Wednesday, June 12, 2013

One Small Point for a Plain Blog Theory

A "townhall" meeting in Maryland about the Affordable Care Act (my emphasis):
But politics — so entwined with the health law in Washington — barely came up in the 90-minute discussion. The term Obamacare was not uttered. Neither was Democrat nor Republican. The only mention of the president was during a brief history of the law’s passage.

The only political comment came from a senior citizen who said that he likes some pieces of the law — the age 26 provision and pre-existing condition coverage — but demanded to know if people realize that it also raises taxes.
Hey, it's one meeting, one report of one meeting, who knows. But here's what I said (last summer, but I've been saying it from the start):
If ACA survives and is implemented and basically works, then it will eventually lose its name...any name. The exchanges will be called whatever they're called, and the various other pieces of it may have names (so we'll have the IPAB), but most people and even most politicians won't associate that stuff with the ACA or Obamacare. No one will think to call Medicaid expansion anything; it'll just be how Medicaid is. No one will have a name for the subsidies, any more than we have a legislative name for the mortgage interest tax subsidy. We'll have serious mistakes, too: people won't remember what was ACA and what was previous policy and what was in subsequent legislation.
Is this the first step on the road to ACA becoming invisible? We'll see, and I'll be tracking it.


  1. The ratchet effect is strong. Once government takes over something, citizens start to forget immediately that it was taken over. When faced with some free-marketeer, they then assume that the free-marketeer is a fascist, because "how can you take away my ____?"

    Medicine is a perfect example. For decades, marketeers have said "separate the connection between employment and health insurance that was initiated by that psycho FDR." People screamed "how can I be insured if my employer doesn't help me? Derp."

    As Opapacare rolls along, the bar will be raised further. Progs won't stop until they've ruined/taken over all of human action in America. I mean, look at Chavez and the response of the people to his socialist kleptocracy. The job of the prog is so easy.

    1. We've had universal nationalised healthcare here in Britain for 67 years - a far more "socialist" system than the ACA. And yet, last time I looked, we still had a corporate capitalist economy, largely free markets and a functioning parliamentary democracy.

      Have you considered that your 'ratchet effect' might not be a very accurate model of how the ebb and flow of power between public and private sectors in all cases and at all times?

    2. It's very simple, anonymous, according to Mr. Foundry, you're a dupe, a socialist dupe.

    3. Oh, and the fact that you're country isn't experiencing the same brutal cost increases in health care as we experience in the US is only the beginning of the destruction of you're nation. Just watch!

    4. Why the scare quotes around "socialist"?

      To outsiders, Britain looks like a welfare state, with chav culture normalized and a steadily growing and criminal Asian and African population. And govt has restrained freedom of expression so much that people aren't even allowed to speak about simply obvious things. Just because it hasn't devolved into Venezuela (beloved of progs) doesn't mean that it isn't slowly becoming more top-down.

    5. @backyardfoundry

      Have you been reading the Daily Mail?

      UK welfare spending has been falling as a percentage of GDP since the mid-nineties (when 'prog' Labour got in). It's had a small bump due to the recession but is set to fall further in the next five years. It's currently at roughly 1950s levels.

      What is "chav culture"? Do you have figures suggesting working-class criminality has increased since the establishment of the welfare state? (No, you don't.) What's wrong with having growing African and Asian populations?

      Maybe you should move your foundry out of your back yard? It might help you be more informed about other people's live.

    6. Some people look at a glass filled halfway to the top and see a half-full glass; others see a half-empty one. Backyard sees journolist, Chavez, chavs, marauding Asian gangs, Jews, non-Jews, Richwine, multi-culti, Maxine Waters and NPR tote bags.

    7. Anonymous,

      I haven't heard of 50's era cutbacks. Are you not talking about percentage of GDP spent on welfare benefits over time?

      The problems with increased African and Asian populations are that:
      1)Muslims are a poor fit in the West and too many view themselves as outsiders in the UK. Most weird/insane/splashy crime is courtesy of Muslims.
      2)Diversity sucks because people of different ethnicities and religions spend too much time trying to rig the political system to the detriment of the other (a well-recognized habit at Plain Blog.) This should be obvious to a Briton.

      Violent crime is not exploding (although the number of knifings in London is surprising) but I'm not referring to chav violence so much as chav indolence and single-parenting. But you think that the welfare rolls are shrinking?

