Riley Parr: Republicans should adopt the left’s language

Riley ParrReagan once quipped that “[t]he trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant; it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so.” And there’s nothing like an election to highlight the “isn’t so.”

As if the obscenely high inflation, crime and energy prices weren’t enough, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided last week to go on national television and announce that everyone over the age of 5 should get the COVID vaccine. Bringing to mind the COVID lockdowns pushed by Democrats is probably not a great closing argument for the party in power led by a president whose approval rating has fallen under 40%.

When the optics are bad for the left, then you know things are bad. Even if the policies behind the catchy titles are disastrous, at least “health care is a human right” and “Medicare for all” sound enticing. That’s always going to be the challenge for the right. Which is why Republicans should adopt the language of the left when it comes to policy talking points.

“Balanced budgets” sounds impressive, and it is. In those times of economic hardship, it can prove exceptionally beneficial for maintaining a functioning state. But just as Republicans are right to argue that not spending more than you make should be the norm rather than the exception, we shouldn’t be quick to pat ourselves on the back for doing exactly what should have been done in the first place.

But on other issues, like health care or the cost of college, is there any reason why Republicans cannot be out talking about how every American should have the opportunity to get high-quality, affordable health care and college that hasn’t quadrupled in cost (adjusted for inflation) over the last 40 years? The difference is that one approach works, while the policies proposed by liberals continue the status quo or make the problem even worse.

One barrier, on the health care front, is that many Americans assume the status quo, even before Obamacare, remotely resembles an open market. Not even close. Now comes the un-sexy part of the conversation that few people have and even fewer people want to consider: Anytime someone besides the consumer pays the cost, that cost is going to be higher than if the consumer paid the provider directly.

It’s the same reason why ordering that lunch from DoorDash for Uber Eats is somehow twice as expensive as if you walked down to the restaurant and picked it up. There’s not just the delivery charge; the company providing the service wants to make some money, too. The same is true with third-party payers in health care and education.

Government and employer-provided health insurance means the population as a whole picks up much of the tab for most procedures. There’s no reason for the medical providers to keep costs low—let alone disclose those costs—and insurers don’t care, because they get to charge higher premiums.

It’s virtually the same story for higher education. Is it really any wonder that the average cost of tuition at a public university is now the cost of a good new car? In 1980, tuition and fees at a public university averaged, adjusted for inflation, $2,444. Now they’re pushing $10,000. That’s what happens when the government starts pumping money into universities through student loans—the university has no incentive to keep costs low, and the government gets to charge its borderline-usury interest rates. Then the cycle keeps repeating itself.

Some Republicans have been able to adopt the language of the left to convey conservative ideas. When coupled with the current state of affairs, those candidates are much more likely to garner broader coalitions.•

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Parr is a practicing attorney in central Indiana. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.


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