POLITICS

AEI scholar offers vacuous ‘conservative case for Obamacare’

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Philip Klein

This weekend brought us another reminder of how low the New York Times’s standards are for authors who are willing to make liberal arguments while claiming conservative credentials. On Sunday, the newspaper ran an article on President Obama’s health care law that was about as vacuous as any you’ll read, but it had this going for it: the author, J.D. Kleinke, is a resident fellow at the right of center American Enterprise Institute and his piece is entitled “The Conservative Case for Obamacare.”

The article doesn’t make any effort to engage actual conservative policy arguments against the health care law, but instead seeks to caricature them. “Social conservatives’ hostility to the health care act is a natural corollary to their broader agenda of controlling women’s bodies,” Kleinke writes of conservative objections to the law’s loopholes allowing for federal funding for abortion and mandate forcing Catholic institutions to purchase birth control products to which they have religious objections.

His article also contains errors piled on top of logical fallacies. He writes, “(P)erhaps the clearest indication of the conservative economic values underlying the act is its reception by many Democrats. The plan has few champions on the left precisely because it is not a government takeover of health care.” But this isn’t even close to being true. A September Kaiser Family Foundation poll found the law had a 72 percent approval rating among Democrats. Though a number of liberals criticized the health care law for not going far enough, with few exceptions, they ultimately came around to the view that it was at least a step in the right direction. The liberal health care policy community aggressively fought for the law’s passage and has defended it consistently. Every Democratic Senator voted for the law and those Democrats who voted against it in the House were moderate members in vulnerable districts, not from the far left. Despite their objections, for instance, single payer advocates Reps. John Conyers and Keith Ellison voted for Obamacare in the House, and socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders did in the Senate.

At one point, Kleinke notes that, “the health insurance industry has been quietly supporting the plan all along.” But this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. The law requires Americans to purchase the industry’s product, and then provides them with hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies to do so. What industry lobbyist wouldn’t want a deal like that? The fact that the law represents a major example of corporate welfare, however, does not make it free market policy.

Kleinke also argues that Obamacare’s system of insurance exchanges represents a free market. In reality, the exchanges will be run by government and bureaucrats will dictate what benefits must be included in every insurance policy, thus stifling choice.

This doesn’t get into a host of other objections conservatives have to the law that he leaves unaddressed, such as the $1.7 trillion in new spending, $1 trillion in new taxes and the raft of new regulations being imposed on businesses.

In a mission statement on its website, AEI describes itself as “a community of scholars and supporters committed to expanding liberty, increasing individual opportunity and strengthening free enterprise. AEI pursues these unchanging ideals through independent thinking, open debate, reasoned argument, facts and the highest standards of research and exposition.” Given this, conservatives may be wondering how the organization would allow its name to be associated with an article that not only defends one of the greatest assaults on free enterprise in American history, but does it so shoddily, with such a lack of intellectual rigor and so much hostility to conservatives.

In response to my queries, AEI’s public affairs director Veronique Rodman told me that the organization takes no institutional position on issues and allows its scholars to voice their own opinions. It does not require them to receive pre-approval when submitting op-eds.

Kleinke was hired on January 3 to research and write about ways to spur innovation and entrepreneurship in health care. His health care views put him in direct odds with his colleagues at AEI. Tom Miller, for instance, co-authored the book “Why Obamacare is Wrong for America.” James Capretta, also at AEI, blasted Kleinke’s article in the National Review, writing that, “He either doesn’t understand Obamacare and the conservative case against it, or has willfully distorted his descriptions of both to serve his case.”

For other reactions to Kleinke, check out Michael Cannon and Dean Clancy.

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