Widgets Magazine


The Right Got It Wrong: “The Healthcare ‘Rage'”

Erica Morgan gets it backward in “Get It Right: The Health Care ‘Rage’” when she argues that in theorizing that race relations play a role in the vitriolic resistance to the Obama agenda, liberals are simply repeating a stock response instead of making “substantive counter-arguments.” Liberals suggest that the opposition might have something to do with race because the “substantive” arguments raised by leaders on the Right have, well, plainly lacked substance. Morgan’s analysis is a perfect example.

Morgan characterizes the passage of Health Care Reform as “usurpation and tyranny” citing a poll showing that 54 percent of Americans opposed the bill before the House’s final vote. It’s true that polls have consistently shown a divided country on the issue of health care reform. But it is hardly tyrannical for the party that made major electoral gains in the past election to recognize division and still opt for its own agenda – an agenda made crystal clear during the campaign. That is how Democratic Republics work. As Republican Representative Paul Ryan explained, if the Democrats want to use their majority in both houses of Congress to pass a bill “it’s their right. They did win the election.” Furthermore, polls have revealed that a statistically significant portion of opposition has come from the Left, who wish for socialized medicine, something this reform does NOT include. Are the Democrats thus “tyrants” for brokering a compromise that both extremes of the political spectrum are uncomfortable about?

This is another reason why Republican critiques fall flat: Health Care Reform is not socialized medicine. Rather, the plan is a moderate compromise similar to many past Republican proposals. The Act preserves and indeed strengthens private insurance. Low-income uninsured Americans receive subsidies to buy private insurance, and the mandate that Republicans so abhor will result in the purchase of private insurance. Moreover, the bill makes deep cuts in Medicare, the “socialist” part of the American “health care system.” Republicans decry these cuts. Newt Gingrich, who once shut down the Federal Government in an effort to bully President Clinton into dismantling Medicare, now criticizes this bill for weakening the entitlement program he once loathed.

Arguments about the individual mandate have been similarly confused. The proposal was originally a conservative one, largely initiated by the Heritage Foundation, grounded in the notion of personal responsibility. Because those who get sick will ultimately receive care, mandating health insurance, in Mitt Romney’s words, ensures “no more free-riders.” Those who wish to ride free will pay a tax for reckless behavior. This is an underpinning of the health care bill that Romney passed when he was governor of Massachusetts.

In another reverse course, conservatives now argue that the mandate is unconstitutional.  But these claims are likely to fail. Congress may regulate activities that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce. This is true even when the activities are inherently local and personal, a principle explained as recently as 2005, when the Supreme Court upheld federal laws prohibiting home grown marijuana. Conservative stalwart Justice Antonin Scalia concurred in that decision. Health care costs have become a major drag on the competitiveness of our economy. The free rider problem – which partly explains our skyrocketing health care premiums – has a substantial effect on interstate commerce.

The Constitutional challenge has also been grounded in the notion of states’ rights.  Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is bringing a claim on the grounds of nullification, a doctrine long deemed unconstitutional and which John C. Calhoun advocated in order to maintain slavery. Mitt Romney has defended his mandate because it was a state prerogative rather than a Federal one. Of course these Federalist arguments are muddled considering that the leading Republican reform initiative would be for the Federal government to impose tort liability caps in state courts.

Morgan lists a “plethora of objections to the bill.” Liberals acknowledge such objections, but when they are rife with inconsistencies, we have to ask if something more is going on.

Notwithstanding Michael Steele, Condoleezza Rice and Clarence Thomas, it is undisputable that African Americans overwhelmingly support a party whose agenda explicitly seeks to promote equality. In contrast, for the last 40-plus years, the political strategy of the Republican Party has included attempts to co-opt racist elements of the populace. Richard Nixon, who believed blacks to be “genetically inferior,” engineered a “Southern Strategy” to court angry Whites. Ronald Reagan began his “states’ rights” presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, a town with a history of white supremacy. George H.W. Bush promised to keep the Willie Hortons in jail. Republican Senator Trent Lott explained that in his opinion we could have avoided “all these problems” by electing segregationist Strom Thurmond president in 1948.

