Case closed

On health care, the Right has won the argument

By Andy Matthews
  • Tuesday, August 4, 2009

It should be obvious by now to anyone following the debate over health care reform that the Right has won the argument, and won it big.

A bold, premature statement? Not at all. The preponderance of the evidence leaves room for no other conclusion.

First, there have been a number of implicit concessions from either President Obama or supporters of his health care plan that amount to an admission of defeat.

We know that a chief objective of the President's plan is to eliminate, eventually, all private insurance options in favor of a government-run, single-payer system. We know this because such a system naturally results from introducing a "public option" into the marketplace to compete, on unfair terms, with private insurers who don't enjoy the benefits of taxpayer subsidization. Presuming he has even a basic grasp of how markets work, the President surely is aware of this.

But we also know it thanks to new footage that has surfaced of the President, back in 2003, stating, clearly and unequivocally, his support for a single-payer system. "I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer, universal health care plan," he said. The video also includes Democratic Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts opining just last month that the "public option" is "the best way to reach single-payer," as well as a statement from Obama in 2007 that, again, makes clear his desire to see a single-payer system.

So we know that a single-payer system is the end goal here. Yet the President and his surrogates are doing everything in their power to convince us that this isn't the case.

Here's Obama on June 15, in a speech to the American Medical Association: "What are not legitimate concerns are those being put forward claiming a public option is somehow a Trojan horse for a single-payer system." He went on to add that, "when you hear the naysayers claim that I'm trying to bring about government-run health care, know this — they are not telling the truth." Additionally, the administration has, in response to the new, damning footage from 2003 and 2007, released a video of its own, in which a White House official tries (unsuccessfully and pathetically) to demonstrate that Obama's statements didn't really mean what they so obviously meant.

That the administration has resorted to such deceit is, partly, how we know the Right has won the argument. The President and his supporters want a single-payer system, but the case for such a system has been so thoroughly destroyed by a combination of free-market think tanks, conservative and libertarian public officials, and ordinary, clear-thinking citizens that its proponents have been reduced to blatant dishonesty about their intentions.

The other reason we know the argument has been won is public polling. A recent Rasmussen poll finds that just 47 percent of voters favor the President's health care proposal, while 49 percent oppose. More significantly, only 25 percent strongly favor the plan, while 41 percent strongly oppose it.

The Rasmussen poll is no anomaly. Polls from NBC/The Wall Street Journal, the Pew Research Center, NPR and FOX News all show even stronger opposition to the President's plan than does Rasmussen. Even more important is that the polls that have tracked public opinion over the past few months show support for the plan waning, and opposition growing.

This means that, as the debate over the merits of the President's plan has progressed, and voters have had more time to learn about the plan and hear both sides present their case, they have found the Right's arguments to be more persuasive. Given the number of additional problems with the plan that are still yet to become public knowledge, this trend is unlikely to reverse itself. The President and his supporters certainly have digested all this, which further explains their attempts to distance themselves from the plan's true intentions.

So from the viewpoint of those who oppose a government takeover of the American health care system, the policy argument has been won. But does that mean it's time to uncork the champagne? No way.

On paper, the Left still has the upper hand. There are more than enough Democrats in both the House and the Senate to ram this plan through, and all it will take is convincing enough of the so-called "Blue Dogs" to return to the fold.

And after all, were the Left to win the policy battle despite losing the argument on the merits, it would hardly be the first time. You don't see universal school choice anywhere, do you?

Still, for the Right, winning the argument was a necessary, if not a sufficient, condition for winning the policy battle. This thing has a long way to go, but opponents of government-run health care have gained some crucial ground in the past few months.

Andy Matthews is vice president for communications at the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

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