The Onward March Of ObamaCare - by John Ellis

A study in gullibility and treachery.


[Editor's note: This article is reprinted from]

No group has done more to promote the public funding of abortions than the Catholic bishops of America. That might well surprise them, flushed as they are with their success in making a deal in the House in which they supported passage of the Pelosi bill in exchange for an amendment barring public funding of abortions. But when you make a deal with people whose strategic goals are diametrically opposed to yours, you must be careful that what you get is not a temporary tactical retreat that can be reversed at any time, while what you have given is a huge and lasting strategic advantage.

That principle had already been illustrated plainly enough when Olympia Snowe helped to vote the Baucus bill out of committee because it ruled out the public option, which she opposed. Within days, Harry Reid had put the public option back in the bill that was now before the full Senate. Snowe had given a major boost to the momentum of ObamaCare by moving the bill on with bipartisan support, but the concession she thought she had secured was immediately cancelled. Who did most to boost the public option's chances that week? Why, Olympia Snowe, whose gullibility had been cynically exploited by the Democrats.

The bishops had given a far greater boost to ObamaCare than had Snowe: they actually endorsed the bill, and the slim margin of its victory in the House might not have been there without them. But when questioned by John Boehner, Henry Waxman frankly admitted that there was no guarantee that the amendment would still be there as the bill progressed toward final passage. In other words, he and Pelosi had simply pocketed their priceless gain, and if they could betray the bishops, they would. But the bishops should not have needed to be told this. What Pelosi is aiming for is government-run health care. When all health care is government provided, how could anyone doubt that abortion services will be publicly funded, just like any other service?

Other groups have made the same short-sighted deals, in which they have either acquiesced in or actively supported the progress of ObamaCare in exchange for concessions that they believed would protect their particular interests. The AMA supported the bill in exchange for concessions that would reduce planned cuts in pay for doctors; insurance companies at one stage supported it because they thought they'd get more customers as more people were forced to buy insurance; drug companies supported it in exchange for concessions on drug price reductions. In every case, the Democrats had been able to exploit the gullible and get them to accelerate the momentum of a process whose ultimate goal is their ruin.

What none of them seemed able to grasp was that the strategic goal toward which Reid and Pelosi were relentlessly advancing was something that would inevitably remove all of the protections they thought they had negotiated for themselves. The subsidized public option that Pelosi and Reid want would inevitably drive private insurers out of business, leaving the government as sole provider of health care, including abortions. When that happens government will also control drug prices, as well as conditions of work and pay for doctors. How could private insurers and drug companies fail to see that the people driving this process loathe them and cannot wait to cut them and their "obscene" profits down to size? How could doctors fails to understand that no matter what assurances they are given to secure passage of the bill, their inevitable fate under government-run health care will be a higher workload and much reduced salaries?

The archetype of the suicidal short-sighted deal will always be Neville Chamberlain's Munich pact with Hitler. What Chamberlain got was temporary and unreliable: a promise of no more territorial demands that could be reneged on at any time, from a man who already had a track record of reneging on promises. What he gave in return was a huge and permanent boost to Nazi strength and momentum: Czechoslovakia's industry, raw materials and manpower. In September of 1938, not even the most dedicated and energetic Nazi did as much to propel Nazism forward as Chamberlain did.

But this is the kind of one-sided bargain that all of these groups have been making with ObamaCare: in exchange for assurances that are worthless, because they are fundamentally in conflict with the strategic goals of Pelosi and Reid, they have given a huge boost to something that must eventually result in their worst nightmare. Chamberlain's wishful thinking would not allow him to see the power-mad glint in Hitler's eye, and the same unwillingness to see that glint is at work in the health care debate. Appeasing a hungry monster never works: it grabs what it is offered, and immediately wants more, and more.

The bishops are unlikely to learn anything from the betrayal that Waxman openly admitted to. In the Senate, they will likely allow themselves to be paid off with the same debased coin that already proved itself worthless in the House. They will again be proud of getting an amendment that bars abortions just as they are lending their considerable weight to a process that will lead inexorably to the opposite result. And in so doing, they will have deflected attention from the real issues that waverers should have been unable to stomach: the massive addition to an already disastrous budget deficit, huge cost increases for heath care, and a public option that will degrade its quality. "Moderates" will think their moderation sufficiently proved by their vote for abortion funding restrictions, and contentedly vote for a destructive and extremist bill. And one day the bishops will wake up to find that all their muscle-flexing had only led to the very result that they had most feared.

The bishops, the insurers, the doctors, and the drug companies all need to grasp the rather simple fact that their own strategic goals are fundamentally in conflict with those of Pelosi and Reid, and that the public option is at the center of that conflict. For all of them, making deals that allow the public option bandwagon to gather speed is sheer folly. The only way in which they can genuinely protect their interests is by stopping it, now.

John Ellis is President of the California Association of Scholars, and a Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Santa Cruz.