As much as I appreciate Jamelle’s Darkwing Duck references (though personally, I’ve always preferred TaleSpin), I think he’s being a bit unfair to skeptics of health insurance reform here. Jamelle argues that we can’t have a real, rational debate over health care without agreeing to some shared premises. Well, that’s a bit more difficult than it sounds. The Ruth Marcus column he references, for example, claims that no one other than the very rich are going to see tax increases from the health care bill. What Marcus fails to mention is that everyone who doesn’t comply with the individual insurance mandate faces a pretty hefty fine. Is that equivalent to a new tax? I sure think so. Funnily enough, Marcus goes on to point out that “[p]eople who intentionally evade paying the fine could, in theory, be prosecuted — just like others who cheat on their taxes.” Why, it’s almost as if being fined is just like being taxed!
This is not to suggest that the nut comparing universal health insurance to Dachau at your local tea party rally should be taken seriously. But speaking as a guy who falls somewhere between a largely ignorant public and the inner circle of health care wonkery, I think it’s difficult to agree to shared premises when the contours of reform are subject to so many different variables. I’m all in favor of calling out factually incorrect statements – and Marcus, to her credit, identifies a few whoppers – but concerns about government overreach, spiraling costs, and regulatory capture are serious issues that deserve more than a curt dismissal. It’s a shame that the antics of a few extremists distract attention from the real debate over health insurance, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t substantive arguments out there against the Democrats’ plan.