There are certain friends with whom I keep political discussion to a minimum. While I think it’s safe to say that none are flaming liberals, most don’t follow politics as closely as I do or take it as seriously. If you want to have people to hang out with outside the blogosphere, sometimes it’s best not to share every thought when it comes to politics. But when the election of 2016 took place I happen to be on a cruise with friends, so naturally it was with this group that I shared my first thoughts on the surprise victory of Donald Trump. To varying degrees, all of us were relieved that Hillary Clinton lost. In my case ecstatic jubilation would best describe it, and this helped to soften the disappointment of realizing that Donald Trump was now actually our president. One friend, however, was a bit down in the dumps, and so to cheer him up I said, “Well, at least we’ll get rid of Obamacare,” to which he responded, “Obamacare is good in some ways.”
I knew my friend wasn’t as conservative as I am but his fondness for Obamacare, albeit lukewarm, took me by surprise. “Obamacare is socialized medicine,” I said, not bothering to disguise my annoyance very much (he was, after all, putting a damper on my ecstatic jubilation). Now, I know that Obamacare is not socialized healthcare in the strictest sense, but certain aspects of it equate to socialism and its goal is to put us on that path so…. His response to me was: “Yes, but there are some good things about socialized medicine.”
“Such as what?” I asked, jubilation fading fast. He then went on to describe how his elderly parents had to sell off their assets under the rules of Medicare, leaving them essentially destitute and causing him to need to help them financially. People shouldn’t have to lose everything they own in order to afford healthcare, he said, so if socialized medicine makes it possible for them to get the care they need then that’s okay with him.
At times like these, when conversations arise on subjects that I feel strongly about but neither the time nor place adequately lends itself to that sort of discussion (we were standing on a street corner in Jamaica, waiting for our tour group to assemble), I am frustrated to say the least. How do I explain, in 30 seconds or less, what’s wrong with socialism? I suggested to him that the socialization of the so-called healthcare “system” and government interference under the guise of helping us out were only serving to drive up costs to the point where no amount of spreading the costs around to everyone (i.e. socialization) could ever catch up to the problem, and in fact would only exacerbate it. You cannot have sanity in a market where the consumer has neither the incentive nor the ability to act like a normal consumer (i.e. balance quality, quantity and cost). Only the free market can do this, I stressed with perhaps a bit more passion than he was prepared for.
All he knows, he told me, is that the free market isn’t working so he thinks a socialized healthcare system is a better way.
“Socialism is theft, pure and simple,” I told him, a bit of anger rising in my voice.
“Then I’m a thief,” he said cheerfully, but a bit uncomfortably.
We left it at that, as he saw us off on our tour before he went sightseeing elsewhere. I didn’t see him again for several hours, giving me time to wrestle with my thoughts. I found our discussion to be profoundly disturbing, not just because we disagreed but because I could sense, as is almost always the case when an unplanned discussion on politics pops up with friends or acquaintances, that he couldn’t comprehend my passion/annoyance/anger. It occurred to me then that it comes down to this:
He sees the Obamacare debate as a matter of policy. I see it as a matter of rights.
What right does the federal government have micromanaging what should be a free market healthcare system, thereby making it impossible for consumers to keep up with the game? What right does the federal government have taxing Peter to subsidize Paul, with Peter having no say in how or on whom his hard-earned money is spent? What gives one party in congress the right to establish a right/entitlement outside of the process prescribed in our Constitution? That’s how I see this debate.
I bring this up all these months later because, in the wake of the Ryan/Trump repeal-replace-not really fiasco, the finger pointing has gone wild. A whole lot of self-labeled “conservatives” are angry with the Republicans in the Freedom Caucus for refusing to “get on board” and go along with what is being falsely hailed as “the best plan we could get.” (See: Liz Peek: Time for the Freedom Caucus to climb aboard the Trump train. Read a few comments to get a good taste for the craziness). Republicans who would rather debate about policy rather than about rights, hereinafter referred to as “the new socialists,” thought they could bully the real conservatives into going along with Obamacare-lite. They were wrong. I’d like to think that’s because at least some of the Freedom Caucus understands that this is a fight about rights, not about policy details. I pray that I’m right.
In the past Republicans have caved in and gone along with liberal policies under the guise of at least putting their stamp on things that public momentum made impossible to stop. With Trumpcare garnering the approval of just 17%, what is their excuse now? Why capitulate, even in part, to the Left’s scheme of involving the federal government in the business of healthcare? If only 17% of the people are going to be happy, you may as well go for broke and do the right thing. That’s what a conservative deal maker would say, and – yes – I do mean that as a dig to Donald Trump.
The new socialists are strangely anguished over the great missed opportunity to transition from Obamacare to Obamacare-lite. I’m sure they would argue over that characterization of their plan, but if it fails to fully repeal Obamacare (as so often promised) and keeps significant elements of Obamacare, which it does, then they have no argument to stand on. It is Obamacare-lite, and why any self-described conservative would lose sleep trying to salvage it is a mystery to me. Conservatives, on the other hand, are anguished over a much greater missed opportunity: the opportunity to restore the boundaries of the federal government with respect to healthcare as well as the essential notion of personal responsibility, without which the Constitution cannot work. You be the judge of whose mission is more worthy of the dramatic rhetoric we’re hearing.
When I saw my friend at the end of that day, I was a bit worried that our exchange from the morning would be hanging over us still, as so often happens. He is a very nice guy and good friend, and even if he’s misguided about socialized medicine it would sadden me if our friendship was chilled as a consequence of our exchange, but as it turns out I need not have worried. We didn’t speak of it again, but I know that if I wanted to discuss it, he’d listen with an open mind. And I would do the same for him (even though he’s wrong, hee hee hee). I’m good with that.