Opinion

Nicholas Wapshott

The never-ending war on Obamacare

Nicholas Wapshott
Aug 7, 2013 15:05 UTC

What is behind the continuing campaign to repeal Obamacare? The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the name by which it is never known, was signed into law by the president in March 2010 and, after a legal challenge, was confirmed as the law of the land by the conservative-leaning Supreme Court in June last year.

Yet Republicans and conservative commentators continue to urge its overthrow. As that is not going to happen, at least not until there is a Republican president backed by a Republican Senate and House, which may be some time off, why are they wasting their time and our money?

The best chance of overturning Obamacare without benefit of all three departments of government was in the legal challenge on the grounds that Congress should not oblige a citizen to buy a certain product. That cut to the heart of the new law, for if a later Congress were to insist we buy Kellogg’s Corn Flakes under pain of a fine we would all be up in arms at the overreach of government.

But Justice Roberts couldn’t bring himself to invite a constitutional crisis by nullifying a law overwhelmingly passed by both houses of Congress with the approval of a president elected by a majority of 10 million and two-thirds of the electoral college votes, and he caved. By sophistic contortions, the compulsory purchase of healthcare was defined by the Court as no more than a legitimate tax or levy.

And that might have been the end of the matter. Since then, however, Republicans have persisted with the fiction that by passing endless pointless motions in the House they can bring about an end to what they portray as the socialization of medical care. House Republicans have spent one day out of every eight and wasted nearly 50 million taxpayer dollars banging their heads against the Obamacare brick wall.

Robert Fogel and the economics of good health

Nicholas Wapshott
Jun 13, 2013 21:30 UTC

Robert Fogel, who died this week, won a Nobel for economics by mining historical data and in the process shook up the study of history forever. Just as with cholesterol, it seems there is good data mining and bad data mining. Fogel’s was undoubtedly the good kind.

As a teenager when World War Two was ending, he switched from chemistry and physics to study economics at Cornell because he feared, as did others, that when military spending was withdrawn the economy might retrench and sink back into a reprise of the Great Depression. It didn’t turn out that way.

Governments in the Western world switched from spending money on arms to spending on hospitals and schools and the buoyancy kept another slump at bay until the economy was on its feet. Fascinated by figures, as an academic Fogel applied quantitative methods used in economics to test whether historians’ hunches about the cause and effect of events were correct. His findings led to immense controversy and, eventually, a Nobel Prize.

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