Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Catch of the Day

Matt Yglesias demolishes a conservative talking point about Singapore and health care reform. Bottom line, after he reviews what Singapore actually does:
None of this sounds to me like anything American conservatives favor. As in, there is no legislation that's been championed by major Republican leaders that would do any of these things and, in general, none of these measures comports with conservative aversion to government spending and regulation.
Here's where I think we are. There are several conservative policy wonks who are basically sincere, as far as I can tell, in their views on health care reform. Fragments of their claims and arguments are used, sometimes, by Republican politicians. The latter are basically uninterested in the substance of the issue at all. To some extent that's not unusual; lots of politicians talk about issues about which they have no real substantive interest! Some of it, however, is our old friend the post-policy GOP -- they really just aren't interested in policy at all, and therefore aren't constrained in their choice of talking points by anything policy-related.

In other words, the real-life Republican alternative to the ACA remains "nothing." But that's considered politically inappropriate, and so real-life Republicans get to hand-wave around the issue by identifying various things they theoretically would build a replacement around. However, for Republican politicians and many of the non-wonk other party actors (and perhaps some of the wonks, too), it really is just hand-waving. There's nothing substantive about it for them.

Again: that's not true for many conservative wonks. But politicians aren't using their work to build an alternative; they're using it for an easy way of having something to say that sounds sufficiently serious. And, again, while that's not unusual in any party on any issue at any time, it's unusually try for this particular party, on a very wide range of policy areas, at this particular time.

Also: nice catch!

(Hat tip to longwalkdownlyndale)


  1. A question worth asking: does all this hand waving about fake policies have any actual effect on politics (in the broadest sense: elections, media coverage, voter perceptions, etc)? Perhaps leading up to the 2010 election, Republican politicians might have gotten the benefit of the doubt, but I'd be surprised if it still had any meaningful effect. Surely almost no voters or reporters genuinely believe that Republican politicians plan on passing an alternative to the ACA that will expand access to health care to those who can't afford it and those with pre-existing conditions. I think just about everyone is pretty clear on what the "Republican alternative" is at this point. So why do they keep pitching it when probably nobody really cares? I mean, what's the benefit? Is it really that big a hit to them to outright admit that they think things were better before the ACA and that they'd like to go back to that system, instead of hinting at an "alternative" that nobody genuinely believes exists?

    1. "So why do they keep pitching it when probably nobody really cares?"

      At some level it probably is better than just refusing to respond or saying we want to go back to the satus quo ante. High Borderism is alive and well in our media but at some point, as we saw during the shutdown, the press really is willing to stop talking about how "both sides do it." I think a world where the press regularly reported that the GOP really does want to replace Obamacare with nothing is one that could impact the GOP standing among voters and interest groups.

      The more interesting question for me is the cognitive dissonance going on with people like Ross Douthat whose been touting the Singapore angle as of late.

      Also, I AM FAMOUS!

    2. Broderism needs to start being called Fournierism.

      Hmmm...doesn't roll off the tongue, does it? Fourniation?


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