The Perils of Empty Debate: § 1099

It should be acknowledged by all sides, at this point, that the debate over the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act — “ObamaCare,” to those with more interest in style than in substance — was a profound joke, and something that ought to shake one’s faith in the viability of modern democracy. For months, we debated not budgets, not incentive structures, but whether the expenditure of federal money approximates “socialism,” and whether (for purposes that remain unclear) the President’s plan would kill Trig Palin.

If we’d ever gotten beyond superficial terms — or if the opposition had ever allowed it — maybe we could have actually discussed the bill’s details, and its likely effect on businesses and insured persons, without inflammatory hyperbole. Maybe we wouldn’t be only addressing the finer points of reporting structures now.


  1. Reading this, I can’t help but think that at the time the law was written and passed there was an attitude on the part of its proponents that the details didn’t matter because passing something – anything – was too important. Considering that the opposition disagreed with the basic premise that anything should be passed, I don’t think they’re the party that should have been responsible for the details. It strikes me that thinking the opposition should’ve been concerned with the details is akin to getting pissed at a vegetarian for not telling you how they want their steak cooked: you’re pressing on with a follow-up question that doesn’t follow from the answer actually given to the first question. I mean, this is what I read you as proposing:

    Republicans: “We think the idea of health care reform is a fundamentally bad one and oppose it altogether because the no-build alternative has the best cost-benefit ratio in this case.”
    Democrats: “Hey, Republicans, we need to talk about the details for the health care reform we’re going to do.”

    I don’t think that makes much sense.

  2. That’s not my understanding of the way things went. We put on a convincing showing that some reform was needed; the right opposed not, as you suggest, because they think the status quo is optimal, but because the status quo is the status quo. Then they whipped their voters into a frenzy over nonexistent concerns, to the exclusion of any useful debate. I’d agree that it’s our burden to mount a positive cas,e but I think that was attempted and completed.

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