You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Hit 'Em Highbrow, Hit 'Em Lowbrow

If you read this blog, I assume you also read Jonathan Chait's. Just in case, though, you should read his response to David Brooks and Ross Douthat about the fate of the Cadillac tax and its implications for reform. These paragraphs, in particular, really capture the frustrating political dynamic we've seen for the last year:

...obviously, delaying the Cadillac tax increases its political vulnerability to some degree. But I wonder why Brooks and Douthat can so casually blame Obama for this change. Unions argued against the tax on the grounds that their members had foregone wage hikes in order to obtain expensive health insurance. Providing a short-term reprieve for health plans obtained through collective bargaining was a reasonable way to keep most of the bite of the tax in place while accommodating those concerns. Alternatively, Democrats could have stiffed the unions if a few Republicans stepped forward to support the bill in exchange for tough cost control measures that Obama clearly wanted. But none would do that. It's impossible to pass health care reform without the support of labor unions or any Republican member of Congress.
The saga of the Cadillac tax is a useful example of the ways conservatives have attacked health care reform with mutually reinforcing highbrow-lowbrow attacks. Conservative politicians attack death panels and rationing and higher taxes. The conservative pundits who recognize the dishonesty of these claims may cluck their tongues a bit, but they don't put any meaningful pressure on Republican politicians to cut it out. Then the Democrats have to reduce their exposure to the lowbrow conservative attacks, which hit home with the public, by cutting back on the sacrifice in the bill. This in turn makes them vulnerable to the highbrow attacks.