“But health care will become a proxy, say strategists in both parties, for the continuing debate over whether the Obama era represents a return to bigger and more intrusive government.
“One measure of that came in a statement from Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-Ind.). Saying the measure will raise taxes and, contrary to projections, add to the national debt, he said: ‘In a life of optimism about America and its future, this morning I am as discouraged as I can remember being.’…
“But, said Axelrod: ‘I think the debate shifts now. The issue for those talking about repeal is whether they’re going to look the small-business people in the eye or the children and say this was a horrible. I’m happy to have that debate.'”
“‘Just look across the pond at how terrible things have become,’ Ryan says. In Britain, even Conservative leader David Cameron is politically unable or unwilling to criticize the National Health Service, and Ryan calls that ‘a pretty pitiful thing to watch.’ President Obama knows this, Ryan says, and wants government health care to achieve the same level of entrenchment here at home. ‘What’s really happening here is the president is saying to the American people that you’re stuck in your current station in life, you’re frozen, and the government is here to help you cope with it. But that’s not who we are. We are a dynamic society where people have the will and incentive to make the most of their lives, to reach their potential. With this bill, that whole mindset, the American idea is upended.'”
“Before the 2008 crash, it seemed like this new liberalism might be poised for a long run of domestic policy triumphs: First health care, then climate-change legislation, then card check and immigration reform and so on down the list. But in the wake of the Great Recession, our rendezvous with fiscal retrenchment has been accelerated, and the chances for a rolling series of progressive victories have diminished apace. Barring an extraordinary economic boom, the American situation will soon require the slow and painful restructuring of the welfare state that liberals have spent decades building. This environment may or may not lead to a revival of D.L.C.-style centrism among the Democrats, but at the very least it’s hard to see it proving congenial to further adventures in sweeping social legislation.
“I’ve talked to liberals who seem to understand this: The reckoning is coming, they allow, and the theory of health care reform has always been to get everybody inside the barrel before it goes over the falls. (I’d lay good money that this is Peter Orszag’s view of the matter.) But seen in this light, the health care victory looks less like the dawn of a bold new era, and more like the final lurch forward before a slow retreat. Liberals have finally captured Moscow, you might say; now they have to hope that it turns out better for them, and for America, than it did for Napoleon.”
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