AEI writes an honest article about ObamaCare

This article from the Sunday Times by AEI fellow J.D. Kleinke is exceptional for two reasons. For one, it’s an excellent explanation for why conservatives should agree with Obamacare. Second, despite coming from the American Enterprise Institute, an organization that regularly contributes global warming and other conspiratorial nonsense to the WSJ editorial page, it appears to contain nothing but factual information. It’s a good reminder of why liberals have been weak in their defense of the law – it’s really just Federal Romney/Bob Dole care, but also provides a very striking critique of the justifications of conservatives opposing it. Including my favorite argument for why the supposedly free-market system we enjoy now is bogus:

Chief among these obstacles are market limitations imposed by the problematic nature of health insurance, which requires that younger, healthier people subsidize older, sicker ones. Because such participation is often expensive and always voluntary, millions have simply opted out, a risky bet emboldened by the 24/7 presence of the heavily subsidized emergency room down the street. The health care law forcibly repatriates these gamblers, along with those who cannot afford to participate in a market that ultimately cross-subsidizes their medical misfortunes anyway, when they get sick and show up in that E.R. And it outlaws discrimination against those who want to participate but cannot because of their medical histories. Put aside the considerable legislative detritus of the act, and its aim is clear: to rationalize a dysfunctional health insurance marketplace.

This is spot on. The analysis of the possible true motivations for the bile and invective levied at what is essentially a conservative piece of legislation are also stunning coming from a conservative:

Clear away all the demagogy and scare tactics, and Obamacare is, at its core, Romneycare across state lines. But today’s Republicans dare not own anything built on principles of economic conservatism, if it also protects one of the four horsemen of the social conservatives’ apocalypse: coverage for the full spectrum of women’s reproductive health, from birth control to abortion.

Social conservatives’ hostility to the health care act is a natural corollary to their broader agenda of controlling women’s bodies. These are not the objections of traditional “conservatives,” but of agitators for prying, invasive government — the very things they project, erroneously, onto the workings of the president’s plan. Decrying the legislation for interfering in the doctor-patient relationship, while seeking to pass grossly intrusive laws involving the OB-GYN-patient relationship, is one of the more bizarre disconnects in American politics.

This is a rare, clear-eyed, honest, and insightful piece of writing from AEI. Have they turned a corner?

Say Goodby to a Hack

Chris DeMuth, the head of AEI, is announced he’s stepping down from the position in the WSJ Op-Ed page (article free here – at AEI). His farewell is a call to crankery:

Every one of the right-of-center think tanks was founded in a spirit of opposition to the established order of things. Opposition is the natural proclivity of the intellectual (it’s what leads some smart people to become intellectuals rather than computer programmers), and is of course prerequisite to criticism and devotion to reform. And for conservatives, opposition lasted a very long time–in domestic policy, from the New Deal through 1980.

These circumstances meant that the think tanks in their formative years attracted many contrarian characters who were strongly disaffected by some aspect of politics or policy. One of AEI’s founders was Raymond Moley, the FDR brain-truster who coined the term “New Deal” and then became disillusioned with the project (a liberal mugged by reality long before the 1960s, he was a proto-neoconservative). Milton Friedman was an active AEIer when he was still considered a crackpot in polite academic circles. Robert Bork and Jeane Kirkpatrick worked at AEI long before they became public personalities.

You ask me, Milton Friedman still was a crackpot when he died this year – none of his ideas, no matter how widely adopted actually worked. Robert Bork is so embarrassing as an intellectual and a human being that when he wasn’t serving as a hit-man for Nixon during the Saturday Night Massacre, he wrote execrable legal opinions on reverting the constitution to a some antebellum ideal. He also cites Charles Murray, of Bell Curve fame, the most recent leader in the effort to abuse science to justify racism.

This isn’t surprising talk from someone who championed the conversion of AEI from a conservative, but scholarly organization to a promoter of catastrophic idiocy. Basically, if you want to know who thought up the Iraq war – it’s these idiots. DeMuth takes credit for the surge in the essay:

Sometimes the moment comes with astonishing speed. Last December, a group of military specialists closeted themselves at AEI to see if they could devise a new strategy for the war in Iraq, one that might have a reasonable prospect of victory following three years of catastrophic mistakes. Their plan was adopted within weeks by the White House, Pentagon, and new commanders in the field, with all credit due to our soldiers in action for their great success to date.

But what he fails to remind us is that the strategy of the invasion and subsequent attempt to turn Iraq into a libertarian paradise was largely the intellectually aborted brainchild of AEI “thinkers”.

Timothy Noah has the full scoop of the legacy of AEI in the DeMuth years in Slate. It’s a must-read for people to understand why I consider the global-warming denying, torture-promoting, stem-cell restricting, ultra-right, racist, and downright stupid nonsense coming from AEI to be the height of organized denialism.

WSJ and anti-government conspiracies

Leave it to AEI writing for the WSJ editorial page to allege a grand conspiracy of the government against pharmaceutical companies. Their proof? The government wants to compare the efficacy of new drugs to older ones to make sure they’re actually better.

The reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (Schip), created in 1997 to cover children from lower-income families who make too much to qualify for Medicaid, is up for renewal this fall. Tucked into page 414, section 904 of the House bill is a provision to spend more than $300 million to establish a new federal “Center for Comparative Effectiveness” to conduct government-run studies of the economic considerations that go into drug choices.

The center will initially be funded through Medicare but will soon get its own “trust fund.” The aim is to arm government actuaries with data that proponents hope will provide “scientific” proof that expensive new drugs are no better than their older alternatives. The trick is to maintain just enough credibility around the conduct of these trials to justify unpopular decisions not to pay for newer medicines.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with this sort of fiscally minded clinical research, Medicare is no ordinary payer: It dictates decisions made in the private market. So as the government begins tying its own payment decisions to the results of its own studies, there’s a great temptation to selectively interpret data and arbitrarily release results. Clearly, this obvious conflict of interest demands even more outside scrutiny and transparency than has been the usual fare when it comes to government research.

Yes, because private research is so much more transparent than studies performed by the government. Gottlieb’s example of a government hit on expensive drugs, was of all things, the Women’s Health Initiative.

More insane conspiratorial nonsense from AEI and the WSJ below the fold.
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