Where Conservatives Are Wrong--and Right--on Obamacare Funding

GOP opposes massive new spending Obamacare brings--not the deficit reduction.

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The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel has a plan to undo Obamacare piece by piece, and, unsurprisingly, it involves the isolation of the least popular parts of the law:

If the GOP is to dismember ObamaCare, it must pressure Democrats into helping. That's what Republicans did this week. Next up for debate will be other odious elements: the individual mandate, taxes on kids' braces, restrictions on health savings accounts, cuts to Medicare. The GOP will highlight each one and then ask 2012 Democrats what they are willing to defend.

Jonathan Chait calls this approach rank demagoguery:

What holds these elements together? They're all elements of the program that reduce deficits. The conservative attack of the [healthcare law] has centered around the claim that the deficit-reducing elements aren't sustainable because Congress won't follow through with them. And now conservatives are trying to make that a reality by systematically proposing to reduce tax revenues and raise expenditures.

He has a point. Republicans, so far, aren't willing to buck public support for things like requiring insurance companies to cover those with preexisting conditions, which will cost money. Yet Chait's argument is still a bit slippery. It would be fairer to say they are elements of the program that pay for the program. They don’t reduce deficits in a vacuum. Their primary purpose is to raise revenue for giant new federal outlays. [Read the U.S. News debate: Should the healthcare law be repealed?]

I’ve made this argument before: Imagine if Democrats had proposed stand-alone measures to cut Med Advantage and dedicate all savings to restoring the solvency of Medicare. Republicans, or many of them, would have been ecstatically supportive. 

Fundamentally, it’s the new spending they oppose—not the deficit reduction.