Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Liberals Beat Conservatives on Health Care

Conservatives use the phrase “free market economics” to mean private competition in the marketplace, under the rule of law, as the basis of good economic policy. In the case of the health care policy debate, “free market” terminology turned out to be a toxic asset.

Ask the average person across the breadth and width of America about the merits of the free market and replies will include, among others, the following:

the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression;
home foreclosures;
high unemployment;
runaway government spending under Republicans;
massive bonuses in financial firms that needed government bailouts to survive;
rising insurance premiums for individuals.

“Free market” was the wrong phrase at the wrong time in the wrong place to defeat Obamacare. Although economists in universities and think tanks published studies offering better, market-oriented ways to improve access and reduce costs, including tort reform, interstate competition, health savings accounts, and deductibility of premiums for self-employed persons, these analyses failed to carry the day. Those responsible for enforcing the rules of market competition during the Bush years failed to do their job, helping discredit proponents of “free market” approaches to health care.

Might the same happen in the arenas of financial reform, education reform, and renewable energy alternatives? Might liberals celebrate more victories before the year is over?

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