mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Signs of Life in the GOP: A "Reformocon" Policy Program


In our post yesterday on the California health care debacle, we noted that Republicans as well as Democrats share the blame for Obamacare—Democrats for designing and passing the law, Republicans for not offering any alternative. But it looks like recent electoral defeats and shifting socio-political relaties are forcing some creative intellectual ferment among reform-minded conservatives, who are finally starting to coalesce around a loose policy consensus.

On his blog, Ross Douthat lists six broad policy proposals he thinks conservative wonks are increasingly in agreement over. Some interesting ones:

b. A repeal or revision of Obamacare that aims to ease us toward a system of near-universal catastrophic health insurance, and includes some kind of flat tax credit or voucher explicitly designed for that purpose.

c. A Medicare reform along the lines of the Wyden-Ryan premium support proposal, and a Social Security reform focused on means testing and extending work lives rather than a renewed push for private accounts.

d. An immigration reform that tilts much more toward Canadian-style recruitment of high-skilled workers, and that doesn’t necessarily seek to accelerate the pace of low-skilled immigration. (Any amnesty should follow the implementation of E-Verify rather than the other way around, guest worker programs should not be expanded, etc.)

We don’t endorse all of Douthat’s policies. On health care, for example, a focus on encouraging innovation in medical tech and service delivery is as or more important than reforming the insurance payment mechanism. No matter how we pay for health care, prices are still going to go up unless we find a way to deliver care cheaper and more efficiently. But overall the program makes for a compelling read; read the whole thing.

One roadblock for the GOP is that it’s not clear the party leadership has yet caught up to center-right wonks in re-evaluating the GOP program. Indeed, while there is actually more interesting policy thinking on the right than the left these days, it will be of limited value until the party leadership recognizes the need to change.

[Image of GOP elephant from Shutterstock]

Features Icon
show comments
  • wigwag

    Many of the creative thinkers that Douthat mentions in his column have been exiled from the Republican Party (David Frum comes to mind). A Republican Party that can’t stomach Chris Christy is not going to welcome the ideas from people like David Brooks or Michael Gerson that Douthat thinks can lead the GOP out of the quicksand that its currently trying to extricate itself from. One thing is for sure; few of the intellectual leaders that Douthat thinks can reinvigorate the Party are fans of Rush Lumbaugh or Sean Hanity. Many of them are vocally disdainful of the Tea Party and believe that it’s Tea Party operatives who have committed the political malpractice that has left the GOP on life support.

    Via Meadia is right to criticize the Douthat approach to health care reform. Douthat’s recommendation of near universal catastrophic care would be, well; catastrophic. That’s the reason that no other nation uses it. Under the system he recommmends people would have a financial incentive to avoid preventative care. What does he think the long term costs would be if millions of Americans avoided vaccinations, or failed to show up at their family doctors office for medicines to control their elevated blood sugars, elevated blood pressure or elevated blood lipid levels?

    What’s stunning is how stupid Republicans and Democrats are. It doesn’t help that the press is even dumber than the politicians are; perhaps that’s why the debate about health care has been so pathetic.

    We’ve just witnessed 20 years of price plunges and quality improvements in everything from air travel, to music, to books and periodicals, to long distance telephony, to brokerage fees, to pornography, to computers, cell phones and other high tech devices. Yet no one in the media (Via Meadia excepted) thinks to suggest applying the same principles that reduced costs and improved quality in those businesses to the business of medicine.

    As Professor Mead to his credit keeps repeating, the factors that reduce costs consistently are technological advances, increased competition and disintermediation.

    Douthat is a smart guy. If he doesn’t get it, there is plenty of reason for pessimism.

  • NoNewt

    Point (d) on high-skilled immigration is crucial – really the only one that matters.

    We are at a crossroads: the path of Mexico, or that of Canada. Guess which one is the wiser path to take.

    A country is only as good as its people. If your people are unskilled, uneducated, lawless people, good luck – no amount of “smart” technocrat policies will amount to a hill of beans.

    If your human capital is smart, educated, skilled, able to take advantages of the opportunities of the global economy, that’s all that matters – politicians are just a sideshow, and if your country is full of attentive, aware, financially self-reliant people, they’ll have much less leeway to screw things up – and the populace will be less likely to re-elect anyone who does screw things up.

    • Tom

      Your last paragraph explains why we will not take the Canadian path.

  • Anthony

    “The core economic challenge facing the American experiment is not income inequality per se, but rather stratification and stagnation….” … but the crucial idea that conservatism ought to focus directly on the economic interests of downscale Americans has not exactly caught fire within the G.O.P. ….”

    Ross Douthat offers insightful probabilities but at bottom he is speaking to affecting a broad swath of the American Middle via G.O.P. retooling to respond to American anxieties – a growing social crisis.

  • Andrew Allison

    “. . . , a focus on encouraging innovation in
    medical tech and service delivery is as or more important than reforming
    the insurance payment mechanism.” I beg to differ. If the dreadfully inefficient insurance scam were replaced by catastrophic, i.e., high-deductible, single payer insurance there would twice as much money available for actual health care.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service