As Obamacare continues to muddle through its extended slow motion reenactment of the Hindenburg disaster, perhaps the time is upon us when we look past the website and the policy cancellations and focus on the redistributive architecture intentionally built into the law. It’s clear now to anyone paying attention that the Affordable Care Act was designed explicitly as a mechanism for disrupting millions of middle class Americans by forcing them into health exchanges where they would be forced to pay more for insurance in order to help subsidize the poor who were getting insurance from the government (mostly through Medicaid). That this was clear three years ago to pundits on both left and right is beside the point. It is now indisputably clear to most Americans that Obamacare is meant to be more of a wealth redistributor than it is an insurance “marketplace.” Virtually everyone coerced into this marketplace will be participating in said “market” with worse parameters than before. Most will pay more for less accessibility to preferred doctors and hospitals while receiving more in benefits that they do not want or need. The purported benefit comes from these increased costs on middle class consumers being transferred to lower class consumers in the form of government subsidy. Leaving aside the fact that the Affordable Care Act was categorically not sold in this fashion, one has to ask: do Americans as a whole support such a compulsory redistribution of the nation’s wealth?
The answer is obviously no. Progressives wish it were different, but deep down, they know it is simply not the case that the (still) vast American middle (and upper-middle) class will be OK with the federal government coercing them out of satisfactory insurance while demanding they retain insurance, though at a higher price and with less favorable access. A six year old could tell you that a system such as this would be met with revolutionary resistance. The resistance is as yet only nascent, but it is passionate and personal, and will only mount as more shoes begin to drop in the ceaseless conveyor belt of bad news that is Obamacare. So why did progressives purposefully design such a thing if they knew it was going to ignite the passions of perhaps 100+ million people? Because, like the socialists before them from whom they still derive much if not most of their economic ideas and inspiration, it is more important to have equality than growth.
Economic growth is a fundamental product of capitalism, and is also only achievable with capitalism. Progressives have come to espouse the virtues of nominal “growth,” but they don’t have any idea how to create or sustain it. That growth is a simple product of entrepreneurial risk applied to the basics of voluntary exchange is a mystery to the left. They think it lies at the end of a series of complicated mathematical equations involving a bunch of static data points and aggregates and all kinds of other gobbledygook only existent in the fever dreams of an academician. But growth really does occur when people are free to cooperate with each other and participate in voluntary exchange where both parties derive perceived benefit. The entrepreneur enhances the market by studying prices along with any number of shifting variables and signals, acquiring knowledge, and then deploying this knowledge in the market to provide services that might heretofore have been inefficiently produced or not at all. When that process takes place and when profits are not demonized and confiscated by the State, you get economic growth.
If progressives were really concerned about growing the economy, they would leave it to the one engine that knows how to do it: the market. But progressives loathe markets because they empower individuals which means by nature power itself is diffuse rather than centralized. Well what good is decentralized power in an economy when the progressive’s raison d’etre is to consolidate power in a central bureaucracy so that the wisdom of the enlightened may be bestowed from on high? The best way to remove power from individuals and localities is to level society to as homogeneous an experience as possible. If everyone in a country as large as the United States lives with similar means and inhabits a common culture, then the task of conscripting the public as whole into obedience and allegiance to the State becomes much easier.
But it goes beyond that. The whole notion of equality of outcome appeals to the simple-minded and the progressive alike because it hits at a basic, emotional, gut level. It is so easy (and lazy) to point to the destitute and decry his circumstance, wishing for all the world that someone (i.e. government) would just “do something.” But that’s the thing, government cannot do anything, in the literal sense. It can only use force. Sometimes force can be used for good, as in the cause of defending national sovereignty or enforcing law, but it is still force. Regarding economic outcomes, any initiative by government to eradicate blight for one group must, by necessity, use force (taxation) to take from another. When couched in these terms, progressives suddenly do not sound like the altruists they fancy themselves to be. And that is only one half of the equation. The real focus of progressive economic policy is not on alleviating the conditions for the poor, but on punishing the “rich,” which in reality also includes the middle class. The real goal of progressives is a leveling of society down; by reducing the fortunes of the fat cats and ending the rapacious reign of the greedy free marketeers, they see a just society, albeit one where everyone is equally poor. It truly is a revolution of the proletariat ideal. They would rather have equality over growth, no questions asked, every time. It is a weird, ignorant, evil dogma that fools otherwise intelligent people into thinking they stand for tolerance and equality when really they are just predators perennially lusting after capital justly earned by capitalists so it can be unjustly redistributed to the proles.