Sunday, November 23, 2008

Reports: Passing Universal Healthcare Could Kill The GOP.

With Obama showing that he is serious about introducing universal health care for all Americans, the right wing are screaming that, if he is allowed to do so, it may very well signal the end of the road for the GOP.

James Pethokoukis, at U.S. News and World Report, draws the same conclusion as Cannon does from Markowitz's analysis of how universal healthcare changed the political dynamic in Britain:

The GOP strategist had been joking about the upcoming presidential election and giving his humorous assessments of the candidates. Then he suddenly cut out the schtick and got scary serious. "Let me tell you something, if Democrats take the White House and pass a big-government healthcare plan, that's it. Game over. Government will dominate the economy like it does in Europe. Conservatives will spend the rest of their lives trying to turn things around and they will fail..."

...Recently, I stumbled across this analysis of how nationalized healthcare in Great Britain affected the political environment there. As Norman Markowitz in Political Affairs, a journal of "Marxist thought," puts it: "After the Labor Party established the National Health Service after World War II, supposedly conservative workers and low-income people under religious and other influences who tended to support the Conservatives were much more likely to vote for the Labor Party when health care, social welfare, education and pro-working class policies were enacted by labor-supported governments.

Passing Obamacare would be like performing exactly the opposite function of turning people into investors. Whereas the Investor Class is more conservative than the rest of America, creating the Obamacare Class would pull America to the left. Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute, who first found that wonderful Markowitz quote, puts it succinctly in a recent blog post: "Blocking Obama's health plan is key to the GOP's survival."

They are right to be fearful. Once people come to see health care as a right, then woe betide the party that appears set to take that away from people.

Thatcher produced her share revolution by privatising anything she could get her hands on and, for eighteen long years, this was enough to keep the Tories in power. But Thatcher, and subsequently Major's administration, consistently lowered investment in the national health system in the hope that a majority of the British electorate would opt to go private rather than wait to be treated in Britain's crumbling hospitals.

Britain turned on them when Blair warned before the '97 election that Britain had "24 hours to save the national health system". There were obviously a hundred other reasons as to why the Tories were defeated but the state of our national health system featured high in all the polls at the time and, in the next two elections, Britain rejected Tory offers of tax cuts because Labour had persuaded them that they could only have a first class national health system if people were prepared to pay for it.

But it's interesting to watch the Republicans frame the healthcare debate, not in terms of how it will benefit or hinder ordinary Americans, but rather in which way it will benefit or hinder themselves.

Various studies have shown that Americans pay more for their healthcare than any other country in the world and that they get less for their bucks than many other nations.

The Republicans are preparing to attempt to derail Obama's efforts to stop this madness. And they will not be doing so for any of the reasons which they will list, they will be doing so because they are attempting to save their own political skins.

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