And now, anti-reform protestors spit on John Lewis, as segregationists once did, and delude themselves into believing that nullification is constitutional but regulation and taxes are not. It seems legitimate to ask how all this rage has been generated by a moderate health care bill modeled on a plan enacted by a Republican governor.

Jimmy Bierman
Stanford Law School ‘12

  • mike garber

    There are so many glaring problems with your “article”, that it would take an article in response to point them out. Instead, I will say two things that are of particular importance. These have to do with the racism claims that have thus far been groundless. Of course there are racists on both sides (be serious with yourself and you see it) and it is unfortunate that those fringes get pushed to the front when any opposition seeks to nullify a protest.

    With all the cameras running at these rallies protesting the bill, how many caught the spitting? So many that he has backed down from the claim because it is without merit. Same story with the n-word and the homosexual claims. It makes for a great story, but with no evidence whatsoever (even with a $100K reward for video or audio), it holds no water.

    Second, your claims that the Republican party as a whole is racist- although you left yourself an out by using the phrase “co-opt racist elements”, instead of saying “racist”. Interesting, since Repulicans, as a party, pushed for de-segregation. Also interesting that you claim Democrats so clearly run on a platform of equality. If you were honest with yourself, you would find it is a platform of oppression. True Republicans are about individual liberty and success. Democrats have run the Nation’s large cities for decades…and we see their deterioration. If people aren’t oppressed, they don’t need to rely on you for everything, and then you lose power. Republicans have done it, too. And the conservative base abandoned them until they showed backbone and integrity again.

    The bill isn’t about insurance, it is about a massive expansion of power by imposing a mandate requiring everyone to purchase an item. At the same time, it also restricts insurance companies from dropping individuals and refusing coverage for pre-existing conditions (a good idea). The problem is that it will cost less to pay the fine to the IRS, then be granted insurance in hosptial waiting room, than to carry insurance continually. This will result in a migration from private insurance companies by healthy individuals. I can’t afford to be without insurance, so I can’t do this and save thousands of dollars a year. I’d rather pay a fine of $800 than a premium of $4000.

    And if I am wrong about this bill…I welcome it! I don’t mind being wrong, just prove it to me, and I gladly accept the fact that I’m human.

    On a personal note, good luck with your education, and I appreciate the ability to comment on your article. We may disagree, but isn’t wonderful that we can? (by the way, this comment is posted via mobile phone, so I apologize for incorrect spelling or grammatical typos).

  • Feeling duped yet?

    Thurmond was a, uhhhhh….oh yeah a Democrat. You also seem to have left out Harry Reid’s long list of negro comments. And who was that senator from West Virginia that was a member of the KKK?, I forget, but I think his last name is Byrd or something. I’m old enough to remember which party tried to block the Civil rights bill back in ’64, obviously you are not. With arguments like yours, I seriously question the Law School’s admission policies.

  • Staffer

    Yes the Dems were the party to block Civil Rights and yes there are racists are both sides but you all are missing the point. The Author was simply refuting the points that the original Op-Ed author was making. In the case of the race issue – She was basically saying that race played no role here.. but it did. Cameras DID catch the spitting. John Lewis said he had not seen such anger and ferocity in protests since the 1960s, and his colleagues agreed. Not just anger towards the black members though, Barney Frank also echoed similiar remarks saying the level of homophobic remarks coming from the protestors towards him were unmistakable and unforgiveable. Lastly, as a result of this bill becoming law, several lawmakers (black, white, and green) reported receiving numerous death threats towards their familes, staff, and themselves.

    The Original Op-Ed author was talking about why people were SO angry with the bill (she said ‘No, its not because their racist, or because there is a racial element’), and the above author was refuting that claim among the many others made in the original article.

