The conservative mantra, for as far back as anyone can recall, is that the government can do no right, and the private sector can do no wrong, thanks to market principles of competition. "Government isn't the solution to our problem - Government is the problem," declared Ronald Reagan.
Well, that notion has been destroyed when it comes to health insurance.
The leading argument from conservative Republicans and Democrats is that if there is a public option included in any health insurance reform package, it will doom the private industry because it simply will not be able to compete with the government-managed plan.
From Fox News Sunday, Senator Mitch McConnell and host Chris Wallace go over it:
WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about what seems to be part of their plan, although I think we'd both agree that it's not very specific at this point. The president says that he wants a public health insurance option...
WALLACE: ... to compete against private insurance options. Is there any public plan, as just one of a series of -- on the menu, that you could support?
MCCONNELL: Well, that would mean a government plan that would inevitably put the government between you and your doctor, and there would be no more private insurance.
MCCONNELL: Because the private insurance people will not be able to compete with a government option.
Whoa! Stop the presses! The Republican leader not only admits that the government can offer a better health insurance option than private industry, but that the principles of competition will go out the window -- that private insurance companies won't do everything they can to offer Americans the best and least inexpensive insurance possible? What happened to private insurance companies being able to do everything better and cheaper than the government? Apparently, according to the Republican leader, they cannot.
Like I said, conservative Democrats are saying the same. Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) has been all over the place, but at one point said a public option "would be too attractive and would hurt the private insurance plans."
Well, duh. Sure it would, if the private insurance companies continue to refuse people quality coverage at competitive prices.
At the end of the day, though, conservatives have made a fatal error, which progressives and the President have yet to really capitalize on. With conservatives settling on the argument that private insurance wouldn't be as good as a public option, they've given away the argument that the government-managed plan would be a bureaucratic, inefficient, sub-standard plan that would rob people of decent health insurance.
They've said, essentially, that a public, government-managed option would probably be the best option for Americans, but they want to deny it to them, without making a case as to why people should be refused the best.
If progressives really start to hammer that point home, it will be enough to make people sick (pun intended) of the farce conservatives want to make of the health care debate.