Obama's moderate health-care law
Over on the Twitter machine, I linked to this Matt Yglesias post noting that President Obama appointed a fairly conservative (which is not the same as partisan) Republican and a fairly conservative Democrat to co-chair the deficit commission. It's almost as if Obama is a moderate technocrat in the Clinton mold and not a Kenyan socialist, I said.
In reply, Sean Paul Patrick tweeted, "Obama a moderate? Good one. That 2300 page, 2.5 trillion dollar health care bill was so moderate." But it was! People tend to form their impressions of how liberal or conservative something is by looking at how much partisan activity there is around it. And there was, of course, a lot of partisan activity around Obama's signature legislative effort. But if you believe "liberal" and "conservative" refer to coherent schools of ideological thought, the health-care bill was the most moderate universal health-care proposal offered by any president, of any party, in the last century.
It was far more modest than what Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, or Bill Clinton proposed, relying more on the private sector and tampering less with existing insurance arrangements than any of those plans. It was even more moderate than what George H.W. Bush proposed. As I rarely tire of pointing out, it was a dead-ringer for the bill Republicans rallied around as a conservative alternative to the big-goverment overreach of ClintonCare, not to mention the bill Mitt Romney passed in Massachusetts. The individual mandate, now the most controversial element of the law, began life as a Republican idea.
There was a lot of controversy around Obama's health-care effort, so it became extremely polarized. But judged as a piece of policy, it was much more modest than any of its forebears. Even Clinton, who's now being held up as the moderate yin to Obama's liberal yang, offered something more ambitious, with a far greater role for the federal government. Obama didn't get much credit for this, but that doesn't make it any less true. And it doesn't mean Obama is less liberal than his predecessors: It just means that he, like other presidents, spoke to veterans of past defeats and went with what they thought could pass. The bill that ultimately made it through Congress was very similar to what Max Baucus proposed in his white paper, and what Hillary Clinton and John Edwards proposed during the campaign. Having fallen short seven or eight times before, the Democratic Party as a whole had become extremely pragmatic on health-care reform, and Obama did not take issue with the consensus approach.
| November 12, 2010; 6:08 PM ET
Save & Share: Previous: If Texas dropped out of Medicaid, ctd.
Next: Why bipartisan health-care reform has proven impossible
Posted by: dstr | November 12, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: 54465446 | November 12, 2010 9:11 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Nylund154 | November 12, 2010 10:15 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: redscott1904 | November 12, 2010 10:51 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: cce1976 | November 12, 2010 11:29 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: cce1976 | November 12, 2010 11:34 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: buntyp | November 13, 2010 1:12 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: staticvars | November 13, 2010 1:23 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: patriciajeff13 | November 13, 2010 2:22 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: lensch | November 13, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: 54465446 | November 13, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: lericgoodman | November 13, 2010 7:05 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: pacoofamerica | November 15, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: TomBlue | November 15, 2010 12:08 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: buggerianpaisley1 | November 16, 2010 12:57 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: dasimon | November 17, 2010 11:59 PM | Report abuse