In a blogpost about health reform last week, I expressed myself poorly, and Phil Klein of the Washington Examiner rightly corrects my mistake. The poor expression occurred in the course of a reply to a prior piece by Phil.
In that piece, Phil had written as follows:
Some of us simply don’t believe that the way to fix our health care system is for the government — whether at the federal or state level — to mandate, regulate and subsidize the purchase of health insurance.
I wrote to point out how radical a statement this—and how it would likely mean the end of health coverage for a great many Americans now insured.
But regrettably, I concluded with a carelessly written passage:
The debate over Obamacare has driven many conservative writers to espouse positions much more radical than they held four years ago—very likely, much more radical than they will hold four years from now—and certainly more radical than anything a Republican majority in Congress would ever actually do. I think Philip's words provide an almost laboratory-pure example of just such a polemical tendency.
What I was there trying to say was that Klein's paragraph was an example of the kind of radicalism that Republicans in Congress would not practice and that some other conservatives had only temporarily adopted—but I said it badly, and thus appeared to attribute to Klein the abrupt mind-change that we saw from the Heritage Foundation, Senator Jim DeMint, etc.
I regret this clumsy error not least because my mistake diverted the conversation from the substantive points at issue in the previous rounds of my exchange with Phil.
Remember, this started with Phil insisting that he opposed any action by any level of government to regulate, subsidize or mandate the purchase of health insurance.
Not any new regulation, subsidy, or mandate, but any regulation, subsidy, or mandate at all. We've been hearing a lot of this kind of talk over the past three years, and I wanted to underscore how radical a departure it would be.
* No regulation? How will any insured have any confidence that the coverage he or she paid for will still exist when it comes time to collect? There's a reason that the insurance industry has been regulated almost since the beginnings of the republic, either by the states or the federal government.
* No subsidy? The tax exclusion for employer-provided health benefits is the biggest tax expenditure in the tax code: $130 billion a year. It would indeed be desirable to get rid of it—also politically impossible. So how do you work around the ill effects of this unremovable subsidy—especially given the huge gap between the cost of insurance and the earnings of the typical worker: $27,000 a year.
* No mandate? But what's Medicare if not a mandate?
Phil wants to emphasize he has not changed his views since 2008. Conceded. But the problem is that the views he has consistently expressed are also consistently unworkable.