President Barack Obama seems willing to reconsider the centerpiece of his health care bill, the so-called “individual mandate” — that is, the requirement that everyone hold health insurance, like it or not.
That provision has stuck in the craw of Americans, who are feeling more libertarian now that they are seeing Big Government in action. Even some lefties are against the health-insurance mandate; one blogger referred to the requirement as “one-feudalism,” that is, enserfing people to insurance companies.
Yet while a few ornery leftists are against the individual mandate, activist Democrats are solidly for it, not because they love the insurance companies, but because they look forward to socializing the insurance companies.
In this reckoning, a government edict that everyone must be insured is just a way station on the long road to the ultimate goal — the fine day when the government “gives” everyone health insurance.
This is the long view, but plenty on the left take that long view. Remember the Fabian Society? That was the group of 19th century British socialists, named after a slow-but-successful Roman general, who advocated a slow-but-successful socialist transition for England.
Early members included George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells, but, in addition, every Labour Prime Minister has been a member of the society. In other words, the Fabians succeeded. And Exhibit A of their success is the British National Health Service, a “single payer” cradle-to-grave bureaucracy that has grown steadily for the past 64 years. Heaven on earth.
Not surprisingly, the NHS is an object of veneration to the American left. For example, back in 2008, Donald Berwick, later appointed by Obama to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, traveled to the UK to profess his faith: “I am romantic about the National Health Service. I love it.”
So one might guess that Berwick’s true goal, back here, is to see a similar system for America. No more shilly-shallying around with an individual mandate, or with private insurance companies, just get right to the real thing: NHS USA.
So that’s a historical perspective to keep in mind when we see The New York Times headline from last week: “Obama Backs Easing State Health Law Mandates,” The president told the nation’s governors that he would support legislation allowing waivers for the states on mandates — provided the states impose, in effect, their own insurance mandates.
For the left, it’s time for a little zigzagging on the long march, but not too much. Obama and the Democrats realize by now that the Obamacare legislation was a bridge too far; the voters didn’t like it.
And so Obama, Berwick & Co. try to keep hope alive, even in Tea Partying times. As one Democratic pollster, Jeffrey Liszt, recently told a DC conference of the liberal activist group Families USA, there’s reason to believe that Obamacare represents a permanent ratchet leftward.
“The longer the act is in effect,” he declared, “the more ownership people take of some of these benefits.” In other words, with enough time, people will grow to like their government health insurance.
That’s the plan for health care. And right now it’s still working, even if a few governors wangle some tiny waivers.
James P. Pinkerton was a domestic policy aide to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and now is a Fox News contributor and editor of SeriousMedicineStrategy.org.