In 1850, Frederic Bastiat wrote in The Law that “Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.”
This is the classic mistake ABC late night host Jimmy Kimmel, an example of an average human white male comedian who did his best work over a decade ago on The Man Show and who has consistently failed upward, is making in his analysis of the Republican effort to shift Obamacare funding back to the states via Graham-Cassidy. It reveals the inability to have any kind of debate across partisan lines regarding health care spending at the federal level: Kimmel is so convinced of the rightness of his cause and the truth of his baseless and incorrect analysis of a piece of legislation that he will continue on this jaunt without any amount of self-reflection or consideration that maybe, just maybe, he might be wrong.
— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) September 21, 2017
Perhaps the best part of Kimmel’s rant is where he says Graham-Cassidy is a gift to the insurance lobby, operating from a typically leftist frame which assumes every Republican step is a gift to industry and every Democratic step is looking out for the little guy. Guess what: the health-insurance lobby opposes Graham-Cassidy, as they have opposed every single repeal plan of any kind (the only plans they have supported are those which, lo and behold, bail out their industry with other people’s money).
Phillip Wegmann writes: “Jimmy Kimmel has recreated himself. Where the late night comic once stood, an inflatable liberal tube man now waves franticly and flaps hysterically to warn about the evils of rolling back Obamacare. It’s not funny, and worse, it’s not even original… [I]f Republicans love those corporations, the corporations don’t love Republicans back. Less than 24 hours after Kimmel’s speech, 1,300 health insurance companies under the umbrella of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the leading insurance group in the nation, opposed the Graham-Cassidy bill.”
One of the problems with having the national discussion led by lightly informed celebrities such as Jimmy Kimmel is that people begin to believe their own rhetoric, in this case that Republican health-insurance reformers are motivated by sheer malice or by obscure financial considerations. (Never mind that the biggest financial players in this case, the insurance companies themselves, oppose current Republican reform efforts and largely supported the ACA.) That makes discussing the actual problems at hand, and potential solutions to them, difficult or impossible. Republicans made a critical mistake in 2008 and 2009 when they rejected the enterprise of health-insurance reform per se, repeatedly insisting only that “we have the finest health-care system in the world,” oblivious to the fact that a great many Americans were unhappy about that system or anxious, with good reason, about the security and cost of their own health-care benefits. Democrats are today making the same mistake: Obamacare is now sacred writ so far as they are concerned, and the prospect of revisiting it a profanity. But, of course, many Americans remain dissatisfied with the current state of health insurance, and Republicans are taking small, awkward steps toward addressing that.
It is not the case, as Kimmel and others insist, that the Graham-Cassidy bill would throw 30 million people off their insurance plans or that it would simply cut off federal funding for insurance subsidies in 2026. Such dishonest histrionics do not advance the cause of responsible health-insurance reform. It would permit the states to seek waivers from the federal preexisting-conditions regulation and experiment with different approaches of their own. Ironically, the effectiveness of the Democrats’ charge that modifying the preexisting-conditions rule would see Americans dying in the streets illustrates why such painful changes are unlikely to be proposed or to pass: Such measures are unpopular, and state governments are held democratically accountable to their people, often in a much more immediate and rigorous way than the federal government is. Experimenting with different approaches to preexisting conditions would in fact be desirable; there is no reason to suppose that the best solution for New Jersey is also the best solution for Oklahoma, and the only thing that is entirely clear about the preexisting-conditions approach put forward in the ACA is that it is not working.
Last night I saw Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy make their case for their proposal on Fox News – the former in a slick presentation to Bret Baier, the latter in a decidedly non-slick presentation to Martha MacCallum. Both were exceedingly polite to Kimmel, bending over backwards to be polite to a 49 year old man who still goes by Jimmy and whose most famous comedy routine is about sex with Ben Affleck. They should not be so polite (or maybe they should, they’re politicians and I am not). What I would say is: Read a book. Do your research. Understand that federal requirements in Obamacare didn’t exist until just a few years ago and that the number of people denied coverage for a pre-existing condition was minuscule prior to that, and are mitigated under this legislation. Don’t assume you know what you’re talking about. And definitely don’t lecture the rest of the country from a pretentious moral high-ground based on an utter misunderstanding of your subject matter, you partisan hack.