The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is perhaps the most powerful and well-funded foe of much of President Obama’s governing agenda, just announced that it’s running a “multi-million-dollar” national ad campaign attacking the Dems’ health care reform proposals as “expanded government control of health care”.
I’ve obtained a detailed state-by-state breakdown of the first round of the Chamber’s ad spending from an ad buyer for labor unions, and it provides an interesting glimpse into this well-armed business group’s view of the health care battleground:Indiana $429,105
South Carolina $55,495
North Carolina $745,215
We spend so much time on soundbites about health care reform that sometimes we may lose focus on what is at stake here. Or at least what the opponents envision as what is at stake. But its important to keep what they are thinking in mind to understand their opposition. Many people will ponder why the Chamber of Commerce would be so against health care reform. After all, if done right, wouldn't reform reduce the burden on most business in terms of health care costs?
Of course it would.
But that isn't what the Chamber of Commerce is worried about right now. They are looking big picture and in their world health care reform is little picture. So what exactly is their concern? Well lets go back to the now infamous memo penned by Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard.
Here is the relevant passage.
"Health care will prove to be an enormously healthy project for Clinton... and for the Democratic Party." So predicts Stanley Greenberg, the president's strategist and pollster. If a Clinton health care plan succeeds without principled Republican opposition, Mr. Greenberg will be right. Because the initiative's inevitably destructive effect on American medical services will not be practically apparent for several years--no Carter-like gas lines, in other words--its passage in the short run will do nothing to hurt (and everything to help) Democratic electoral prospects in 1996. But the long-term political effects of a successful Clinton health care bill will be even worse--much worse. It will relegitimize middle-class dependence for "security" on government spending and regulation. It will revive the reputation of the party that spends and regulates, the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests. And it will at the same time strike a punishing blow against Republican claims to defend the middle class by restraining government.
When you set aside the bullshit free market rhetoric, this memo gets at the heart of why big business is, for the most part, opposed to Democratic health care reform. Notice that I keep injecting "Democratic" in there. Its because should a Republican ever offer up health care reform, its likely they wouldn't be opposed by big business. I mean does anybody remember any ads being run against President Bush's Medicare prescription drug "reform" boondoggle that ended up being a big give away to the drug companies? Of course not. Its because the reform isn't what scares them. Its the prospect of the benefits the Democratic Party would get from such reform that makes them lose sleep at night.
Don't get me wrong here, I am a Democrat but the truth is our party has its share of problems too. Our leaders aren't immune from corruption and personal failings. But historically Democrats are the party that makes sure big business is regulated. On the one hand it is great for regular citizens because most regulations help to protect the consumers, on the other hand its not so great for big businesses that would rather take more risks with other people's money and lives to increase their profit margins. That is why it shouldn't be a surprise at all that groups like the Chamber of Commerce are so staunchly opposed to health care reform. They simply do not want to see Democrats in power for an extended period of time and they know that health care reform may actually usher that in.
Now what can we do with this knowledge? The truth is not a hell of a lot. As true as it is that big business is motivated by the politics of the situation at least as much if not more than the practical implications, its a hard sell to explain that to someone who is already skeptical. Even writing this I know that right wingers would explain this away as paranoia. But all you have to do is go back and read that Kristol memo in full or try googling information on the health care fight from 1993 and you will see that even though our world and our country has changed tremendously since then, the arguments against health care haven't. Still, its going to be next to impossible to convince a person who is railing against "government run health care" while several of their family members are benefiting greatly from MediCare, that this is the true motivation of big business.
More than anything else what we should do is keep this in the back of our mind as we press for reform. These people are highly motivated to kill health care reform and for them its not about people recieving substandard care, its not about people going bankrupt trying to pay their medical bills, and its definitely not about trying to reduce our deficit either. Their arguments are not in good faith, and as long as we realize then that can govern how we push back. We will never be able to convince them to get on board for health care reform as long as Democrats are in charge. So we recognize them as irreconcilables and keep it moving.
It is what it is.