Bob Dole Was a "Socialist?"

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bob Dole, a leading Republican U.S. Senator for 30 years, Senate Majority and Minority leader, and of course the Republican presidential nominee in 1996, was also apparently something else you probably didn't realize. That's right: by the standards of John Boehner, Eric Cantor and the "Tea Party" people, Bob Dole was clearly a "Socialist." How's that, you ask? Check this out.
In 1993, some Republicans believed they needed to come up with an alternative to Bill Clinton’s health care plan (in contrast to the, “Just Say No” approach advocated by Will Kristol at the time, and again today) – with 20 Republican Senators eventually introducing to great fanfare the Dole-Chafee bill. This bill was flawed and politically impossible to get through Congress given the many interests it offended – from labor to the elderly to big corporations. This was because its main goal was to undermine the employer-provided health insurance system and to a lesser degree the government-provided health insurance system. The Republicans saw these as distancing individuals from the cost of their health care decisions and thus as two of the main drivers of increasing costs – though they did not acknowledge or attempt to fix any of the problems which made the individual health insurance market untenable for most. This bill included:

*An individual mandate enforced by a penalty imposed on those who did not comply.
*A government voucher to purchase health insurance for individuals to up to 240% of the poverty line. (Which is more generous than the Senate Finance bill which only offered subsidies for families up to 200% of the poverty line.)
*A cap on how much health insurance could be deducted as a tax credit (similar to what the Senate Finance Committee proposed recently, which Republicans denounced as raising taxes.)
*The removal of the tax credit for all private health insurance plans that did not provide a “federally guaranteed package of health care benefits.” (Which is more radical than anything Obama is proposing – and a greater reach of the government into the private sector.)
*The elimination of discrimination on the basis of preexisting conditions.
*Financing through cuts in Medicare Part B and the limits in tax credits discussed above.
That's right, the 1993 Dole-Chafee, Republican health care reform proposal had "many of the same goals" and "similar mechanisms to achieve these goals" as the Democratic health care reform bills that passed the U.S. House and Senate last year. In fact, as this article explains, the Dole-Chafee Republican approach set "goals similar to Clinton's: universal coverage, cost constraints, and quality care...[plus] an individual, not employer, mandate...[that] requires individuals to purchase their own insurance," etc. Or, as this article puts it: "The model the Democrats are working on now clearly owes a great deal to these two Republican attempts at health care reform. It’s a shame that Republicans have now taken to demonizing Obama’s plan on many of the very grounds that would necessarily be at the core of an actual conservative attempt to tackle health care."

In short, by today's Republican standards, Bob Dole and 20+ Republican U.S. Senators back in 1993 must have been "socialists," because the Republicans' 1993 health care reform plan has a great deal in common with today's Democratic plans. Unfortunately, today's Republicans are far, FAR to the right of 1993 Republicans. They also are far more willing to say anything, even if it poisons our political dialog and hurts tens of millions of people in the process, with the sole purpose of seeing that Democrats "fail." It's truly sad to see the intellectual and moral collapse of what was once a great U.S. political party.

P.S. Oh yeah, and let's not forget: it was Republicans who came up with the idea of "counseling for end-of-life issues and care", aka Sarah Palin's "death panels."