Years ago John McPhee wrote a great book about Bill Bradley called “A Sense of Where You Are.” I keep thinking about that title. You have to know where you are in time and space, you have to know who you are and what you’re doing, you have to be able to locate the moment and reorient yourself within it.
Politically where are we right now, at this moment?
We have a huge piece of U.S. economic and social change that debuted a month ago as a program. The program dealt with something personal, even intimate: your health, the care of your body, the medicines you choose to take or procedures you get. It was hugely controversial from day one. It took all the political oxygen from the room. It failed to garner even one vote from the opposition when it was passed. It gave rise to a significant opposition movement, the town hall uprisings, which later produced the tea party. It caused unrest. In fact, it seemed not to answer a problem but cause it. I called ObamaCare, at the time of its passage, a catastrophic victory—one won at too great cost, with too much political bloodshed, and at the end what would you get? Barren terrain. A thing not worth fighting for.
So the program debuts and it’s a resounding, famous, fantastical flop. The first weeks of the news coverage are about how the websites don’t work, can you believe we paid for this, do you believe they had more than three years and produced this public joke of a program, this embarrassment?
But now it’s much more serious. No one’s thinking about the websites. They wish you were thinking about the websites! I bet America hopes the websites never work so they never have to enroll.
The problem now is not the delivery system of the program, it’s the program itself. Not the computer screen but what’s inside the program. This is something you can’t get the IT guy in to fix.
They said if you liked your insurance you could keep your insurance—but that’s not true. It was never true! They said if you liked your doctor you could keep your doctor—but that’s not true. It was never true! They said they would cover everyone who needed it, and instead people who had coverage are losing it—millions of them! They said they would make insurance less expensive—but it’s more expensive! Premium shock, deductible shock. They said don’t worry, your health information will be secure, but instead the whole setup looks like a hacker’s holiday. Bad guys are apparently already going for your private information.
Look at the simple, factual eloquence of Edie Littlefield Sundby, from Monday’s Journal. It is a story that tells you everything you need to know about ObamaCare. It is the single most persuasive and informative piece written since the whole program began.
And now there are reports the insurance companies are taking advantage of the chaos of the program, and its many dislocations, to hike premiums. Meaning the law was written in such a way that insurance companies profit on it.
And—I am limiting things to just today’s news – the New York Times reports that while millions may qualify for enough federal subsidies to pay the entire monthly cost of some health-insurance plans, the zero premiums come with some “serious trade-offs.” What serious trade-offs? Most of these plans, called the bronze policies, “require people to pay the most in out-of-pocket costs, for doctor visit and other benefits like hospital stays.” Huh? I thought the purpose of the law was to help with the cost of doctor visits and hospital stays!
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Back to a sense of where we are. You know where we are? It’s as if it’s 1964 and the administration has just passed landmark civil rights legislation and the bill goes into effect, and everyone looks—only immediately it is apparent that it makes everyone’s life worse! It doesn’t help minority groups – it makes their lives harder and less free! And it does real, present and intimate damage to the majority.
It’s as if it’s 1937 and they launched Social Security, only rich coupon-clippers on Park Avenue immediately started getting small monthly checks, and 67-year-old dust bowlers in tarpaper shacks started getting monthly bills.
It’s the biggest governmental enterprise that hasn’t worked since the earliest beginnings of the U.S. rocket program, when they kept trying to send rockets into space and they kept falling, defeated and groaning, into the ground. Only the rockets were still unmanned, so those failures never hurt anybody!
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ObamaCare is a practical, policy and political disaster, a parlay of poisonous P’s.
And it is unbelievable – simply unbelievable – that the administration is so proud, so childish, so ideological, so ignorant and so uncaring about the bill’s victims that they refuse to stop, delay, go back, redraw and ease the trauma.
Two closing notes. In my lifetime the good word liberal was discarded by the Democratic Party. Over the decades they’d run it into the ground and changed it from a plus to a minus. Liberal came to suggest a whole world of bad ideas—soft on crime, eager for gun confiscation, big taxing. So the past 20 years Democrats tried to change their label, and in the Obama era it was finally definitively changed. They were now progressives.
Well, the biggest piece of progressive legislation in our lifetimes—not just costly but intrusive, abusive, and marked by a command-and-control mentality—is ObamaCare.
Remember, “We’re gonna need a bigger boat”? They’re gonna need another name.
Second point: I don’t know, maybe the Republican Party could focus on where we are and help those Americans who are beside themselves with anxiety? A friend had a suggestion today. Maybe instead of having oversight hearings on the stupid website, they could be hauling in some insurance executives to see if they’re capitalizing on this bad law and trying to profit on its dislocations? You know, like they’re listening not to K Street lobbyists but the people?
Maybe they could even call in some people from the White House and Congress, the ones who helped write and interpret this famous law that you had to pass before you could know what was in it, and ask: “Did you ever meet a normal human? Did you understand what you were doing when you produced this thing?”
Maybe they could even ask the president: “In your entire life, from community organizer to lawyer to politician, did you ever buy an insurance policy? Were you always on your wife’s plan, or immediately put on a plush government plan? Did you ever have to do anything like what you’re telling the people of your country to do?”