As hard as it may be to perceive right-wing neurosurgeon Ben Carson as a credible presidential candidate, he received a very warm welcome at Steve King’s “Iowa Freedom Summit” over the weekend, and Carson arguably delivered one of the more polished presentations of the gathering.
But on the substance of Carson’s remarks, one thing jumped out at me.
On the Affordable Care Act – which Carson has on several occasions compared to slavery – the famous former surgeon said he opposed any government intrusion in health care. “Even if it worked, I would oppose it,” Carson said of Obamacare. “It doesn’t.”“I don’t believe in taking the most important thing a person has, which is their health and their health care, and putting it in the hands of the government,” he later added….
For a brief argument in a speech, there’s quite a bit to this. We know, for example, that Carson’s mistaken when he says the Affordable Care Act isn’t working; the evidence to the contrary is simply overwhelming. We also know that when it comes to his preferred model, Carson used to believe largely the opposite of what he’s arguing now.
What’s more, when Carson argues that government shouldn’t have a hand in matters related to health care, it would seem to suggest the Republican candidate is against the VA health care system for active-duty and retired military personnel, Medicare, and Medicaid. That’s not too surprising – a guy who draws a parallel between modern American life and Nazis isn’t going to be a moderate – but it’s a pretty extreme position for even today’s GOP.
But the true gem is, in reference to the ACA, “Even if it worked, I would oppose it.”
Regular readers know that I’ve referenced the Republicans’ “post-policy” problem on several occasions, and Carson’s eight-word line seems to summarize the larger issue nicely. While Democrats focus heavily on policy outcomes and the efficacy of policy proposals – as one might expect from a governing party – Republicans too often prioritize partisan and ideological goals over practical ones.
Whether or not tax cuts work, for example, isn’t especially important. Whether the evidence supports climate change doesn’t matter, either. Pick the issue – national security, education, immigration, et al – and for much of today’s GOP, empiricism and efficacy just isn’t that important. What matters instead is an ideological drive to shrink government, regardless of policy outcomes.
I rather doubt Carson intended his comments to be so revealing, but the fact that he’d oppose a Democratic health care reform package built on a Republican model, regardless of whether or not it works, says a great deal.
What’s the basis for a serious policy debate when one side of the argument doesn’t care if policies are effective or not?