The Blog

The Mandate Represents What’s Wrong With Democrats

6:00 AM, Jun 27, 2012 • By JAY COST
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Tomorrow, the Supreme Court is expected to hand down its ruling on Obamacare--and, in particular, the individual mandate, which requires individuals to purchase health insurance whether they want it or not.

Obama salutes

Let us hope that the Court invalidates this law.

The individual mandate is the apotheosis of the modern Democratic party’s way of doing business. In particular, it is the quintessential example of how, hiding behind a smokescreen of egalitarian rhetoric, the party has become deeply, perhaps hopelessly, anti-republican, happy to dole out favors to privileged groups while the rest of the country is left with nothing.

First, the individual mandate represents an enormous transfer of wealth, completely independent of income or social status. It transfers resources from the healthy to the sick, from the young to the old, without regard to who has more money to begin with. Democrats typically rail against supposedly regressive GOP tax proposals, but nothing the Republicans have ever cooked up compares to the individual mandate. While we’re on the subject of Democratic regressiveness, LBJ’s Medicare is a similarly regressive form of taxation, and ditto Social Security, ever since Johnson turned it into a pay-as-you-go system. Yet watch Democrats howl with outrage whenever the GOP dares suggest reforms that would alter this socially unjust status quo.

Second, the mandate itself is the method by which the Democrats have delivered literally billions of dollars worth of patronage to the key interests groups that lined up with them during the health care debate. The party sought to apply new layers of regulations upon doctors, nurses, hospitals, retirement care facilities, etc., and they rightfully feared a rebuke from these key “stakeholders,” as the Obama White House called them. What better way to buy their silence than to require 30 million Americans become their customers, whether they want to or not! All it took was a flip-flop on the part of the president – who conveniently disavowed his campaign opposition to a mandate – and suddenly all those opponents turned in to lusty supporters, eager to get their hands on all that new revenue.

But what about the “public option”? The inclusion of a public option would have mitigated the perniciousness of the mandate – for then, at least, the government would not be requiring individuals to contract with private, for-profit entities as a condition of their citizenship. Liberal Democrats, naturally, blamed Republican perfidy for the death of the public option – but it never stood a real chance, anyway. The White House hinted early in the health care process that there were many ways to get to universal coverage, and never once suggested that the exclusion of a public option would be a deal-breaker. And that was because none of those stakeholders whom the mandate bought off wanted to compete with the government! And what would be the point of buying them off with a mandate while including a public option? So, in reality, the “will they or won’t they” drama over the public option in the fall of 2009 was mere kabuki theater: the insurers, the drug makers, the doctors, hospitals, nurses, and so on would go ballistic. It was never going to make the final cut.

Let’s put all this in historical context. The Democratic party is the oldest existing political party in the entire world, and it was founded as a people’s party. Andrew Jackson’s veto message of a bill to recharter the Bank of the United States stands to this day as a kind of mission statement for the modern party, and it is worth quoting at length (emphasis mine):

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers