by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Many on the Left have seized on the failure of Ryan’s American Health Care Act as a sign that it’s time for Democrats to work with Trump on a single-payer health care system that “takes care of everybody,” as Trump himself promised during his presidential campaign.
It’s not just the Left. Frank Buckley, the conservative law professor and author who helped organize “Scholars and Writers for Trump,” agrees: it’s time for Trump to embrace single-payer. In a recent column for the New York Post, Buckley doesn’t try to make a policy argument for a Canada-style national health-care system, he makes a political argument for it. …
… Buckley’s argument for single-payer doesn’t amount to much. But his logic illuminates a divide in conservative circles between those who attribute Trump’s win to economic factors like income inequality and economic mobility, and those who attribute it to cultural factors like political correctness and the wholesale rejection of our political elites.
Buckley falls into the first camp. Last year in an essay for The American Conservative, based partly on his recent book, “The Way Back,” Buckley says that to win elections again, “conservatives should begin by admitting that income mobility is the defining political issue of our time, that we lost the 2012 election because we ignored it, that anger at the class society we have become explains the rise of Donald Trump, and that the way back lies in the pursuit of socialist ends through capitalist means.” …
… The problem is that such claims don’t bear close scrutiny. Much of Buckley’s argument, both in his essay and book, relies on a single study that has been soundly debunked by a number of economists like Scott Winship and Donald Schneider.
The so-called “Great Gatsby Curve,” which posits that the United States is one of the most economically immobile countries in the developed world, is deeply flawed. Winship wrote that it “is of practically no use” in trying to determine the future of economic mobility in America. The truth is, when measured properly, mobility in America is about the same as it is in Sweden and Canada.
Why is this important in the context of a health care debate? Because if you believe that Trump was elected to ameliorate income inequality and boost economic mobility, if you think his supporters want him to enact policies to those ends and build a coalition in Congress to realize them, then there’ll be no fine distinctions between “socialist ends through capitalist means.” In that case, we might as well have signed up for Obama’s third term.