Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Is the GOP Health Plan Doomed?

To the average racist sexist homophobe on the Right the GOP effort to "repeal and replace" Obamacare seems like a Keystone Kops routine that is doomed to defeat.

Maybe, but here are a bunch of reasons why not.

First, the Republican Party is not like the Democratic Party. I don't know exactly how the Democratic Party works, but based on nods and winks I've received over the years I'd guess that it is much more difficult for a Democrat to rebel against party discipline than for a Republican. I imagine that's because party funding comes from government employee unions and left-wing billionaires and the ideology comes from left-wing activist groups and foundations. These guys are all pretty clear about what they want from the political system and what they want from Democratic politicians. When lefties get themselves all worked up about the eevil Koch Brothers they are assuming that the Kochs operate the same as George Soros. But they don't; Soros seems to be interested in power while the Koch Brothers are not.

Therefore, we would expect the Republican process for getting a health bill out of Congress to be a lot more messy and out in public than the Democratic process.

Second, read Buchanan and Tullock's The Calculus of Consent. It will teach you more than you want to know about voting systems. Long story short, when you pass any bill in Congress you have to buy the votes of the folks on the fence. This means that during the negotiation process the people on the fence will appear to be holdouts, and it will look as though the bill's sponsors are never going to get the bill passed. Every time the Republicans put off a vote on their Obamacare replacement the media and the right wail that the Republicans are hopeless and can't pass anything. Maybe, but the holdouts are not pure ideologues; they are practical politicians that have a pretty accurate estimate of what their votes are worth. Obviously, it doesn't pay to compromise too early.

Third, I don't know what people think "repeal and replace" means, but it certainly does not mean that we are moving away from entitlements and free stuff. And with the white working class being Trumped into the Republican Party all bets are off, because the white working class believes they have paid their fair share and thus deserve to get their fair share of the benefits. Short of an alt-right revolution we are not going to get beyond the entitlement state and its promises of benefits for votes, and maybe not even then. The alt-right is anti-free market and pro America for Americans. In other words, the alt-right is perfectly happy using government power to reward its supporters. The number of people that recognize that the entitlement state eventually runs out of other peoples' money and also that actually want to do something about it is very small.

Fourth, the whole point of government is to protect us from change. The job of armies is to protect us from the change proposed by pirates and plunderers. But of course this kind of protection is only temporary. At some point the army protecting us will disappear and leave us to the mercies of the barbarians, as the Germany Army left every woman in eastern Germany in 1945 to the mercies of the Soviet invaders. The logic of this protection idea immediately suggests that the government can protect us not just from physical change but also from economic change, and that is what government has been doing for the last 150 years. The way it does this is by protecting us from the price system with subsidies and benefits and entitlements. Unfortunately the government programs are fantasy and the price system is reality, so eventually the fantasy dissolves. But hey, if the fantasy lasts until after I am dead, who cares?

So if you ask me, I'd predict that the Republican Congress will pass some sort of Obamacare repeal-and-replace. If it does its job right it will introduce a bit more price discipline but not enough to please us right-wing nutcases, and not enough to elect a Democratic Congress in 2018.

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