If you think the Supreme Court’s upcoming verdict on Obamacare will be the final word, you’re in for a surprise. Here in Delaware, the Democrats who control the state legislature and governor’s mansion have just floated a bill to mandate single-payer health care in the state. If your state government is controlled by the Democratic Party, brace yourself. It’s clear Democrats have decided that if Obamacare doesn’t survive a federal court test, they’ll battle it out state by state.
Wait, you say, Obamacare didn’t involve single payer. That’s right, the Delaware bill is more extreme than Obamacare. But that’s because it’s meant as a starting point for negotiations. The goal is to provide cover for more moderate Democratic legislators as they “compromise” for something that more closely resembles Obamacare.
Wait, you say, Delaware is itty bitty and politically odd — what with Joe Biden and all that. Yes, but what’s happening here still matters: it’s a domino theory thing. If Delaware enacts its own version of Obamacare, the pressure will be on Governor Martin O’Malley in next-door Maryland to do the same. Ditto for Vermont, Hawaii and other states with governments controlled by Democrats.
Even if you live in a state that isn’t entirely controlled by Democrats but has an ambitious Democratic governor (e.g., Colorado’s John Hickenlooper), look out. Enacting Obamacare will be an irresistible trophy for these folks. This goes beyond governors rewarding their union campaign backers and establishing their liberal bona fides. It’s about getting that coveted guest spot on “Meet the Press” and becoming a player inside the Beltway, with the ultimate reward being a Vanity Fair profile.
While certain blue-state governors work at burnishing their health care credentials, they’re also increasing taxes and decreasing individual liberties. Of course, in Washington’s vaunted Democratic circles, individual liberties are just pesky gnats to be swatted.
Some conservatives only care about things of “national” scope; for them, state government concerns are minor league stuff. But they’re wrong. Scott Walker’s recent hard-won triumph over Wisconsin’s public sector unions demonstrates that state issues can have nationwide implications. The same holds true in Delaware.
Downsizing health care reform to fit one little state might seem unimportant, but it’s really the beginning of Obamacare’s Act II. If Act II is to have a happy ending, we must pay close attention to what’s going on in our statehouses.
Joanne Butler is a senior economics fellow at The Caesar Rodney Institute of Delaware. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.