The pundits are saying the Massachusetts special election today is a referendum on Obama's health care reform plan. Massachusetts voters, they say, don't care about health care reform. That's too easy.
People in Massachusetts already have universal health care. If they vote down Ted Kennedy's legacy, it will be for many other reasons: either they don't care about anyone else in the nation getting insurance, or because it isn't working and is breaking their state. Or maybe they think the big issue is elsewhere -- the banks, the economy, or Afghanistan, and Washington is misguided. Or they have ceased to believe in government at all. Or it's snowing, and it's a pain in the ass to go vote. Any of those could be true.
I'm no expert in Massachusetts politics, but I worry about the outcome of today's Senate election for an entirely different reason. I've become an expert in the law of unintended consequences. You get that way if you live long enough.
The pundits are calling the election over on Morning Joe. TV programs like that have a way of setting the agenda, so it probably is, indeed, over. The "fix" is in. The health care lobbyists have done their work.
Now what, though? Health care is 18% of our GDP and growing. How do we fix the economy, or create jobs, without doings SOMETHING to control health care costs? Here are some interesting, if probably unpopular, alternatives that could emerge:
1) Cut Medicaid and Medicare sharply. Let the poor and the elderly fend for themselves. The poor don't vote anyway, and the elderly will soon die.
2) Allow the re-importation of drugs, which wasn't part of the original bill. Let people get their drugs in Canada and Mexico. This will create that NAFTA Bill Clinton wanted anyway.
3) Put all the jobless to work in the healthcare industry; if we're going to spend so much of our tax money on health care, let's create "white coat" jobs rather than green job.
4) Cut the military budget, and use the money for health care.
5) Do nothing, and let the country rot.
6) Raise taxes
You see where I'm going with this. There are no good alternatives. Something must happen.
File this away somewhere and haul it out in four years: my prediction is that the Republicans will sweep into power in 2010 and 2012, running on the change Obama just ran on. They will then, Obama having prepared the public for it, enact some sort of health care reform and get the credit for it.
Things are changing. Republicans aren't rich anymore. They are the middle class. Democrates are limousine liberal elites. This would be hilarious if I didn't pay taxes for it.