  • mike garber

    And what lawmakers actually had things more than threats levied at them? A Virginia Democrat had a gas line cut for voting for it, and a Virginia Republican had a bullet through his office and video threats from a PA man for voting against it. And where was the outrage over threats made toward Bush? Granted I don’t look at those 8 years as us having a great President, but there was vitriole spewed the likes of which this debate has not seen.

    The problem is that with all the cameras rolling from the press and from protesters, there is not one that shows what these claims are. John Lewis is even backing down on the spit since most video shows that it is likely spittle from a yelling protester. Even with the Capitol Police surrounding the lawmakers, none have come forward and said these things actually happened.

    The problem is not race…it is a massive power grab continued from the Bush administration. I understand that the Op-ed piece is trying to refute this, but the facts don’t add up at all. Of course there are people who racially charge everything, and they are wrong–but to turn everyone into a racist for not liking the bill; or to say that the “rage” is racially motivated is just pathetic. Everything in the article points to Republicans and those in opposition to this bill as being racist–and that does a disservice to everyone-escpecially the writer. It is a way to silence debate and belittle critics.

  • Rafi

    I find it a bit comical that yet again, Garber and “feeling duped yet?” chose to focus on the vitriolics and hullabaloo surrounding the overall debate rather than the merits of the bill. Garber’s comment about how the fine for the individual mandate may be less than premiums has some merit but at the end of the day that in and of itself was one of the compromises pointed out by Mr. Bierman. Returning to the Civil Rights debate, I think one of the central assertions that Republicans supported de-segregation, while dubious, discounts the fact that over the last 25 years party affiliation has become more aligned with ideology and voting record than it was in the 25 years previous to that. The argument that Thurmond was a Dem supports that view. In the 1950s and 1960s, the voting blocs consisted primarily of regional caucuses (i.e. the Southern Dems would most likely be Republicans today) than of outright Democrats versus Republicans. To that extent, the notion that politics has become more partisan while having some merit falls short of explaining why legislation like the Health Care bill passed largely on party line votes (that is to say no republicans voted for it). The Republican party rather than realize that it has moved too far to the right believes that in order to regain leverage on Congress it must “return” to it’s core beliefs of obstructionism and small government (yet where were they when President Bush took the surplus coming out of the Clinton administration and drove the federal government into insurmountable deficits and debt?). I too agree that rational discourse is great and everyone has a right to his/her opinion but let’s “get it right” – over the past 2 years the Republicans have abandoned any substantive agenda in favor of trying to undermine the Democrat’s attempts to move this nation forward.

  • mike garber

    I focused on that since this is what the OP-ed focused on. We meed health insurance reform. Our health care is top notch.The “merits” of Bill are still muddy since what they said was in the bill, isn’t; what isn’t is, and we still don’t know when what takes effect and how much it costs. The bill still leaves 30M uninsured. The bill creates a Health Care “army” to be called up by the President. The bill gives a big loophole to insurance, but leaves it wide open to drop them all together in favor of fine until insurance is needed. The bill hires 16000 new government workers in the IRS alone. It does nothing to support the economy or the private sector-where the Country is really hurting. Forbes claims that the bill will cost the US many privately owned clinics. Added taxes will continue to burden the citizens. The taxes will be felt by all classes because the taxes will be on alcohol, tobacco, soda, fast food; etc. Higher income wage earners will see it hit their paychecks most. Companies pass it along to their employees and to the consumers. The next thing you know you end up with gas at $13 gallon to help spread the burden even more. We already have doctors and clinics that do not accept government healthcare because they get denied or don’t get paid. The programs are trillions in debt. You expect to believe this bill that was rushed through without even the President being able to extol its virtues fixes all of this?

    Please let me be wrong. But I’m not holding my breath to find out whether the numbers add up…they never have and they never will.

