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‘Individual mandate’ avoided ‘single payer’

Republican leaders in Congress are boasting that their legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare eliminates the hated “individual mandate,” the requirement that people buy medical insurance. The Republicans say that under their legislation the only people who will not have medical insurance will be people who don’t want it.

But the “individual mandate,” hated as it may be in some quarters, was the price of avoiding the even more hated “single-payer” system, the government’s takeover of medicine. 

People who go without medical insurance to save money in the belief that they won’t get sick or injured, especially if they are young and healthy, are actually deciding to throw themselves on the charity of the government if their luck fails them. They are confident that the government isn’t going to let them die in the street or let their families be wiped out.

Yes, Obamacare is seriously flawed. It has not produced the competition among insurers and medical providers necessary to restrain prices. It has increased insurance policy premiums and deductibles, in some cases so much that people can’t afford to use their insurance and so aren’t really covered at all. 

But the objective of Congress should be to fix these deficiencies so that everyone gets coverage at tolerable cost rather than to pretend that there is something virtuous, fearlessly libertarian, and responsible in going without insurance, when in fact that is only to assume that the government will provide in the end.

In any case, cost is not really the problem here. Practically every year for the last half century the U.S. government has guaranteed its citizens a stupid, futile and fantastically expensive imperial war. Suspending the stupid imperial war business could allow the government to supply every citizen with enough money to buy their own comprehensive medical insurance policy.

The moderates? 

They were beaten.

As many people are wondering, where did all the moderate Republicans go?

The question is easy to answer in Connecticut, half of whose delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives used to consist of moderate Republicans: Nancy Johnson, Rob Simmons and Chris Shays. One by one they were picked off as their constituents began to suspect that these moderate Republicans, congenial politically as they were, were functioning mainly to empower a Republican caucus that increasingly was dominated by conservative or reactionary members from the South.

This phenomenon has occurred throughout the Northeast, Midwest and West, though some moderate Republicans remain in Congress and in governorships. Indeed, a few moderate Republicans probably will control the U.S. Senate soon, whenever they join Democratic opposition to certain Republican proposals.

It may be just as fair to ask: Where did all the moderate Democrats go? 

After all, last year’s Democratic presidential and congressional campaigns were dominated by calls for more free stuff, particularly free college education even as standardized test scores throughout the country show that most young people receiving high school diplomas have failed to master high school work. 

Lately the Democratic Party’s position seems to be that since President Trump purports to want to stop illegal immigration, there should be no immigration law enforcement at all. There’s nothing moderate about that.

Can a moderate Northern Republican Party revive and succeed electorally? Can a moderate Southern Democratic Party do the same? Or will partisan districting continue to make congressional elections less competitive and more extremist, giving permanent advantage in most districts to one party or the other? In that case the country will need a third party.

 

Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester, Conn.