Daniel Henninger of the WSJ believes that, if passed, Obamacare will do just that:
This thing called “ObamaCare” carries on its back all the justifications, hopes and dreams of the entitlement state. The chance is at hand to let its political underpinnings collapse, perhaps permanently.
If ObamaCare fails, or seriously falters, the entitlement state will suffer a historic loss of credibility with the American people. It will finally be vulnerable to challenge and fundamental change. But no mere congressional vote can achieve that. Only the American people can kill ObamaCare.
Henninger goes on to explain how entitlement programs, once established, perpetuate themselves even if they aren’t working all that well. He gives examples not only in this country but from others.
So why does he go on to write that it now seems likely that the public will reject Obamacare even after it’s implemented? In other words, what would be so different about Obamacare?
Henninger doesn’t quite say. He cites the fact that dislike of Obamacare has been growing rather than shrinking, and he adds that indications are that Obamacare will be “a disaster.” I assume that’s why he thinks Obamacare will be different—it will be a disaster on a larger scale, and people will make the connection and reject it.
I wish he were right, but I think he’s wrong. His prediction rests on the assumption that (a) it will be a big enough disaster that most people will turn on it; and (b) most people will connect the “disastrous” results with the bill itself. But if history is any guide (and I believe it is), it ain’t necessarily so. Did people reject the New Deal because it didn’t end the depression and in some years actually seemed to worsen it? Did people reject President Obama for a second term even though the economy was doing so poorly? Has Greece rejected the welfare state?
In fact, even if Obamacare is a disaster for a lot of people, they may go in the other direction and double-down on big government control: they may be just as likely to say that the problem with Obamacare was that it didn’t go far enough, and reject it in favor of single payer.
Of course, Henninger doesn’t think that’s likely. But it’s always dangerous to let a bad policy go forward on the assumption that there will be a backlash in the direction you’re hoping for. Best to nip it in the bud. If that doesn’t work, best to fight it at all stages, and to come up with a good alternative.
[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]