      Why do you not find the UK's tweet arrests comment-worthy? My guess is that you don't view as Orwellian the imposition of extreme speech codes on real Britons.

    8. The Road to Serfdom is about as self-refuting as Marxist theories of capital deepening. It hasn't happened. Wage and price controls and industry dereg (air and telecom) are much less regulated than they were 40 years ago in the US.

      Some industries are getting more regulated and some less. It's called democratic pragmatism.

      Re the Obamacare term, I wonder if Jonathan's right, then there might be less political protection compared to Medicare, which has a well known label.

    9. backyard,
      Isn't there a perfectly plausible alternative theory to your ratchet theory?

      Namely, government takes over a service and people come to like and depend on that, so they don't like attempts to roll that back?

      Your theory presumes that any government takeover is inherently bad. This theory I'm presenting would assume that any government takeover is inherently good. BOTH theories are probably wrong. But, the predictions they make are the same, so it would seem tough to separate one theory from the other and confirm or deny them.

    10. Matt Jarvis,

      Namely, government takes over a service and people come to like and depend on that, so they don't like attempts to roll that back?

      I incorporated this idea into my illustration of the ratchet. I think you'll see this if you reread my initial comment. The popularity of a gov program is no indication of its efficacy. The twentieth century was one long, bloody illustration of the superiority of markets to governments in most things, but (as I've pointed out before) almost zero progs question the validity of government tampering or takeover of industry. We can't even get rid of Ag subsidies!

    11. Brian

      A wee bit less throttling of the airlines (and their customers) several decades ago is little evidence of a trend toward pragmatism. What I see is a government with few restrictions. How does a case like this even get started? Every large employer knows that government can start abusing them over nonsense whenever it decides to.

    12. @ BYF

      British censorship laws are completely ridiculous, but they're nothing to do with the welfare state. We've had draconian libel laws in particular for a few hundred years. In fact it was the 90s Labour Party that introduced the Freedom of Information Act.

      I don't know whether gross numbers on benefits are shrinking, but welfare as a percentage of GDP has been declining since the mid-nineties, not counting the small bump during this recession.

      No I didn't mean there were cut-backs in the 50s - I meant that welfare is currently at around the same mark as it was the period when it was set up, making your 'Ratchet Effect' model look unlikely to be accurate (for Britain at any rate).

      Of course, welfare is not the same as benefits. All of us are on welfare - we all have access to free health-care (not perfect but generally good) and education (not the worst in the world but pretty bad).

      I get that you guys hold freedom above all other values, and fair enough. But government works well for some services and badly for others, and conservatives - who are supposed to be pragmatists - ought to care about what does and doesn't work. Rather than shoehorning everything into an ideology that considers all non-military federal government activity to be tyranny. That's just daft.

      My name's Adam, FWIW - I can only get the 'Anonymous' ident to work.

    13. Andrew Anonymous,

      Why don't you link to some gov data that graphs a shrinking of the welfare state over time?

    14. Oops. Adam Anonymous.

    15. Okay.

      Welfare 1946-2013

      t>Total government spending

      Treasury figures.

      Most of the Welfare State was set up in the decade after WWII.


    16. I was wrong about the growth of welfare payments in the UK.

    17. Wow. That's pretty much an internet first for me. Respect due to BYF, and no marks for the assumptions of Anonymous below.


  2. I don't know, JB. I live in Maryland, and can readily believe this story. But Maryland is trending markedly left, has already become largely Democratic, and has a set of elites who back the ACA vigorously. Given all that, I would hesitate to generalize from my home state, much as I admire it. How will townhall meetings go down in a Southern state that is overwhelmingly GOP and led by elites who see their political survival as tied up in attacking the ACA and highlighting its inevitable problems? Maybe there will be surprisingly little difference. But until we get more data points, especially from Red and Purple states, I will hope but remain cautious.

  3. I read this article yesterday. It persisted in describing people as "signing up for Obamacare" even as it mentioned that there is no public option in the bill, contrary to what many think.

    So how is anyone "signing up" for Obamacare, if the only type of single service for which you could really sign up -- a public option -- is off the table?

    You could read the article and be confused as to who was "signing up" for what. High risk pools? Exchanges? (Almost assuredly the correct answer.) Politico! Argh!

    It's almost as frustrating as seeing a high comment count, hoping for an interesting discussion, and seeing people arguing with the resident troll.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Who links to my website?