HCR A Republican Idea?

That’s what some Republican health policy experts are saying now that it’s too late to matter. I bring this up because it relates very much to the point I raised yesterday about whether the American Enterprise Institute was muzzling its health experts–preventing them from saying publicly that they agreed with much of what Obama and congressional Democrats were doing. (See here and here.)

I would note that the main Republican expert quoted in the AP article linked to above is Mark Pauly, who is currently listed as an adjunct fellow of AEI. A quick Google News search turned up no instances in which Prof. Pauly noted the similarities between the Obama plan and those Republicans have advocated for years prior to passage of the health legislation.

I certainly don’t think anyone at AEI told Pauly to keep his mouth shut about this. No one needed to. I’m sure he understood perfectly well that it would be counterproductive to Republicans had this point been made publicly. This sort of self-censorship is standard practice at all think tanks–you don’t say things that hurt your side and help the other side even if you have no fear for losing your job as David Frum did. If what you believe would help your side’s political enemies you say nothing or talk only off the record or just share your thoughts with those on your own side who will keep a confidence.

Every Washington think tank these days has an ideological/political tilt and everyone who works there knows perfectly well which side they are on. They work or are affiliated with it knowing that tilt and presumably agreeing with it. And these are smart people who don’t need to have it explained to them explicitly what comments are helpful to their side and which ones aren’t. This is the essence of the point I was trying to make about muzzling.

A more interesting question is why the Obama administration never pointed out the similarity between its proposals and Republican plans such as the one implemented by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. I assume it is because it would be equally counterproductive to Democrats, costing votes among the party’s left wing, which badly wanted the public option. Forcing them to acknowledge that their plan owed more to Republican ideas than Democratic ideas on health would have been like pouring salt in their wounds.

In the weeks to come I anticipate that many Republican health experts will acknowledge that HCR owes much to their thinking and little at all to liberal ideas. These Republicans will explain that HCR just needs a little tweaking and gradually talk leaders of their party out of repealing it. These leaders already know that isn’t going to happen anyway, but their public posture will be that HCR must be repealed as long as it animates the Republican base going into November’s elections.

About Bruce Bartlett 76 Articles

Affiliation: Forbes

Bruce Bartlett is a columnist for Forbes.com, the online side of Forbes, the nation’s premier financial magazine.

He served for many years in prominent governmental positions including executive director of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, Deputy Assistant Secretary for economic policy at the U.S. Treasury Department during the George H.W. Bush Administration, and as a senior policy analyst in the White House for Ronald Reagan.

Bruce is the author of seven books, including the New York Times best-selling Impostor: How George W. Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, and thousands of articles in national publications including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, New Republic, Fortune and many others. He appears frequently on CNN, CNBC, C-SPAN and Fox News, and has been a guest on both the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the Colbert Report.

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