Explaining the Anger Over ObamaCare
A commenter at FutureOfCapitalism.com is calling for resisting ObamaCare with "civil disobedience, then, if necesary, by violence." Classics professor Victor Davis Hanson is calling these "revolutionary times," and the Heritage Foundation is likening ObamaCare's passage to the British imposition on America of the Intolerable Acts and says, "just as the colonists banded together to enact change after those acts were passed, so should America respond to Obamacare."
Newt Gingrich says, "Sunday was a pressured, bought, intimidated vote worthy of Hugo Chavez but unworthy of the United States of America."
Meanwhile, Harvard's Greg Mankiw, an economist who served in the Bush administration, is mellower than most: "One thing I have been struck by in watching this debate is how strident it has been, among both proponents and opponents of the legislation. ... I can see arguments on both sides. Life is full of tradeoffs, and so most issues strike me as involving shades of grey rather than being black and white. As a result, I find it hard to envision the people I disagree with as demons."
Commenter Ben, somewhat like Professor Mankiw, pronounces himself "mystified" at the angry reaction over a bill that in the end didn't even include a public option: "The Democrats are doing things they said they would do during the campaign."
There are probably plenty of explanations for the anger on the right, and it's something I've been thinking about myself some today. For one thing, the vote came against a background of pre-existing populist anger at crony capitalism -- first the banks got bailed out with taxpayer dollars, then the unionized autoworkers, now it's the HMOs and drug companies whose stocks are soaring today at the prospect of nearly unlimited access to the U.S. Treasury, not to mention Americans being forced into becoming their customers.
The other aspect, and I think a significant one, is that, in some important ways, yesterday's vote wasn't what Barack Obama said he would do in the campaign. An individual mandate to purchase health insurance? Mr. Obama spoke out against it in the campaign, criticizing Hillary Clinton for it based on what he said were philosophical differences. A tax on high-cost insurance policies? Mr. Obama spoke out against that in the campaign, too, criticizing Senator McCain for proposing it. An end-run by the majority party around the Senate filibuster rules? Mr. Obama had spoken out against it when the Republicans wanted to use the "nuclear option" for confirming judges. A sharply partisan divide on passing the legislation, which got not a single Republican vote? Mr. Obama had vowed during the campaign to unite Americans and bridge partisan and ideological divisions.
There's an element of bait-and-switch about the whole thing. Those who had no illusions about Mr. Obama to begin with may be disappointed, but for those who had hoped for a change from the usual Washington political cynicism of say one thing, do another, the feeling may go beyond disappointment to a sense of betrayal.
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