Why Graham-Cassidy Failed—And the Hard Slog Ahead

By | 2017-06-02T18:30:05+00:00 September 29, 2017|
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

With the announcement by U.S. Senators Ron Paul (R-Ky.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) declaring their refusal to support the Graham-Cassidy Health Care Bill, the latest Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare has met with failure yet again. Lest we repeat the procedure in an endless loop, there is a lesson to be learned from this debacle about the insidious cunning of modern liberalism. It’s time for friends of American liberty to learn it.

Why do Republicans shy away from repealing manifestly unpopular expansions of government like Obamacare once they are enacted? It’s an old story. Simply put, liberals know what they are doing. Every new government program, and every new line in the budget, creates a constituency—call it a “special interest”—that thereafter will bitterly oppose the revocation of whatever preferment they have received.

Obamacare is no different. It unleashed a vast new revenue stream for the states, which receive federal money to support their health insurance exchanges, and which receive even more large amounts of federal money to support the expansion of Medicaid. Any attempt to dismantle Obamacare thus endangers the fiscal well-being of the states and, by extension, the profits of doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies. Not surprisingly, craven politicians are loath to take this risky step.

Say what you will about Obamacare, at its heart is the expenditure of gargantuan sums of taxpayer dollars for the alleged purpose of subsidizing medical care for poorer Americans. On some level, this is a noble cause. It accounts for the rhetorical success of popular advocates like Jimmy Kimmel, who can appeal to that noble instinct in Americans to look after the neediest among us. But the political and financial reality is that Obamacare did not fundamentally alter the dysfunctional dynamics of our healthcare system. It merely poured more money into it to expand access to an already broken system.

Thus, Obamacare has had the effect of enriching many constituents, like doctors, hospital administrators, and insurance executives, all of whom were already rich, but, naturally, could stand to be richer. This is the pattern for all modern government programs. Even the most well-meaning of social services ultimately serve to transfer government funds into the hands of the private-sector providers of food, housing, child care, counseling, cell phones, and, yes, medical care, to the relevant beneficiaries. True, many—even most—Americans support shrinking government in the abstract. But their tepid support for government cutbacks cannot prevail in the face of the much more passionate and organized opposition from the constituents—that is, the recipients—of government spending who, of course, aren’t just the poor or the needy.

The designers of Obamacare surely knew this. New entitlement programs once created are almost impossible to destroy. The millions of people who had gained access to health insurance, and more importantly the handful of multi-millionaires and billionaires who had gained new profits, wouldn’t stand for it. And here we are. This is why government spending, as a percentage of GDP, has been growing in a nearly continuous fashion since the beginning of the 20th century, and why all the hot air from politicians about cutting the size of government has led precisely nowhere.

The sad truth is that Americans need to accept two harsh realities if we are ever to make any progress in reversing the tide of government expansion. First, the Democratic Party will never cooperate with efforts to restrain government, because government spending is the bread and butter of Democratic politics, and an ideological commitment to finding governmental solutions to every conceivable problem is a defining characteristic of modern liberalism. Democrats will reflexively oppose any and all attempts to cut government spending, and they will inevitably describe such proposals as “inhumane” and irresponsible.

Second, Republican politicians, despite their rhetoric, are by no means reliable “yes” votes on bills that aim to cut federal spending, return power to the states, or otherwise dent the growth of government. Republican congressmen and senators are invariably afraid of being labeled as “heartless” for seeking spending cuts (or even for opposing spending increases). In reality, government largesse benefits Republicans almost as much as it helps Democrats. These politicians are every bit as tied to rent seekers as are the Democrats. Every politician, even President Trump, seeks to gain popularity by showering the needy (and sometimes just the grasping) with public funds. This is how Washington works—nay, how America works—whether we like it or not.

The solution isn’t just to elect more Republicans, although we have a golden opportunity (especially in the Senate) to do exactly that in 2018. It’s also to elect conservatives with stiffer spines, and for the voters to stiffen in their resolve, too. First and foremost, we need to remember who we are as a people—a free people, who reject socialism in health care and every other domain—and act and vote accordingly.

About the Author:

Nicholas L. Waddy
Nicholas L. Waddy, an associate professor of history at SUNY Alfred, blogs at www.waddyisright.com.
  • Neo Conscious

    Thank you, Waddy, for a concise and realistic analysis of the political challenges Obamacare imposes.
    It’s supposedly political suicide to try and take away a government handout program, but Obamacare may be different.
    The negative financial impact of Obamacare on working, taxpaying Americans has been vastly under-reported. They’ll show graphs on the news showing premium increases not much greater than before, but these omit conversions to high deductible plans where most are paying thousands more for heathcare than before, and rarely even reaching the deductible.
    These voters are the ones politicians should really be focused on, not the ones that will complain if their entitlement is cut, as those will likely vote Democrat anyway.
    Democrats have figured out how to game the system so that Republicans pay for their vote-buying schemes.
    Republicans need to fight back by showing they represent the people really paying for it all, and that begins with explaining the negative financial impacts of Obamacare on average working Americans.

