To watch the left turn against President Barack Obama’s health care reform is to watch the shattering of an illusion. Liberals’ high-minded plan for insuring all Americans has devolved into a congressional orgy of pork. It has produced a bailout for insurers and a generous subsidy for drugmakers — and both industries are backing this bill to the hilt.
Why wouldn’t insurers support a bill that places a gun at the head of every American and shouts: “Write a check to an insurer, or we’ll send you to jail!”
Independent-thinking liberals are now suffering from buyer’s remorse. Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean called in vain for the death of Obamacare. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann promised to go to prison before he will comply with the bill’s mandate to purchase health insurance. Markos Moulitsas of the liberal Daily Kos wrote on Twitter: “Insurance companies win. Time to kill this monstrosity coming out of the Senate.”
But none of them will learn the underlying lesson that the legislative process tried to teach them. The free market is a harsh mistress, but a fair one. Big Government, on the other hand, is always for sale to the powerful.
It should come as no surprise, given the concentration of power and of other people’s money in one place, that everyone hires lobbyists to buy themselves a bigger piece of the pie. It should be no shock that insurers and drugmakers spend millions lobbying for regulations and carve-outs that will help them.
Our lobbying editor and columnist, Tim Carney, finds new examples of such regulatory robber-barons and corporate profiteers every week. When Wal-Mart lobbies for higher minimum wages, environmental standards and mandatory health care that Mom and Pop cannot afford, it’s not atypical — it’s “dog bites man.” When Mattel, the company that started the entire lead-toy scare, subsequently lobbies for lead-testing requirements that will put small toy-makers out of business, it is as surprising as water running downhill.
Even before the young Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama tried to provide new housing subsidies for Chicago’s poor, it was already inevitable that those dollars would line the pockets of Tony Rezko — or if not him then some other unscrupulous developer who knew his way around Springfield, Ill.
That a well-connected consultant like Mark Penn can land wasteful, make-work stimulus contracts is as easy to believe as Washington getting a day off after a 10-foot snowfall.
That’s how Big Government works. It’s inevitable. And you can’t be surprised by any of this unless you’re a liberal.
Principled, respectable liberals are hopelessly naïve about government and its inherent shortcomings. When they see government money wasted and large corporations buying influence, they earnestly call for more rules — Transparency! Reform! Campaign finance regulations! — as though no one will find a way around the new rules. As though the ongoing game of government plunder in Washington is any less damaging to our nation when we’re able to watch it happen in high-definition.
That explains the left’s rude awakening on Obamacare. In the legislative process, liberals have seen their juicy steaks devoured by savage beasts. They fail to appreciate that they caused this problem by placing their precious cattle in the middle of a wolf pack.
David Freddoso is the Washington Examiner’s online opinion editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.