Last week, I was having a friendly political conversation with a friend who is conservative as I am liberal. We were discussing the Affordable Care Act.
He said to me, "Lord knows I'm conservative, and I don't support this president on much of anything, but these Republicans in Washington need to be for something, as opposed to just being against Obamacare."
My friend's analysis was based on the premise that the debate over the new health care law is based on both sides wanting what's best for the American people.
If this were true, Republicans in Washington would not be holding hearings to grandstand and demand that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius resign.
They would be following the example by their Democratic colleagues from 2003, when the Bush administration pushed through, with the assistance of parliamentary maneuvering, the Medicare, Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act. The act, like much of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, was initially debt-financed. That's right: 100 percent of the prescription drug bill was placed on the government credit card, further bloating the deficit.
Moreover, the prescription drug law got off to a less-than-stellar start. "The implementation," then-House Majority Leader John Boehner said, "has been horrendous. We've made it far more complicated than it should be."
Tens of thousands of seniors complained, along with pharmacists and others, but there were no calls by Republicans to delay or dismantle the law they sponsored nor calls for then Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt to step down. Both parties worked together to make it better.
Since President Bill Clinton attempted to reform health care in 1993, Republicans have systematically been opposed. Why?
Could it be they think that the Affordable Care Act is fiscally irresponsible? That's a popular talking point, but it runs counter to recent GOP behavior.
Besides the prescription drug bill, which has an estimated net cost from 2006 to 2015 of $549.2 billion, Republicans have blazed a trail of economic mismanagement. The cost for the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan is approaching $1 trillion.
Cost estimates for the recent government shutdown, for which Republicans were primarily responsible, range from $12 billion to $24 billion.
Perhaps were looking from the wrong end of the telescope. What if opposition is not based on the new health care law's potential failure, but rather its success?
Here's part of a memo that was sent to Republicans by strategist Bill Kristol regarding Clinton's health care program in 1993:
"Its passage in the short run will do nothing to hurt (and everything to help) Democratic electoral prospects in 1996. But the long-term political effects of a successful Clinton health care bill will be even worse -- much worse. It will relegitimize middle-class dependence for 'security' on government spending and regulation. It will revive the reputation of the party that spends and regulates, the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests."
In other words, Kristol was sounding the alarm that it could be 1935 all over again, when Social Security passed and Republicans lost voters for a generation.
Now here is what Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch said in 2009 if the Affordable Care Act became law:
"You're going to have a very rough time having a two-party system in this country, because almost everybody's going to say, 'All we ever were, all we ever are, all we ever hope to be depends on the Democratic Party.' "
If we take the concerns of Kristol and Hatch at face value, opposition to the new health care is not about the American people or fears of socialized medicine, but the future of one political party.
Contact Byron Williams at 510-208-6417 or firstname.lastname@example.org.