Thursday, February 2, 2012

David Frum Destroys Mark Levin

Behold, reality based conservatism versus talk radio conservatism.
1) Levin offers 100% zero policy content in his rebuttal. Whether (or not) the Massachusetts reform yielded good results, whether (or not) it added to costs, what (if any) differences it made to health outcomes - none of these merit mention in Levin's reply. The argument is all about abstract principles.
Which is not to gainsay the importance of principles only:
2) The principles being articulated are both extreme and incoherent.
Levin's principled objection is to any government requiring citizens to buy a service from a private company. At the federal level such a requirement is unconstitutional (he argues); at the state level, it is destructive of liberty even if constitutional.
Levin has to use some delicate phraseology here to avoid such problems as : Was it unconstitutional back in 1792 for the federal government to require male citizens of the appropriate age to buy guns and enroll in their state militias? What about requiring car insurance from all drivers? Is a compulsory vaccination against an infectious disease an abuse of government power if the injections are administered by private doctors?
And notice the destination at which these convoluted distinctions finally arrive:
Since Levin does not want to argue that Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional, he is forced to argue that the real evil of Obamacare and Romneycare is that they rely on private insurance. Had they taxed citizens to finance a federal single-payer program, that would be quite OK!
A structured and subsidized private market becomes, in the Levin telling, a much more pernicious assault on liberty than a British style National Health Service!
How can that make any sense?
It does not. The seemingly principled argument is in fact utterly ad hoc, developed on the fly to score a point against a hated opponent without alienating an audience of senior citizens who would throw the radio out the window if Levin told them what he truly thought about the social programs they depend on.

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Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this Pablo. Frum made some excellent points. Unfortunately, the ABR crowd refuses to have any objectivity when evaluating the topic. And yet strangely, Moonbeam gets a pass for pursuing a Federal Mandate for fifteen years from the whole bloc. It must be frustrating to the conservative media and ABR crowd that so many republicans can think for themselves concerning RomneyCare and can see past the propoganda they've spewed for two years straight on the issue.


Anonymous said...

You're asking questions that need not be answered if you believe in mandated health care. To you, Levin's answer is obtuse, to me and many like me... it is the only answer that is relevant... the success of the program is irrelevant due to it being unconstitutional on the federal level and dangerous on the state level. And how I hate the auto insurance comparison.


Slick-Willy said...

Levin once wrote a great book, "Liberty and Tyranny." Having read his book, I understand his frustration to a degree. He believes in strict principles, but recognizes we live in a pendulum society. He sees us as being too far on the tyranny side of the pendulum and sees Romneycare and Obamacare as two programs that move us further towards tyranny. I won't argue that point... he may be right. And I don't fault him for avoiding topics that would lessen his listening audience.

That said, he's wrong about Mitt. Although Mitt did write much of Romneycare, he attempted to veto the worst parts of it and overall he is simply not a big government type. He saw Romneycare as an opportunity to force accountability--can you say he didn't achieve that worthy goal? Additionally, the huge costs increases that Levin/Rush/etc. claim are caused by Romneycare are questionable at best. Healthcare costs have increased at a slower rate in MA under Romneycare (in its very imperfect form, which has been made worse since Mitt left) than health insurance in the rest of the country.

Frum is right here. While I think some of his criticisms are unimportant, he's mostly right about Levin. Levin has attacked Romney as a bitter enemy for a year and has almost never done so in terms of policy at all. His attacks have all been based on principles, but he's taken an incoherent approach w/o clearly phrasing the principles he claims to espouse that Romney does not.

Slick-Willy said...

Jersey - I thought you were leaving this site? Couldn't stay away?

"And how I hate the auto insurance comparison."

No one cares what you like or hate. But we might care if you had a rational reason for feeling a certain way.

The auto insurance comparison is reasonable. People against this argument say, "Health mandates are different because you're forced to buy insurance merely by being born, while auto insurance can be avoided by not driving." We can be more pragmatic than holding to that absurd argument allows.

While it's true a person could avoid paying auto insurance by riding a bike/walking, in many areas of the country (anywhere in the midwest/west) driving is an essential element to being a member of society. You can be a bum on the street or a hermit on the hill, but otherwise, you're going to drive and buy insurance to do so.

Some people are very safe drivers. For example, in 15 years of driving a car I've never been in an accident, though I've paid out thousands in car insurance over that time. There are many people in my situation. There is a good chance that I will never have a need for the car insurance I'll pay for over the 50-70 years of my driving life, but the massive damage to society caused by people who do crash w/o insurance has created an arguable societal need for ALL drivers to carry insurance.

While health insurance will have users of various frequency, everyone at some point will use it, even if you die in your home. Most people these days will rack up over $100k in hospital bills over the course of their life, with an average of between $500k-$1M. If you're an unlucky soul w/a terminal disease, it's well into the millions. Unlike driving, there's nothing I can do to avoid the terminal illness lottery. And even if you don't have health problems, remember that even coroners cost money.

Like car insurance, those dastardly people who get ill w/o carrying insurance are a massive burden on society. We feel it less individually (in the short-run) because the state picks up the tab, but the damage is very real.

Is mandated health insurance a reasonable option to fight this free-rider problem? Be your own judge. But I think the argument for it is as valid as the argument for mandated car insurance.

Anonymous said...

Jersey is RWN? Ha, couldn't stay away could he?

