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August 22, 2013 5:25 PM Zombie Ideas From Bush’s Brain

By Ed Kilgore

Like Kevin Drum, I glanced through Karl Rove’s Wall Street Journal column on all the fine health care “ideas” the Republican Party has developed, and felt too tired to go through them right away. Some are debatable ideas that don’t have much to do with any actual problem in the health care system, like “tort reform.” Some are ideas that do involve health care but don’t address the basic problem of lack of access to affordable health insurance for many millions of people, like health savings accounts. Some are transparently stupid and destructive ideas like interstate insurance sales, which would instantly kill state insurance regulations all across the country after a race to the bottom by insurers. And many are very expensive, like a new tax credit for purchases in the expensive market for individual policies.

What these ideas have in common is that they are, to borrow Aaron Carroll’s phrase, “zombie” ideas, that have either been debunked or can’t for one reason or another ever, ever happen even if (or particularly if) Republicans ran everything. And as Kevin says:

[T]he worst part of it is that Rove knows all this perfectly well. He just doesn’t care. He needs words on a page, so he’s put some words on a page.

I’d actually say there’s something worse about it than its redundant illustration of Rove’s cynicism: Republicans once had health care ideas—you know, like private health insurance exchanges creating viable risk pools through an individual mandate, with subsidies for the poor or medically needy—but they disowned them the minute Democrats became interested in them. So now all they have left are the zombies, walking the earth impervious to their death.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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