If You Aren’t Watching Football…

BBC America is replaying the David Tennant episodes of Doctor Who all day today and tomorrow, leading up to the conclusion of “The End of Time.”

Republican Folly Harms Both The Country And Conservative Interests

In December I concluded a post by saying, “The Republicans cannot be taken seriously when they refuse to participate responsibly in the process when there is need for the government to act.” The post discussed the need for a meaningful opposition party which would present opposing solutions to problems, as opposed to the GOP which pretends problems do not exist and opposes any action. Bruce Bartlett, a former adviser to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, makes a similar argument about the problems, including interfering with achieving conservative goals, arising from Republican rigidity.

For example, their position on health care reform is that it’s pure evil–it’s unconstitutional for the government to force anyone to buy health insurance, to tax anyone to pay for someone else’s coverage or interfere with the free market in any way, even if people die as a consequence.

The right-wing solution to the uninsured is simply to define them out of existence. As Dr. John Goodman, one of John McCain’s health advisers, explained to the Dallas Morning News last year, “The next president of the United States should sign an executive order requiring the Census Bureau to cease and desist from describing any American–even illegal aliens–as uninsured….So, there you have it. Voila! Problem solved.” His Orwellian logic is that hospital emergency rooms are by law available even to those that cannot pay; therefore, everyone by definition has health coverage.

Putting aside the stupidity of this position, it’s unrealistic to elect 219 Ron Pauls, Michele Bachmanns or John Goodmans to the House of Representatives, plus 60 more in the Senate and a president who won’t veto their efforts–that’s what it would take to repeal the coming health reform legislation. Nevertheless, right-wingers insist that this is what they will do after the next election–and any Republican not on board can expect someone from the tin-foil-hat brigade to run against them even if it means electing a Democrat instead, as was the case recently in New York’s 23rd Congressional district.

There is no question that there are at least a few sensible conservative ideas about health reform worth considering; malpractice reform is one. And I believe that Democrats desperately wanted a bipartisan bill and would have given a lot to get a few Republicans on board. This undoubtedly would have led to enactment of a better health bill than the one we are likely to get.

But Republicans never put forward an alternative health proposal. Instead, they took the position that our current health system is perfect just as it is. I’m told that the respected health policy analyst at a major conservative think tank was prohibited from offering any criticism of the current system lest it undermine the Republican position that no change is needed.

While conservatives do greatly exaggerate the effect of malpractice on health care costs, it does not make sense to promote plans to cut health care costs while ignoring such costs. If Republicans had participated in the process as opposed to making it clear that, other than perhaps for the Senators from Maine, there was no chance to pick up any Republican votes, they could have influenced the final bill. This would have also decreased the ability of Lieberman and Nelson to demand virtually anything for their vote.

He also discussed how Republicans have lost the opportunity to have a significant decrease in the estate tax by demanding a complete repeal and making it all or nothing:

By 1997, this group was successful in raising the estate tax exemption from $600,000 to $1 million and carving out a special exemption of $1.3 million for family businesses. But this achievement did nothing to even slow down the effort for total repeal. Democrats offered to permanently reduce estate tax rates by 20% across the board, which would have reduced the top rate from 55% to 44%, increase the regular exemption by 15% and the special exemption for family businesses to $2 million.

This proposal was rejected out of hand. It was all or nothing, the Republicans demanded. In 2000, they sent a repeal bill to the White House, where it was promptly vetoed by Bill Clinton. He made it clear that he would have signed a more modest reform bill, as he had signed the 1997 measure, but was opposed to completely exempting great wealth from the estate tax–if only for revenue reasons, since the estate tax contributed $50 billion per year to the Treasury…

In the years since 2001, Democrats have repeatedly made it clear that they were open to some sort of permanent fix to the estate tax. The current situation is absurd and makes it almost impossible to do competent estate planning. As recently as Dec. 3, Democrats passed a bill in the House that would permanently raise the estate tax exemption to $3.5 million and reduce the top rate to 45%. Every Republican voted no. Republicans in the Senate also blocked an effort to enact this legislation there as well.

Republicans claim to be defending the small family business in their demands to abolish the estate tax. If they rejected these limitations they make it clear that their goal is purely to protect the ultra-wealthy, not the small businessman.  Similarly, Republican opposition to health care reform is designed not to promote conservative policies but to protect the health insurance companies. The policies of the Republican Party are not only destructive to the country. They are also counterproductive for those who legitimately support conservative principles as opposed to the actual Republican policies of using government to protect the ultra-wealthy.