The SanityPrompt

This blog represents some small and occasional efforts to add a note of sanity to discussions of politics and policy. This blog best viewed with Internet Explorer @ 1024x768

Friday, November 19, 2004

The Ownership Society Will Not Be Televised

It was a nice slogan during the campaign. The Ownership Society. It fit nicely with all those screeds that right-wing pundits were penning during the campaign about an emerging progressive conservatism. Of course, Bush never picked it up. He was content to smear Kerry and warn darkly about the terrorist homosexual threat to our nation.

But he did manage once or twice to put in plugs for his expensive visions of domestic policy. Two ideas stood out to me. One was tax reform (which sounded like a nice code for further shifting of taxes onto labor from capital). And the other was was health care reform (which sounded like an effort to undermine employer provided health insurance by making us all more sensitive to the price of health care - i.e. take away our employer-provided health insurance).

Comes the post-election mandate and now we see that Bush might have time to squeeze both efforts into one.

Matthew Yglesias over at the American Prospect points out that emerging details of the possible parameters of a Bush tax reform effort would try to knock off those two ducks with one throw. Wise move since, political capital being such a limited commodity, you don't want to empty your six shooter before you have all of your feast ready for the trough. And what a feast for the wealthy it is shaping up to be. No taxes on investment income and no need to provide those pesky workers with expensive health insurance any more. Brad Delong points out that this is really just another example of the kind of class war that Republicans wage against working people all the time, but never get called to account for.

Mark Schmitt over at the Decembrist pointed out a while back that Bush's reliance on private savings accounts paired with catastrophic health coverage would provide a strong incentive for employers to roll back employer-provided health care coverage. If you paired this with eliminating the deductibility of employer provided health insurance (which appears to be part of the Bush plan - surprise!) you would really create a set of incentives to unravel our current system of health care coverage. It's fine to think people will help to curb health costs if you believe that their lack of price sensitivity (because of insurance) is one of the reasons costs are so high. But it's another to shift the risk onto working people who have barely enough income to make ends meet, let alone pay for that $2,500 emergency room visit. Both DeLong, Yglesias, and Schmitt remark that Bush couldn't possibly do more to raise the probability that this country will soon have a single-payer, Canadian style health care system if he wanted one in the first place.

Makes you wonder. I don't know whether to hope Bush succeeds or pray the Democrats find their soul first.