From this week’s G-File, The Consequences of Overpromising on Obamacare:
It’s difficult to exaggerate how arrogant supporters of Obamacare were back in 2009–10. Imagine trying to exaggerate the heat of the sun to the point where people would say, “Look, I know the sun is hot. But come on, it’s not that hot.” It’s the same thing with the arrogance of Obamacare pushers. The English language simply doesn’t provide the adjectives required to overstate the smugness of the Smart Set during the fights over the Affordable Care Act. It wasn’t just that they knew they were right, they acted as if critics were flat-earthers, birthers, know-nothings, cranks, weirdos, and maroons. This was necessary because the “reformers” were the protagonists in our MacGuffinized political discourse. They had to be heroes and their opponents villains.
Obamacare was going to extend life-expectancies, save money, wildly expand the number of people getting insurance coverage, improve health care generally, lower premium costs, help small business become more competitive, bring back Firefly, restore Shoeless Joe Jackson’s reputation, transform pizza and beer into carb-free fare, and make Bill Clinton’s mysterious cold sore disappear. Okay, I made up those last few. But they were just as unlikely to come to pass.
I will admit, I was premature in my Obamacare grave dance in 2013 when I wrote this, uh, rhetorically excessive gloat-o-rama. I read too much into the fact that President Obama had hired the finest computer programmers the Amish community has ever produced to design the Obamacare website. It turned out that the lethal internal contradictions of Obamacare needed more time to play themselves out, like a man stabbed with a Strontium-90 tipped umbrella or a victim of the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique…
But at least those obstreperous elderly nuns will have to pay for birth control!
No, Obamacare will not collapse imminently — or maybe not even ever. But that is not because it is “working” as a public policy. Countries around the world have carried the husk of their far more socialized health-care systems for generations. Rent control, the minimum wage, and countless other economically ridiculous policies endure because they satisfy the political needs of politicians, bureaucrats, and a whole phylum of remora-like rent-seekers. That’s why Milton Friedman said, “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.” He should know, given how it was basically his idea to implement tax-withholding from paychecks as a wartime measure
You might say that these programs also help real people too. And that is true. But wealth distribution efforts always help someone. And those someones become vested interests who demand perpetuation of the status quo. If the federal government implemented a program to give every left-handed person in the country $20,000 a year free and clear (no doubt to compensate for the fact that such people are witches), you can be sure the Left Handed Association of America would work assiduously to protect their entitlement.
The VA health-care system is a moral outrage, but it resists actual reform because the interests of the VA bureaucracy and their associated allies are more important than the interests of vets in need of quality health care.
So it may be with Obamacare. For political and psychological reasons, liberals are invested in the idea that Obamacare is working. To the extent they are willing to concede it has problems, they are problems that can only be remedied by giving the government more power and control. Indeed, for many supporters, like Barney Frank, Obamacare was always supposed to be a stepping stone to single-payer health care. This is the essence of modern progressivism, the ratchet can only turn in one direction — towards more power and control for the people in charge.