Healthcare: “We followed the most radical voices and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat”

David Frum, George W Bush’s speech writer may have a point when he says of the Obamacare legislation:

“We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat,” Frum wrote on his blog, adding: “Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother?”

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  • slappymcgroundout

    I’ve read the US Constitution and I don’t think that one can say that any legislation is ever “irreversible” (recall that the US Constitution by its own terms is itself not “irreversible”). The more than a baker’s dozen states that are apparently going to challenge the legislation apparently believe otherwise also.

    That being said, the bill misses the point. More than 20 million Americans are out of work and more children than I care to count are going to bed hungry. Please tell Maureen for me that the little ones need food, and medical care not so much, as they wouldn’t be so sick if they weren’t so chronically malnourished.

    Lastly, had a dream the other night. The American version of Gerry and Uncle Marty. Speaking to the 20+ million re making revolution. Disturbing dream, as I realized in the midst of the same that, well, how many Nationalists-Republicans are there in NI? So if the American Gerry and American Uncle Marty could recruit 5 million or so, and then consider that one PIRA fellow’s remark about easier to operate in England because larger territory and more people as well, so easier to get lost and/or not be found there, as opposed to Belfast… So word of advice, to all elected officials, courtesy of my one dream, careful with that large number of long-term unemployed as it’s rather unhealthful to nation and its people to have so many believing that they’ve no stake in our nation and people.

  • IRIA

    Frum is one of the few that actually gets it about the conservative “movement”.

    Slappy: If the GOP takes back Congress and passes legislation to repeal, Obama can still veto it. They’d have to gain more seats than imaginable to be able to get passed the veto.

    State AGs: Frankly, most of those guys are clowns who are suing to score points with their party. They won’t be able to stop the legislation-it’s been looked into by Dem lawyers.

  • Take that from the top:

    The Health Bill was hardly the greatest advance in US social history. Anyone, including its warmest supporters see it as just a step in the right direction. The Stock Markets welcomed it: Caterpillar, the company loudest in warning it would damage business, saw an instant 4+% surge, and the NYSE went to a 17-month high. The insurance companies can gloat that they’ve now been presented with a new captive market, unconstrained by too much red-tape. The immediate effect (the main impact doesn’t happen for another four years) is to prevent States cutting further provision for Child Health Insurance Programmes (as Arizona, John McCain’s home state, has just done) and for Medicaid.

    Even so, universal healthcare is now recognised as a basic right: the US has finally started to accept the norm in any civilised society. The Health Bill is significant — it gives Obama a premature “legacy”, and with it extra clout: he has been seen to have (partially) delivered.

    What makes Mick Fealty @ 10:34 AM‘s post so telling is that this is a measure that would have passed in the 1950s, probably to paeans of applause from the AMA. Then, and into the ’60s, the Rockefeller Republican was a force to celebrate. Arguably that GOP faction was more progressive than the generality of the Democratic Party.

    Mick Fealty @ 10:34 AM‘s quotation of Frum (who has an unimpeachable record of conservative Republicanism) reminds of the on-going intra-GOP spat. Frum was taking shots at Sarah Palin (surely, the sub-text here) as far back as September 2008, when she first emerged from Alaskan obscurity:

    Ms. Palin’s experience in government makes Barack Obama look like George C. Marshall. She served two terms on the city council of Wasilla, Alaska, population 9,000. She served two terms as mayor. In November, 2006, she was elected governor of the state, a job she has held for a little more than 18 months. She has zero foreign policy experience, and no record on national security issues.

    I think we can safely assume Candidate Palin would not have Frum’s active support in 2012.

  • Kevsterino

    It is difficult to remember at times like these that the first president to propose national healthcare in the US was Richard Nixon.

    I’m sorry to say this debate was incredibly devisive.

    I hope for all our sakes cooler heads make their presence known soon.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Sadly, Malcom, there are some issues here beyond, shall we say the obvious, starting with the fecklessness of the CBO. If their track-record is anything to count upon, government is hopelessly at sea when it comes to forecasting health-care costs.

    For example, the Massachusetts plan ratio of actual cost to gov’t estimate is 1.2 to 1, making it better than the UK NHS (1.38 to 1) in forecasting the cost of their proposals. That said, the US Federal government has a very poor track-record. The forward- cost estimate for Medicare for 1990 was 9.17 to 1 (set of 12 billion vs. an actual of 110 billion).

