Conservatives, don’t be deceived. Any attempt by Republicans in Congress to ensure that all Americans have affordable health care coverage will simply extend and further complicate the mess left by Obamacare.
But that’s exactly what’s happening, at least according to House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
“Let me be clear,” she said earlier this year when top Republicans were drafting the reform bill behind closed doors. “No one who has coverage because of Obamacare today will lose that coverage. We’re providing relief. We aren’t going to pull the rug out from anyone.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price echoed that undeliverable promise last weekend.
“I firmly believe that nobody will be worse off financially in the process that we’re going through,” Price said when asked about the bill on Sunday. He added, “We’ll have more individuals covered.”
Conservatives know these statements cannot be true for many reasons, but chiefly because they run headlong against one of our movement’s guiding beliefs: our principle of imperfectability.
The late Russell Kirk observed that when a society seeks to make things perfect – everybody having excellent health care, for instance – things usually end very badly. The only equality such schemes achieve is by dragging everyone into the gutter together.
“To seek for utopia is to end in disaster, the conservative says: we are not made for perfect things,” Kirk wrote. “All that we reasonably can expect is a tolerably ordered, just, and free society, in which some evils, maladjustments, and suffering will continue to lurk.”
Kirk went on to warn that the “ideologues who promise the perfection of man and society have converted a great part of the twentieth-century world into a terrestrial hell.”
Simply put, conservatives don’t believe people are really all that smart, and when we try to be, we hurt ourselves.
That’s not a knock on any particular party or philosophy, either. It goes for everyone, but at least conservatives accept that we mere mortals lack the level of information required to flawlessly plan the choices for a large group of people, let alone the health care choices for 315 million Americans. Yet that’s what the Democrats tried in 2009, and what the Republicans are poised to foolishly attempt this year.
When one considers the breadth and depth of the market sector – the hundreds of millions of lives – they seek to direct and effectively manage, the hubris of even making such an attempt is breathtaking.
Even President Franklin Roosevelt knew this to some degree: “We can never insure 100 percent of the population against 100 percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life,” he said when a much leaner Social Security program was established.
It’s not that Obamacare failed because Congressional Democrats are stupid, or that the bureaucrats charged with implementing the law are incompetent. It’s because, it turns out, they’re all only people, and thus lack the god-like powers of omniscience, clairvoyance, and omnipotence.
Obamacare failed because its authors sought to provide unlimited access – paid, subsidized, or even free – to something that, in actuality, is a limited commodity. Then they created a convoluted network of laws, rules, and regulations to answer every issue that would arise.
But they couldn’t even get the website to work.
Republicans should be mindful of that failed experiment. Turns out, Republicans are also only people. They’ll do no better, maybe even a little worse, if they try to centrally plan and manage a sector that accounts for a whopping 18-percent of our nation’s gross domestic product.
It cannot be done, at least not very well.
Nevertheless, our Republican leaders are ready to try. Their bill seems just as complex and incomprehensible as the one Nancy Pelosi infamously said needed to be passed “so that you can find out what’s in it.” It keeps many of Obamacare’s unsustainable mandates and subsidies. And, most important, it still depends on a perfect level of knowledge and execution to succeed, even though we know it will have neither.
Hopefully a handful of faithful conservatives will kill this shortsighted bill in the Senate. Then we can try the only planning worth making – planning for competition, and knowing it’s still not going to be perfect.