“The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” –Margaret Thatcher
If you’ve read This Town or one of its many reviews, or—heaven help you—you live inside the Capital Beltway, you’re comically and/or intimately familiar with the ethanol-rich flow of our capital’s lifeblood: the parties (here defined as social gatherings lubricated with intoxicating refreshments). We throw them for any and every possible occasion—holidays, birthdays, