Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ephemeral Republican Heath Reform

Jonathan Chait has an insightful piece on what he calls the "Heritage Uncertainty Principle," the name being a spoof of the "Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle"—a tenet of quantum mechanics that describes some of the bizarre behavior exhibited by particles of matter at extremely minute scales.

Chait's version riffs on whether or not Republicans have any actual principles on health care. Sometimes they talk a good game, but whenever you try to instantiate one of their ideas—poof!—it disappears.

The "Heritage" in the name comes from the fact that much of Obamacare consists of actual Republican proposals, including the conservative Heritage Foundation's individual mandate from way back. As I have argued here, Obamacare is in fact a Republican plan.

Yet whenever one of their ideas is actually adopted by Obama or the Democrats, Republicans scurry away from it like cockroaches from light. Chait wonders if Republican health reform ideas actually exist at all outside of mental abstractions they never expect to be implemented.  

Heisenberg said that at quantum scales, if you measure the velocity of a particle, you have obliterated any chance of measuring its position. And if you measure a particle's position, you have obliterated any chance of measuring its velocity.

Chait suggests that if you try to instantiate a Republican health care proposal, the thing vanishes, leaving us to wonder if it ever really existed at all. Perhaps this is a metaphysical question, or a topic for philosophy journals.

Says Paul Krugman on the same topic: "Hence the rage of the right. Here they were, with a whole raft of ideas they could throw out, like chaff thrown out to confuse enemy radar, to divert and confuse any attempt to actually provide insurance to the uninsured. And those dastardly Democrats have gone ahead and actually incorporated those ideas into real reform."

It would be funny if it weren't so sad.

My own post from a year ago has video showing Chuck Grassley and Newt Gingrich arguing the necessity of an individual mandate. They jettisoned those long-held positions once Obama adopted them. No, really: it's true. You should take a look.

Ezra Klein marvels at Republicans' abandoning reform ideas they previously advocated. For example, Republicans were previously big proponents of high-deductible insurance plans, but now that they're available in Obmacare, Republicans are against them. And Republicans are now denouncing "narrow" provider networks, even though they're an obvious consequence of the kinds of competitive insurance markets, currently implemented as state exchanges, that Republicans previously claimed to favor because of their ability to control cost.

Klein reasons that in the current political spat over Obamacare, Republicans have burned too many bridges by decrying, for purely partisan purposes, many health reform ideas—some of them quite good—that they actually like. Should Republicans ever regain power and try to "repeal and replace," they'll have already defamed and denigrated their best stuff, and will have nothing with which to replace!

Postscript: There's a lot of re-hashing in the blogosphere, where one person picks up on another person's ideas as a convenient way of creating his "own" material. I'm obviously multiply guilty of that here. Chait was working from Klein's piece, and Krugman from both Klein and Chait, and I fed the whole mess through the mill for yet another iteration. Chait at least adds new insight in the form of the Uncertainty Principle. My only excuse for mooching off the works of others was that this piece originated as a private email, but once I'd written it I figured I might as well take it public.

Copyright (C) 2013 James Michael Brennan, All Rights Reserved


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