Over the past few weeks, conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat has written off-base columns on “pro-life liberalism,” health insurance, and populism. Here are Winning Progressive’s responses to those columns. (More)

health care is pro-life

In a column attempting to argue that restrictions on abortion do not interfere with opportunities for women, Ross Douthat claimed that “pro-life liberalism” is a “once commonplace, now mythical proposition.” Winning Progressive responded:

Sorry, Mr. Douthat, but pro-life liberalism is not a “mythical proposition.” It is just that we define “pro-life” much differently than today’s conservative movement does.

As a liberal, being pro-life means to me:

  • opposing unnecessary wars and viewing military action as a last resort
  • supporting universal health care, as tens of thousands of people die prematurely each year due to a lack of health insurance
  • using government regulations to limit air pollution, thereby saving tens of thousands of lives every year
  • funding programs for reproductive health, prenatal care, and infant care in order to help reduce infant mortality
  • opposing the death penalty and torture
  • supporting Head Start and other programs that help give more children a fairer start in life
  • supporting effective food and product safety regulations to help prevent unnecessary illness, injuries, and death

Conservatives tend to be on the other side of virtually all of the issues I just listed. Perhaps that is why it is a oft-repeated truism that many conservatives appear to be highly concerned about protecting fetuses, yet seem to be entirely uninterested once the fetus is born. As a liberal, I prefer to make sure we are preserving, protecting, and promoting the lives of people who are already alive. And that is why I am proud to call myself a “pro-life” liberal.

In response to Ross Douthat’s column claiming to have found a “hidden consensus” that we should end the linkage between employment and health insurance, Winning Progressive agreed but only if we have a plan to replace that system with one that will ensure universal access to affordable health insurance:

Here’s something I don’t say often, but I largely agree with Mr. Douthat on this one. The connection between employment and health insurance makes little sense, as it is inefficient for business and restricts individuals from changing jobs or being self-employed due to worries about losing insurance.

The key, however, is making sure that as we move away from employer-based health insurance we replace it with a system that ensures universal coverage. ObamaCare takes a large and valuable step towards achieving such goal, by using health insurance exchanges, subsidies to individuals, and the shared responsibility provision to expand coverage to 32 million more Americans while reducing net costs for most people.

There are two other proposals for moving away from the employer-based system. The first, proposed by McCain in 2008 and many other Republicans, is a non-starter as it would leave individuals at the mercy of health insurance companies and, as a result, increase costs and reduce coverage.

The second is a Medicare-for-all system under which everyone would obtain insurance through a taxpayer-funded program similar to Medicare. Such approach would provide better coverage at a lower cost and be more efficient. We progressives must all work to make sure ObamaCare gets successfully implemented and then morphs into a Medicare-for-all system over time.

In response to Ross Douthat’s column arguing that there is a growing “libertarian populism” in today’s conservative movement that seeks to undermine the increasing centralization of power in our society, Winning Progressive responded with a dose of reality:

The suggestion that today’s conservative movement represents, or even contains elements of, a populist opposition to a “centralization of power … in which the realm’s political, business and military interests [a]re colluding against the common good” is laughable. Instead, the conservative movement is at the forefront of the effort to create such centralized power in the hands of a narrow elite.

Conservatives worked to dismantle limits on campaign spending so that corporations and billionaires can spend virtually unlimited sums buying our elections. Conservatives have led a privatization movement that seeks to siphon off public resources for private gain. Conservatives are working to dismantle Social Security and Medicare in order to benefit financial and insurance industry interests. Conservatives have fought tooth and nail against even the mild financial regulations in Dodd-Frank and the CFPB, and led the deregulation movement that has enriched Wall Street at the cost of our economy.

Democrats, and even some liberals, have been far from perfect on these issues. Far too often, we compromise or buy into conservative frames on these issues, or fail to fight bad ideas aggressively enough. But we should never lose sight of the fact that, throughout our nation’s history, only progressive governance has led to real success in protecting and advancing the common good and rolling back the power of a narrow elite. Conversely, it is the conservative movement that has throughout our history and continues to be at the forefront of the centralization of power in the hands of a wealthy elite. No amount of wishful thinking by Mr. Douthat or empty speeches by people like Senator Rand Paul will change that reality.