Machtyn said...

I understand your position, JR. I would likely try to argue that MA was going to get health insurance reform in one form or another. Romney did the best he could and made it as conservative as he could, going so far as to have the Heritage Foundation give its blessing. If he kicked is feet and stood on principals, he loses all political capital he might have had to introduce conservative measures in other areas (such as the 19 tax cuts) and MA would have had a government take over of the health industry on his hands with massive tax increase and out of control debt.

This will likely be unsatisfactory as you will liken this to Romney driving the car off the cliff at 60mph instead of Obama's 100mph.

There is a difference. Romney was dealing with a veto proof legislature. If We, The People, can do this right, Romney will not have to worry about a veto proof legislature... but, in fact, have a very complicit and eager legislature to follow through on his cost cutting, government reducing, and economy improvement measures.

Terrye said...


I could take Levin's principles more seriously if he had not been a supporter of Romney in 2008..after all that was years after Romneycare was passed and it was not a big deal to Levin then apparently. He called Romney a real conservative. flip flopper.

Paul said...

I like it, Pablo. Good post.

Paul said...

The mandate is a sticky issue, true enough. But the ABR's seem incapable of applying any logic what so ever when it comes to their hateful behavior toward Romney. It is very telling that the issue of state sovereignty vs illegal national mandate carries no weight with Levin, or the rest of them. Because of their hate, they can not grapple with the reality of the situation in MA. That is, that the people of MA were not only determined to have their mandate, but that they had the right, the SOVEREiGNTY to do it. And they were going to do it, with or without Romney. Mitt simply guided the process so it would not break the bank or raise taxes. Mitt's greatest contribution to the deal was to keep it from becoming a "top down, government run system." Santorum lies when he says that it is. He does this mostly because he has nothing else to run with against Romney. at least, Santorum has a competitive reason to lie. Levin and company lie simply out of the insanity of hate.

Anonymous said...

Are you people delusional? Both Frum and these comments are nonsensical.

The Militia Act of 1792 is Constitutional because-drum roll-it's in the Constitution! Article 1 section 8 Claus 15 & 16 specifically cite the that the federal government is Constitutionally authorized to call forth the militia for defense and to provide for arming.

Just what in the hell this has to do with Congress, as a condition of breathing, telling citizens they must enter into a private contract I fail to see.

Insuring yourself as a condition of driving, again. has absolutely no bearing on the unConstitutional individual mandate. One of the commenters might say driving is necessary therefore requiring automobile insurance is akin to mandating health insurance but you could say that about the cost of gas or upkeep or tires.

The fact is, when you get behind a wheel, the only insurance you are required to buy to to prevent you from doing harm to someone else. The analogy doesn't hold up at all.

Further, while I think it's immoral for anyone not to take responsibility for themselves by having some kind of health insurance, there are remedies, outside of a government mandate.

If you go to a hospital, uninsured, and run up bills, then why must I pay for you? I have health insurance, I'm responsible. You're not? Then GD it, you're on the hook for the bill-let the hospital get a judgment and go after you. If we could see more of this, you can bet your ass, even young people are going to carry some kind of catastrophic insurance. I did. it was dirt cheap when I was in my 20s and 30s.

Yes, there are a situations where some people legitimately have been nailed with unpayable bills. And again, there are solutions besides forcing me to pay for others' irresponsibility.

Christ, I'm already on the hook for too much irresponsibility-this attitude is becoming part of our DNA and it's destroying this country. This kind of nonsense from Frum(say wasn't he going to leave the Republican party if Huntsman didn't get the nod?) is weapons grade stupid and anyone that droolingly nods along should be ashamed.

ptab said...

The chivalry of David Frum, former speech writer for GW Bush, is on display at
Where Frum comes to the defense on Annie "Get the Hell off the Beach" Coulter's latest dribble entitled "Three Cheers for Romneycare" - itself a piece likely to be tagged to her like an uppercase letter R in the bold scarlet red. I have a pretty fair recollection of Frum seething on a few of Ms. Coulter's works  in the past decade and his demonizations of the general populace of the fans of her and certain other conservative voices. Mr. Frum is of the egalitarian collection of the Grand Old Party and apparently loath such persons as myself.
 So to summarize, Mr. Frum seized upon the opportunity to offer cover for the newly baptized fellow Romney supporter.Mr Frum argued for Ms. Coulter's article w/ vigor once it was dissected on live radio by none other than Mark R Levin - president if Landmark Legal Foundation,   which is currently at the head of the fight against Obamacare coming before the SCOTUS. I may add Mr. Levin is   Host of a National Syndicated Radio Show which Frum abhors.
 Such fantastical analysis as " Car drivers are required to purchase insurance" which the average grade schooler can already debate easily against noting persons without cars need not apply to other banal stupidity it almost insults my already  reduced opinion for Mr. Frum's intellect as inoculations for communicable diseases and the militia act of 1792, requiring militia members to purchase supplies and weaponry to perform their tasks in the Militia. Missing the point that in each situation in his examples were to protect the common good of society. N
That Frum fails to see the forest through the trees no longer surprises a simple common man like myself He long ago eroded any opportunity to make that inroad by posting a sign at the entrance to his tent Stating" Radio listeners can use the service entrance in the Rear" He may as well add this "please lose you Republican party affiliation while you are at it"
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