Michael Barone gives a reminder that in politics things are rarely settled.
In the New York Post, Michael Barone wrote a piece that gives an apt comparison between what the Democratic Party did to try and resolve slavery in the late 1800s and what the Democratic Part is trying to do today to try and resolve healthcare. The end result then did not look so pretty:
The issue that Douglas said the Kansas-Nebraska Act would settle forever was slavery in the territories. His bill repealed the 34-year-old Missouri Compromise, which prohibited slavery in territories north of Arkansas, and substituted popular sovereignty — territory residents could vote slavery up or down.
We can’t say with assurance that the Kansas-Nebraska Act was unpopular — Gallup didn’t start polling until 81 years later. But the results of the next election were pretty convincing: The Republican Party was suddenly created to oppose the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and the 1854-55 elections transformed the Democrats’ 159-71 majority to a 108-83 Republican margin. Democrats didn’t win a majority of House seats for the next 20 years.
On the health-care bill, there can be little doubt about public opinion. Quinnipiac, polling just after the Senate voted cloture, found Americans opposed by a 53 percent to 36 percent margin. Polls suggest that Democrats may suffer as much carnage in the 2010 elections as they did in 1854.
Nor did the Kansas-Nebraska Act settle the issue it addressed. Pro-slavery and anti-slavery settlers fought it out in “bleeding Kansas,” and Douglas felt obliged to break with the Democratic administration and disown election-stealing by the pro-slavery side. The issue roused a former congressman named Abraham Lincoln to re-enter politics, and he beat Douglas in the popular vote (but not in the legislature) in 1858 and then was elected president in 1860.
During that time, the Democratic Senator thought he was doing what he thought was right in addressing the problem of slavery. Unfortunately, as Barone points out, he only made matter worse. If there is one thing that the people do not like is when the government forces something unpopular down their throats, as this one Senator did with his pro-slavery bill (oh, and an aside, this is more evidence that shows that the party that was always pro-slavery was the Democratic Party and a third party, the Republican Party, was formed to counter the pro-slavery Democratic Party. That’s not taught in today’s schools, but I digress.).
Eventually, the issue of slavery would be solved a year later, with the advent of the Civil War. I am going to go out on a limb and say that America will not go to war with itself over whether we want socialism or capitalism, but it illustrates a point that legislation that politicians think will solve a problem rarely does so. Indeed, in the same article Michael Barone quotes The Atlantic‘s economics blogger, Meaghan McArdle:
“We haven’t even really started. Our budget problems are as big as ever, and we just used up both political capital, and some of our stock of tax increases and spending cuts, to pay for something else.”
She is absolutely correct. The minute this bill is signed into law, the Congress will have to meet over and over to try and fine tune the bill, trying to interpret what the law would mean, figuring out how to spend money and where to make the needed cuts, to try and entice people to go into the medical profession, where to build needed hospitals, and other traps that will spring forth. No country that practices socialized medicine is ever truly finished with healthcare because healthcare is complex and the needs of citizens must be balanced with how much money to spend trying to meet those needs. That is why it was pretty arrogant of Obama to say that he is “determined to be the last President” to deal with healthcare. It is all but certain that if Obamacare becomes law, a future President will have to deal with the mess that this bill will no doubt create.
The Democrats may think that the price they will pay for socialized medicine will not be of consequence and over time people will learn to love socialized medicine. They shouldn’t be too sure: when people begin to learn that benefits won’t start until 2014, but the pain of taxes and new rules for insurance companies start in 2010, they won’t easily forget that the party that heaped this monstrosity upon them was the Democrats.