    The accounting for this program is jiggered, “balancing” the programs first six years of services against ten years of taxes. Historically, big piles of money for a specific purpose don’t usually get left alone by government, but get co-opted for other purposes — take a look at the SSI “trust fund,” which have been reduced to a pile of IOU’s long ago.

    This bit of legislation is a proverbial sausage that the Dems had the bad manners to grind in front of the public. Their method of passage has placed a very bad political precedent — Alcee Hastings’ “There ain’t no rules here” will come back to haunt.

  • Dread Cthulhu


    Actually, it was Teddy Roosevelt.

  • I don’t agree with Frum at all on this one. The Democrats have a sufficiently large majority that any Republican input into the bill would be quite minor. Most Republican voters IMO are opposed to what they see as “socialized medicine” and are therefore not going to thank their elected representatives for giving credibility to Obama’s healthcare plans.

    If, as seems highly likely, Obama’s healthcare reforms do not work out well in practice, Republicans will be well placed to have them repealed in future without the John Kerry tpe embarassment of saying that they voted for it before voting against it.

    On the other hand if Obamacare succeeds and becomes poplar, then the Republicans votes against will disappear down the memory hole as quickly as the Democrats’ votes for the Iraq war (cf UK Conservatives and the NHS in the 1950s).

  • Dread Cthulhu @ 01:47 PM:

    It took me a while to work out your point: it has some validity.

    If youconclude providing healthcare is a bottomless pit, I’d not wholly disagree. That’s why we endure those serial stories about NICE and particular drugs. Equally, while one can propose that each individual/individual family has prime responsibility, I don’t want bubonic plague in the uninsured household next door, without a community health regime.

    All I would add is that, in most examples, public provision comes in a lot more cost-efficient than private, especially so when the private care is dependent on the bloated US insurance industry. The Center for Public Integrity counted 4,525 lobbyists, working for 1,750 companies and organisations, at a cost of at least $1.2 billion (i.e. more than ⅓ of the total lobbying dollars), on this bill. Then there are those grotesque tariff barriers the US pharma-combines bought from Bush and the GOP Congress. One way and another, the US health system is ultra-protectionist, beyond any liberal-capitalist economic arguments.

    The US until now has indeed had death panels — the State budget makers: therefore death by zip-code. Life expectancy for many of the less-well-off groups is, by First World standards, appalling. Those discrepancies will not disappear in my lifetime, but they cannot be allowed to worsen.

    That wasn’t my essential thrust. I was addressing what I saw as Frum’s thesis: that the GOP has gone further and further into the wilderness. Those healthcare debates were highly illuminating. In November 2008 the US elected a president and and Congress with a mandate for healthcare reform. Instead we have Republicans saying they are the only voice of the American people. When elected Democrats have called public meetings about the healthcare issue, they have been screamed down by mobs, some with loaded guns, chanting about “the will of the people”.

    Fox commentators kept harping about the “two million” in the streets of D.C. protesting the bill: as Eric Boehlert said, “a figure that was off by 1.9 million”. Glenn Beck’s recent program was denouncing the healthcare vote as “an affront to God!”

    Frum is no wilting pinko: he exists on the libertarian wing and coined “axis of evil”. When he feels things have gone too far, I hear him.

  • IRIA

    This will not be repealed…ever. Americans, left and right, like their “goodies” once they’re in place.

    GOPers are already taking credit for the bill:

    Think about this way: GOPers running for re/election in “blue” states will have to start dealing with this:

    They’ll be trapped.

    GOP will/should pick up some seats b/c the Dems won so many conservative leaning districts in 06/08. They won’t win close to enough.

  • Dread Cthulhu


    I’m not sure I was saying that health-care is a bottomless pit. What I am saying is that this bill was sold as being a cost savings and that, based on the track record of government systems, this is probably wholly inaccurate.

    I would point out that it is government involvement in the medical marketplace that necessitates that lobbying effort in the states, with Medicare, Medicaid, etc. Additionally, of American insurers, the one with the greatest rate of rejected claims is Medicare, at a little over 6.5%. As for the drug industry, they are protectionist primarily in that they don’t want the drugs that they sold to other nations at a discount re-imported back into the United States at a discount, although the contents of shipments shipped in from China suggest that some level of protection is warranted.

    Death panels? No. Efficacy committees? Maybe — not even the folks who passed the law can honestly say they know what is in there — their claims about the new bill immediately protecting children with pre-existing conditions just went south, as it isn’t really in the bill.