  • Bootsie

    Republican politicians are cowed into submission on every policy where comprehensive reform would be truly ‘transformational’. Whether it is health policy, welfare policy, or education policy Republican politicians simply cannot create policies and messaging that transcends the media wing of the Democrat Party. There is no messaging on how welfare programs are a poverty trap and how our public schools have failed generation after generation. There are solutions but the insular nature of the beltway bubble prevent them being turned into effective policy. Some times change is just going to have be enacted whist ignoring the chattering class and let the results speak for themselves. Graham-Cassidy was an excellent first step opportunity to severe the beltway’s strangle hold on healthcare policy and 4 idiots more afraid of the press than the public prevented innovation and flexibility from being part of the solution.

    • Joe R

      The first word out of a republican’s mouth about anything transformational results in a massive attack by the MSM and democrats.

  • Joel Mathis

    “Any attempt to dismantle Obamacare thus endangers the fiscal well-being of the states and, by extension, the profits of doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies. Not surprisingly, craven politicians are loath to take this risky step.”

    Shouldn’t that make them cautious?

  • Joel Mathis

    “The millions of people who had gained access to health insurance, and more importantly the handful of multi-millionaires and billionaires who had gained new profits, wouldn’t stand for it.”

    I feel fairly sure the underlying argument of this article is that Obamacare works a lot better than the GOP wanted it to.

    • wallypalo

      Ha! The underlying argument is that, once at the trough, the big pigs will not be moved.

      • Joel Mathis

        The pigs are your fellow citizens who need affordable health insurance so as to not die or be sick constantly, or be sick constantly and go into extreme debt because of it.

        • Margaret Walker

          Yes, that’s true, but it is also true that the middle class is running as fast as they can to keep up with all the taxes and burdens put on them. And Obamacare did not help the middle class at all. It made things even harder. If you manage to destroy the middle class you will run out of money for all your favorite fellow travelers, who did not want to be stifled by a regular job.

  • billsv

    Folks like the Chamber of Commerce, Insurance company lobbyists and the like essentially bribe our congress people, democrat and republican alike, with campaign contributions. Our congress people as Ted Cruz said, do nothing but run for office from the day they elected to the next time they get elected. A good reason for term limits that do not exceed 6 years.

  • SaguaroJack49

    This explains Biden gleefully sneering, “Go ahead! Repeal Obamacare and see what happens.”

  • wallypalo

    Article V, Convention of States. It is the only way to do an end-run around Congress, and the Blue States. Term Limits at the Federal level will never be enacted any other way. Might just be the same for Obamacare. We only need 34 States to make the Call, and 12 already have.

  • clayusmcret

    I’ve said for years that ACA was designed to fail, and that republicans would cave and be forced to save it. Like clockwork just this week, after killing ACA repeal and replace again, republicans said they had worked out a plan with democrats to stabilize ACA for at least several years.

    I’m not sure who disgust me the more; democrats who are forcing us into single payer as the eventual replacement for ACA, the republican LIARS who campaigned and won on promises of Repeal, but couldn’t even put their petty vengeance away long enough to pass a watered down version, or the republican LIARS who immediately bent over so democrats could pass stage 2 of their ~4 stage plan to single payer takeover.

    • m0r0

      Yipee, i cant wait to keep paying a thousand dollars a month for my health care policy. I can hardly afford the staggering rents where i live this is wiping my savings out. Thanks Congress! Keep up the good work representing the illegals in this country. At least they appreciate your efforts. Bastards.

  • L.B. & F.M.

    Sen. Rand Paul?

  • Innocent Bystander

    Make all government employees use Obamacare.

    • Anne Miller

      Excellent idea. Should apply to all federal legislation.

  • Anne Miller

    The author forgot to mention that the Graham bill did nothing to repeal Obamacare. It did nothing to reduce the cost of health insurance to the people. It was fake repeal. The author might ask Ted Cruz if he opposed this bill because he loves big government? That is what this author says. What a crock.

  • RJ

    You’re killing me with all these articles aimed at ending Obamacare, what with insights and formulas flying around, just pick one and proceed to its logical conclusion.

    Free competition…this is a “great fear” the insurance industry has had for decades. Make everyone buy in! Yep, that’s the ticket…but we’ll need the politicians to get on board. Spread the wealth, dear boy…keep the docs in the money at every step, then we offer the pols more power…see how easy this works!

    Educate as many voters as possible…oh, wait a minute, our schools are controlled by those nasty “leftists” who believe in socialism…as they hide their communist dreams.

    Fool me again, please, pretty please!

  • Peta Johnson

    I am sure your analysis is correct. But we should take notice of what our Fabian socialist opponents do – we should gut it by regulation and see what happens. To his immense credit, the President appears to be about to do that.