Noted for April 3, 2013
"Reconstructing Macroeconomics" Exchange: Mervyn King, Ben Bernanke, Olivier Blanchard, Axel Weber, Larry Summers

Jonathan Chait on the Sad Excuse for a Republican Policy Infrastructure


Jonathan Chait:

Pretend GOP Urged to Adopt Imaginary Health Plan: You, in the clown makeup -- you seem to have some innovative proposals for state level high risk insurance pools you want to propose. Yuval Levin… and Ramesh Ponnuru have a (paywalled) cover story in National Review urging Republicans to stand fast in their fanatical determination to repeal Obamacare. As a piece of policy analysis, it is not remotely persuasive. What is interesting… the delicate balance… authors… coax the partisan rage of the party faithful toward their desired policy ends… avoiding any engagement with the cruelty and indifference of the actual Republican agenda…. This passage jumps out as especially telling:

The law also vastly expands Medicaid, which is a crummy form of insurance: Researchers who compare the program’s beneficiaries with people who have no insurance at all often have a hard time finding much of a difference in health.

There’s a common talking point on the right that Medicaid doesn’t make its recipients any better off…. [A]s Jonathan Cohn and Austin Frakt have patiently explained… people who enroll on Medicaid tend to have serious health problems…. Levin and Ponnuru are honest enough to cage their version of the Medicaid-doesn’t-help claim in weasel words — “often have a hard time finding much of a difference in health” — that, if you think about them carefully, strip it of most of its punch…. Likewise, Ponnuru and Levin lambaste Obamacare for its failed gesture of helping really sick people before the main plan goes into effect by setting up special state-level insurance pools…. Fair enough. High-risk pools are pretty lousy, even as a stopgap solution. But when we get to the section of the article where they have to come up with their own proposal to insure really sick people, I see this:

conservatives should commit to funding well-designed high-risk pools to cover the health-care expenses of sick people who have been failed by the current system.

Wait — they’re proposing the same thing they lambasted Obama for enacting eight paragraphs earlier! What’s the difference? Okay, their high-risk pools would be “well-designed”… a magic wand that allows them to counterpose an imaginary alternative against an actually existing one. Using the power of fantasy, they have transformed the Republican Party’s actual plan to impose massive financial risk and deprivation upon the poor and sick into an earnest search for a more technocratically pure alternative….

The GOP has held countless votes to repeal Obamacare and replace it with nothing…. This is the plan. Republicans have had so many chances to replace Obamacare…. Republicans haven’t done so…. [T]hey’d rather keep taxes low than spend money to cover the uninsured…. [A]ll Levin and Ponnuru are doing is providing intellectual cover to the party’s drive to make 50 million Americans fend for themselves.