    Depending on which poll you’d happen to believe, Obama has lost the middle, with the general thrust being that this isn’t the changed they were hoping for. If America was so down with Obama’s “hope and change” agenda, how the hell did a Republican win in Massachusetts, taking the vaunted “Kennedy seat” in the Senate? If the bill was so popular, why all the legislative maneuvers to get it past? Bribery (Cornhusker kickback, Louisiana Purchase, the airport grants for Stupak’s district), the use of budgetary procedures to pass non-budgetary measures, the “deem and pass” scheme floated in the House, etc.

    As for the crowd size, I would point out that Boehlert is hardly a dis-interested party with a reputation as being an honest broker or a source without an agenda of his own. I mean, he’s not telling the falsehoods that MSNBC is presenting (1,500 to 2,000 protestors), but he’s not without his own bias, claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

    As for Frum, working or Bush and one turn of phrase does not a libertarian make. Bush certainly was not a conservative — Medicare part D comes to mind…

    This bill is going to balloon like every other social spending program. This was a bad bill and had to be opposed. The fact that so much legislative hoodoo had to be employed to get this passed — while I concede that no new tricks were employed, they’ve never been lined up into a Rube Goldberg-esque machine as they were or this bill.

    The most telling point are that Congress has exempted themselves and their staffs from the bill and that the “hard” parts of the bills — required insurance ownership, fines, IRS enforcement, etc., don’t go into effect until well after 2012, with some of the candy coming into play prior to the midterm elections (assuming they remembered to put in the bill).

  • Dread Cthulhu


    There is a whole lot of politics between now and then election and a lot of things will feed into the results. Yes, this bill will be part of it, but there are other pots on the burner that may make a difference.

    Cap and trade / Cap and Tax comes to mind — what do you think adding an estimated 25% to people’s electrical bills will do for the political mood in the US? Immigration reform / “amnesty” will stick in folks craws, esp. if unemployment stays high. There have even been some news reports that Obama is thinking about pension / Social Security reform, the “third rail” of American politics.

    There is many a slip twixt the cup and the lip and both sides are more than capable of screwing up the mid-term election.

  • IRIA

    I agree a lot can happen, but nothing regarding health care.

    *Cap & Trade is dead in the Senate and not coming back. Moreover, the “average joe” doesn’t even know what the hell “cap & trade” is.

    *Immigration Reform does not have to mean “anmesty”. People support “reform” of the Immigration policy-look at the recent bill introduced by Sens Schumer(D) and Graham (R). It’s a bad bill overall, but as a starting point to the discussion, it’s fair-penalizes those who broke the law. The idea of “amnesty” will stoke some fears of the some of the same freaks health care reform did-I think some Dem operatives are happy about that. The mask has come off a lot of people.

    *Social Security: Congressional Dems won’t let him do it-and I have a hunch we’ll be seeing a more fired up Obama. No more playing wasting time playing footsie with Congressional GOP.

  • Kevsterino

    DC, thanks for the correction. I should have said the first one in my lifetime (Teddy is a little before my time).

    Anyway, USA Today has the polls at 49% in favor, 40% against now that the bill is signed.

    They will probably flip a few more times before the election, but it would be hard to repeal this law now.

  • wild turkey

    malcolm @ 8

    ‘That wasn’t my essential thrust. I was addressing what I saw as Frum’s thesis: that the GOP has gone further and further into the wilderness.’

    nail on head!! (again) … and the GOP journey continues! it appears now they are, ready for it, “working to rule”. link below.

    aside to malcolm, and other righteous survivors. doncha just miss “Doctor” Thompson at times like this. take care buddy

  • Dread Cthulhu


    Don’t under-estimate the power of over-confidence, folly and mind-numbing arrogance.

    There is room for things to be done on health-care, although nothing in the immediate term. Y’see, the down-side for the US “average Joe” is that the Dems have over-reached, best summed up with Alcee Hastings comment “their ain’t no rules when you’re trying to get something accomplished.” This means that when the shoe is on the other foot, and it will be, the Dems have to contend with the exact same “rules” as they’ve put into play to get this passed.

    Barring that, the Dems have wrapped so much power in the Sec of HHS to decree what qualifies and doesn’t, all they need is the Presidency, so they name said Secretary and decree away.

    As for the other issues, they’re already taking up the environment in the House, amnesty is part of Obama’s reform vision and they’ve already floated regulatory trial balloons for the gov’t take-over of 401K and IRA investments, exchanging those investments for gov’t paper.

    Never under-estimate the ability of a politician, especially a “transformational” politician to trip over their own ego.