Friday, August 21, 2009
Why Conservatives Oppose Healthcare Reform
Why do conservatives, almost to a man, oppose universal healthcare? Why do they oppose things such as a public option, or even single payer?
It can’t be because of their support for business. A public option could in fact help business as, I’ve detailed before.
It can’t be because of rationing, whatever conservative rhetoric. The truth is that rationing already happens in a couple of ways. First, millions of Americans have no health insurance, simply because they can’t afford it. For others, paying monthly premiums is enough of a hardship that they can’t save for college or do other important things. If you make $70,000 and have to pay $15,000 a year for a family after taxes and mortgage payments, that severely limits what else you can do. So “rationing” can’t really be why conservatives oppose universal healthcare and a public option.
I think it comes down to four things then. The first is taxes. If universal healthcare is passed, whenever conservatives want to cut taxes for the affluent, Democrats will be able to say that lower tax revenue will mean the government can’t continue to pay for universal healthcare. If the new healthcare entitlement is popular, then conservatives will have a hard time selling such tax cuts ever again.
Second is a commitment to their view of capitalism. Economic conservatives believe that people who make more money should be able to have more things, and this includes better health insurance. Why should a factory worker who makes $50,000 a year get the same health insurance a CEO of a major corporation does? Despite the fact that many conservatives believe that those with more should get better healthcare, they won’t say it out loud.
Third, conservatives can deal a big defeat to President Obama and the Democrats by defeating the healthcare proposals. Senator James DeMint said that a healthcare defeat could be Obama’s “waterloo.” With Democrats seen as a failure, maybe conservatives can make gains in the 2010 midterm elections.
Fourth is conservative opposition to the welfare state in general. Conservatives have opposed federal entitlements since the New Deal. They’ve lost battle after battle on Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid for example. In their heart of hearts, many conservatives would repeal these entitlements; there just isn’t the political will to do so. Universal healthcare would represent the greatest expansion of the welfare state in US history, and conservatives are determined to fight it.