I don't want to be overconfident in my predictions, as obviously I'm rather invested in the health care issue. I don't know what's going to happen in November, and to the extent that I do know, it's because I think the broad macro forces simply aren't going to improve much in the next six months. Maybe Obama will even get a bump out of the polls--and maybe Republicans will unleash their publicity push, and the tea party will go nuts, and he'll fall (a possibility progressives seem curiously unwilling to entertain, even to dismiss it). I think the latter is more likely than the former, but I just don't know; we're in uncharted territory.
But this I am confident of: they're not going to "pass this bill and then fix it," and the people saying that this should be the priority of people who are against the bill--including people like Rep. Lynch--seems borderline delusional. You think the Democrats are going to take up health care again this term? Given that they look more likely than not to lose the House, you think Democrats are going to take it up again before these laws go into effect?
Those like my colleague Andrew, who want Republicans to turn to the task of improving this monstrous bill--how is that going to happen? The "fixes" are all the unpopular stuff: the taxes, the spending cuts. You think that now that Democrats got to hand out the goodies, Republicans are going to be the nasty folks who volunteer to hand around the bill for a law they didn't even want to pass?
Every time I hear comments on this sort of thing, I want to say, "And what other things have you been wondering during your visit to our planet?" I am not perfectly confident about much in regards to this bill. Maybe I'm wrong and politicians won't step in to stop the unpopular stuff already in the bill from happening. Maybe they'll actually bend the curve. Maybe this won't impact innovation (I don't see how that could possibly be, but whatevs, maybe my imagination is limited).
But there is one thing of which I am nearly perfectly certain: If we pass this thing, no American politician, left or right, is going to cut any of these programs, or raise the broad-based taxes necessary to pay for them, without any compensating goodies to offer the public . . . until the crisis is almost upon us. I can think of no situation, other than impending crisis, in which such a thing has been done--and usually, as with Social Security, they have done just little enough to kick the problem down the road. The idea that you pass a program of dubious sustainability because you can always make it sustainable later, seems borderline insane. I can't think of a single major entitlement that has become more sustainable over time. Why is this one supposed to be different?
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is a columnist at Bloomberg View
and a former senior editor at The Atlantic.
Her new book is The Up Side of Down