'Socialism,' Chicago Style

Article excerpt

Byline: Howard Fineman

Why the health industry quietly loves Obamacare.

I've been covering Congress forever and had never heard this in the press gallery: shouts of an angry crowd outside the Capitol. Since the health-care vote in the House, Republicans seem to be finding inspiration less from the words of Ronald Reagan than the films of George Romero. They've called the health-care law a "Frankenstein" and a "nightmare" and a "monstrosity." In the annals of rhetorical hysteria there's no one more overheated than GOP Rep. Steve King of rural western Iowa. Americans, he declared, "must take their country back by methodically eliminating every vestige of creeping socialism, including socialized medicine."

There are many things you can call the legislation assembled by President Obama and his band of dogged Democrats. It's historic, if for no other reason than it effectively makes health care for all a civil right. It's massive, to be sure. And the way it was secretly bolted together and jammed through Congress in the final days made a mockery of Obama's campaign promise of "transparency." But the one thing that you can't call it is "socialism." If this is socialism, then Warren Buffett is Karl Marx. It is, rather, a monument to the political philosophy of -Chicago--indeed of -America--which declares that big business deserves to make a lot of money (a lot of it from the government itself) in the name of doing some good for the citizens.

You'll notice that, while the GOP's tea partiers are in a frenzy, most of the health-care industry is not. The stock market didn't tank when Obama signed the bill, and health-related stocks have been beating the overall average. That is because much of the health-care industry is going to make out big under the new law. Insurers, hospitals, doctors, and drug companies will get 32 million new government-subsidized -customers. Most of the new regulatory burdens they'll have to shoulder are ones they've decided they can live with, or figure out how to neutralize sooner or later.

The political architecture of the bill was pure Chicago. Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago-bred White House chief of staff, pursued a triple divide-and-conquer strategy worthy of the Daley machine. By brokering deals with Big Pharma, the hospitals, and doctors, he isolated the recalcitrant insurance -companies--which became the political pinatas in a campaign financed in part by the other, more cooperative parts of the industry (a nice, vindictive touch). …