Upon rereading David Ramsey’s piece on the genesis of the “private option,” it’s hard not to notice the flood of admiring compliments he bestows on the intellect of its creators. They are “clever,” “smart,” “open-minded,” and “pragmatic.” As they work in tandem with Governor Mike Beebe, they are “thoughtful and nuanced.” In particular, Senator Jonathan Dismang’s “comfort with getting into the weeds on policy details” makes him “open to pragmatic problem-solving.” Representative John Burris is a “wunderkind.” The support staff who had to sweat the details? They are “tireless and creative”; Andy Allison, in particular, is “whip-smart.”
For some reason, Ramsey’s not quite as impressed with those who resisted Obamacare implementation. Take, for example, Majority Leader Bruce Westerman. Rep. Westerman was an early advocate of the “private option.” In fact, Westerman was originally a cosponsor of the bill. But when he realized the plan was unworkable and unaffordable — and HHS dropped the hammer in the form of the now infamous “Good Friday memo” — he then backed away from the plan. This, in my judgment, is an act that required significant personal integrity and strength (some might even say that Westerman’s intellect was demonstrated when he was willing, unlike some, to alter his strategy in the face of reality) — but Ramsey is apparently unconvinced. Ramsey even argued that Westerman knew “the numbers well enough to know that the choice to expand has no meaningful impact on the national debt” — a judgment that the evidence cannot support. In fact, Ramsey speculates that Westerman dropped his support for the plan because of a “political calculation,” spurred by the actions of shadowy right-wing interest groups and “the Tea Party faithful.” (It is unclear whether Ramsey actually interviewed Westerman before writing this story, which goes into such detail about his his motivations.) Similarly, Ramsey describes House Republican opposition to the private option as being “out of spite” at Speaker Carter — because, of course, this kind of legislative opposition could have nothing to do with long-running GOP commitment to oppose Medicaid expansion and Obamacare implementation in Arkansas. Nope. It was spite. Just ask David Ramsey!
Again, David Ramsey’s writing is often intriguing and sometimes insightful. But I have to wonder if his breathless descriptions of the intellect of the private-option designers are really all that even-handed — or, alternately, if these judgments are based on the essentially irrelevant fact that, on this question, these legislators agree so very much with David Ramsey.