The New York Times Makes 'The Conservative Case for Obamacare'

The New York Times Sunday Review, run by the ultra-liberal Andrew Rosenthal, again pressed for the Democratic side by running an op-ed that's the #2 most e-mailed Times story as of Monday afternoon, the provocatively titled: "The Conservative Case for Obamacare," by J.D. Kleinke, a resident fellow at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute.

If Mitt Romney’s pivots on President’s Obama’s health care reform act have accelerated to a blur -- from repealing on Day 1, to preserving this or that piece, to punting the decision to the states -- it is for an odd reason buried beneath two and a half years of Republican political condemnations: the architecture of the Affordable Care Act is based on conservative, not liberal, ideas about individual responsibility and the power of market forces.

This fundamental ideological paradox, drowned out by partisan shouting since before the plan’s passage in 2010, explains why Obamacare has only lukewarm support from many liberals, who wanted a real, not imagined, “government takeover of health care.” It explains why Republicans have been unable since its passage to come up with anything better. And it explains why the law is nearly identical in design to the legislation Mr. Romney passed in Massachusetts while governor.

Kleinke severely overstated the amount of support in the early 1990s given by conservatives to a health plan put out by the Heritage Foundation.

The rationalization and extension of the current market is financed by the other linchpin of the law: the mandate that we all carry health insurance, an idea forged not by liberal social engineers at the Brookings Institution but by conservative economists at the Heritage Foundation. The individual mandate recognizes that millions of Americans who could buy health insurance choose not to, because it requires trading away today’s wants for tomorrow’s needs. The mandate is about personal responsibility -- a hallmark of conservative thought.

In the partisan war sparked by the 2008 election, Republicans conveniently forgot that this was something many of them had supported for years. The only thing wrong with the mandate? Mr. Obama also thought it was a good idea.

But he really gave the game away with his hostile portrayal of social conservatives.

Social conservatives’ hostility to the health care act is a natural corollary to their broader agenda of controlling women’s bodies. These are not the objections of traditional “conservatives,” but of agitators for prying, invasive government -- the very things they project, erroneously, onto the workings of the president’s plan. Decrying the legislation for interfering in the doctor-patient relationship, while seeking to pass grossly intrusive laws involving the OB-GYN-patient relationship, is one of the more bizarre disconnects in American politics.

James Capretta at National Review Online was not impressed.

It’s not surprising that the New York Times snapped up an opinion piece entitled “The Conservative Case for Obamacare,” by my American Enterprise Institute colleague J. D. Kleinke. Finally, a truth-teller!

But what is surprising is the obvious superficiality of Kleinke’s arguments. He either doesn’t understand Obamacare and the conservative case against it, or has willfully distorted his descriptions of both to serve his case.

....Does the 2010 law move us closer to an effectively functioning marketplace, as Kleinke claims? Or is it a significant and possibly irreversible step toward establishing federal-government control over the health-care system, as most conservatives contend?

One clue can be found in the views of those who were and are Obamacare’s strongest supporters, such as Peter Orszag, the president’s first director of the Office of Management and Budget. Orszag, along with just about every other left-leaning economist and health-policy analyst, has been spending much of his time lately attacking the notion that market-based reforms could work to control Medicare costs. In his view, the only solution is for the federal government to impose cost-control schemes. Of course, in the Medicare program, the government already has the power to impose such controls, which is why Orszag and others are so adamantly opposed to converting Medicare to a system built on true consumer choice.

Are these the views of someone who wants to see “conservative economic principles” reign supreme, as Kleinke asserts will occur under Obamacare? Of course not.