March 23, 2010

Their Drunken Confidence

One of the most puzzling things to me, surely inevitable given my conservative mindset, is how recklessly confident the Democrats are with respect to their health care reform bill. They seem to have no fear of breaking the system outright and maybe the country with it. Perhaps they presume health care is already broken and they can't make it any worse. (Think again.)

This sort of cocksure confidence, which George Bush seems to have exhibited with respect to post-war planning in Iraq, is something deeply exotic to me. It's as if the Democrats in Congress have spent the last year drunk with "liquid courage," because only under the influence of something could I suspend belief enough to think this is going to work out well.

Ross Douthat has a column on that general theme:

We’ll find out if the bill makes premiums skyrocket. We’ll find out if it creates doctor shortages. We’ll find out if the array of new taxes destroys more jobs than the new spending creates. We’ll find out if the fiscally essential firewall between the new, heavily subsidized exchanges and the old, less-subsidized employer-based system holds up. And in the (only slightly) longer run, we’ll find out if tacking an entitlement to comprehensive health insurance atop a groaning system speeds America’s rendezvous with a bankrupt, Californian future.

Above all, we’ll find out if liberalism’s renewed confidence in its ability to design sweeping legislation is justified or not...

This newfound confidence has been palpable throughout the health care debate. Yes, liberals have wrung their hands over the compromises required to pass the bill. But nothing has dislodged their fundamental assumption — an assumption straight out of the golden age of ’60’s liberalism — that a bill this costly, this complicated and this risky can be made to work, so long as the right people are in charge of implementing it.
My gut reaction to all of this is one of detachment: "Oh, so this is how nations fall." Expensive wars, expensive entitlement programs, bad leadership and institutional weakness. Government can't do things as well as the private sector, and the private sector sucks. So what's that tell you?

Update: I'm not a fan of David Brooks lately, but this makes sense:
The [health care bill] is an undertaking exponentially more complex than the Iraq war..This country is in the position of a free-spending family careening toward bankruptcy that at the last moment announced that it was giving a gigantic new gift to charity. You admire the act of generosity, but you wish they had sold a few of the Mercedes to pay for it.

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