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Minnesota 2020 Journal: Obamacare and Occam’s Razor

October 11, 2013 By John R. Van Hecke, Executive Director & Fellow

Hard-right conservatives hate Obamacare. They’ve caused a partial federal government shutdown and are racing towards defaulting on the US debt repayment, all to force Congress and President Obama to defund and de-authorize the Affordable Care Act. And, this is only the most recent of regular, repeated and defeated attacks on ACA. That’s a lot of hate.

Right right-wingers have been so successful in their messaging that even moderate conservatives reflexively denounce mandatory health insurance plan participation, originally a moderate conservative idea. As of Tuesday, all conservative members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation remained firmly committed to the “all or nothing” strategy. Public polling suggests that Americans are holding conservative Members of Congress in general and the US House majority in particular responsible. Still, the stand-off continues.

Rhetorically, conservative policymakers and advocates are very clear, embracing half-truths, misdirection and outright falsehoods. Obamacare is, in the conservative view, an abject failure. It’s not hard to find extreme expressions. Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, quoted in an interview with World Net Daily, said “I think the reason is because President Obama can’t wait to get Americans addicted to the crack cocaine of dependency on more government health care.” That statement follows her interview by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer where she claimed that the ACA would compel 30 million Americans removal from employer-based health insurance programs.

Congress has taken 42 votes attempting to repeal Obamacare. They’ve lost every time. This time, objectors are compromising federal government function and, in about a week, defaulting on federal loans and financial obligations to compel repeal. What is it, exactly, driving conservative obsession with Obamacare? To answer this question, let’s run it through Occam’s razor.

Occam’s razor is an analytical method that seeks to simplify a problem by eliminating unnecessary elements. This construct rapidly increases the probability of finding a useful solution by discarding pointless inquiry that repeats what is already known. The shortest path to finding the truth is, generally speaking, most efficient and preferred.

Ockham is a village in Surrey, England. It was the residence of 13th century Franciscan friar and philosopher William of Ockham, credited with writing the first draft of what we now think of as Occam’s razor. Entities, he dictated, should not be multiplied unnecessarily. Going into excessive analytical detail is both wasteful and pointless when the simplest solution has been successfully applied. Scientists and non-scientists use Occam’s razor differently but the idea that the simplest explanation is best is common to both.

Returning to the question, “Why do conservatives hate Obamacare?” and using Occam’s razor to guide analysis, the simplest answer is the easiest. We must be guided by behavior, not words. It’s not at all clear why conservatives hate Obamacare but their frequent use of extreme, incorrect or unsubstantiated answers illustrates that they do, in fact, really hate it. Rather than trying to determine a rational reason for a seemingly irrational act, the simplest answer—conservatives really hate Obamacare—is the easiest and the most helpful. In other words, we shouldn’t try to crawl into conservative heads, sifting through boomeranging dark thoughts but simply accept that Obamacare reactions are a manifestation of a conservative worldview. This year they hate Obamacare; next year, they’ll hate something else.

The simplest answer is generally the correct answer. Other arguments are also correct. Extremely wealth conservatives are funding conservative advocacy efforts in order to reduce high income earners tax obligations. Service sector businesses rely on a permanently poor, undereducated workforce to meet profit goals. But, these arguments don’t improve on the simplest conclusion.

The Affordable Care Act is healthcare reform. It’s the first, truly broad scale law that trades previous government healthcare financing and its ever-spiraling costs for a marketplace solution by requiring citizens to have health insurance and by requiring insurance companies to compete for customers without excluding pre-existing conditions. ACA does this principally through health insurance exchanges, information gathering and distribution sites that let consumers compare prices and coverage packages before purchasing.

Conservatives object to people organizing themselves for greater collective strength. “Smaller government” is code for dividing and conquering, allowing private wealth to develop and maintain an unfair competitive advantage over poor and less privileged people. By the same token, “no new taxes” is conservative code for financially limiting government’s expressed equality mission, facilitating more advantage for wealth. Seeking Obamacare’s repeal is simply the most recent manifestation of a well-established conservative policy construct.

Keep us down. Keep us separated. Keep us scared. Keep us poor. Occam’s razor: the simplest answer is, pretty much, the best answer. That is why conservatives hate Obamacare. That’s why they’ve shut down the federal government. And, that’s why preserving Obamacare is vitally important.

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