    I understand the dems want to move the nation “forward”, I just don’t think their form of “forward” is the right direction. You can sit in DC and move “forward” to NY, FL, CA, Japan, Cuba, Germany, Peru, anywhere. It is a word game. No one wants to move “backward”, but we fail to realize that there are innumerable “forwards”.

    As in my first comment, prove me wrong that this is actually looking out for the little guy, and not a massive grab of power continued from the Bush administration. I haven’t seen common sense in DC since I was kid, and it has certainly not been anywhere in the last 10 years, at least.

    I’ll b the first to admit I am wrong. I just don’t see it.

  • Staffer

    “it is a massive power grab continued from the Bush administration”

    There are major differences between the policies of the Bush Administration and this Healthcare Reform Law of the Obama Administration. Sure they can both be construed as a ‘Power Grab’, but are inherently different.

    A lot of Bush’s policies were illegal. Take wiretapping for instance, or the rest of the huge encroachment of government power on individual liberty. Just last week judges in California ruled that the Bush Administration had illegally wiretapped American citizens. This new law is legal and constitutional for reasons discussed in the op-ed.

    Bush’s policies were also arguably unethical: the wiretapping example mentioned above, but also the lying to the American people and the world about the reasons for going to war is another great example. Obama made it crystal clear in his campaign what he wanted to do with healthcare reform, and the American people voted him in.

    The fact of the matter remains the President and the Congress not only have the power to enact change like the recently passed healthcare law, they have a mandate to do so – given that they were voted in by the American People.

    As for the racism element, I would argue that not everyone is racist who disliked the bill and the opposition wasn’t necessarily racially fueled. But that the elements of racism were and are present- they just arent necessarily central to the whole opposition. And I think that’s what Jimmy was trying to say -, that the racist elements were clearly there (on both sides maybe).

    I will once again re-state what Jimmy and the original New York Times author was asking, and I think its a fair question:

    Why all the rage (if the law is legal, constitutional, and mandated by the American public who voted the people in who got the bill passed into law)?

    Why were they so angry to the point where some Congressional offices had to lock their doors out of fear?

    Why were they so angry to the point where some members got spit on and got called heinous words of hate?

    The US Congress just has not seen protests to this level in a long time, about anything. And all we’re asking is: where is the rage coming from if it cant come from legality based, or mandate based issues?

  • Patrick G

    To Staffer:

    “The US Congress just has not seen protests to this level in a long time, about anything. And all we’re asking is: where is the rage coming from if it cant come from legality based, or mandate based issues?”

    Your premises are wrong. “it cant come from legality based, or mandate based issues?” Really? There’s no question about the legality of the law? Seriously? The only argument put forth in this editorial regarding legality was citing a 2005 Supreme Court ruling regarding home-grown marijuana. You believe that was a correct interpretation of the Constitution? You believe that decision ALONE answers the many constitutional challenges facing this bill (10th amendment, privacy, equal treatment under the law, etc)?

    Furthermore, “The US Congress just has not seen protests to this level in a long time, about anything.” What about all the death threats against Bush? The comparisons to Hitler and the Nazis? And even a state comptroller stating he wanted to put a bullet between Bush’s eyes?

    But by all means though, continue engaging in ad hominem attacks. Just remember it’s no different from when Republicans were claiming you “hate America” for the last 8 years.

  • Patrick G

    One more thing: The author glibly writes off the “notion” of state’s rights and the supposedly unconstitutional doctrine of nullification by mentioning that they were used in support of slavery. It should also be noted that these ideas were also used in opposition to the Fugitive Slave Acts and many other things. It’s clearly not a code-word for racism as many people say and as the author implied.

  • mike garber

    Well said Patrick G. I don’t see much else to add to your posts. The attacks against the opposition are cookie cutter and not at all unique. The attacks have also been proven wrong, or without merit many times (i.e. The spitting and the heinous name calling. not on video or audio, and nothing done by the police. In addition, John Lewis backs down from the claim…smells of fakery). The left is much more violent and vitriolic than the right…lookat the facts.