. And if someone puts a better medical model in front of them, they will happily vote for that.
That day will come, and it can’t come soon enough.
Posted by James P. Pinkerton at 1:29 PM