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October 28, 2013 3:23 PM Lind’s Predecleration of War

By Ed Kilgore

Predictably, for those familiar with his work, Michael Lind has gone a step beyond Mike Konczal’s argument that Obamacare represents a betrayal of the design of New Deal entitlement programs to declare future war on Democratic centrists who are actually in league with conservatives and plotting to gut Social Security and Medicare.

I predict that it is only a matter of time before conservatives and Wall Street-backed “New Democrats” begin to argue that, with Obamacare in place, it makes no sense to have two separate healthcare systems for the middle class — Obamacare for working-age Americans, Medicare for retired Americans. They will suggest, in a great bipartisan chorus: Let’s get rid of Medicare, in favor of Lifelong Obamacare! Let’s require the elderly to keep purchasing private insurance until they die!
I’m sure a number of token “centrist” Democrats will be found, in due time, to support the replacement of Medicare by Lifelong Obamacare. And with neoliberal Democratic supporters of the proposal as cover, the overclass centrists of the corporate media will begin pushing for Lifelong Obamacare as the sober, responsible, “adult” policy in one unsigned editorial after another.
Once Medicare has been abolished in favor of Lifelong Obamacare, perhaps by a future neoliberal Democratic president like Clinton and Obama, Social Security won’t last very long.

Never mind that (a) no Democrats to speak of are supporting either privatization of Medicare or of Social Security, and (b) conservatives are split between those favoring a seamless system of publicly subsidized health insurance for everybody and those who want to keep Medicare as it is while abolishing Obamacare and Medicaid as “unearned benefits.” Lind’s intense antipathy towards Clinton and Obama drives him to insist a sell-out is well on the way.

Truth be told, the bright line that both Konczal and Lind try to draw between the “universal, federal, tax-based” New Deal programs and the later “fee-based, means-tested, privatized and state-based” programs isn’t entirely accurate. Both Medicare and to a lesser extent Social Security are partially means-tested (but also contribution-dependent) right now; the benefits are not identical for everyone. Obamacare is part of a decades-long effort to standardize state-based entitlement programs. And Lind doesn’t even mention the TANF/Medicaid batch of programs—means-tested and state-based— which were born in the New Deal and expanded during the Great Society, before, presumably, the satanic New Democrats began selling out progressivism to Wall Street.

On a more practical political basis you really have to wonder how smart it is for progressives to demonize Obamacare (and by implication Medicaid) when it’s in such peril from the Right, which is light-years away from some theoretical championship of it as a model for the entire health care system. Lind seems to think it’s a matter of preparing for an inevitable future battle:

Think about it, progressives. The real “suicide caucus” may consist of those on the center-left who, by passionately defending the Affordable Care Act rather than holding their noses, are unwittingly reinforcing the legitimacy of the right’s long-term strategy of repealing the greatest achievements of American liberalism.

So I guess us Obamacare supporters need to be tested to see if we are indeed holding our noses.

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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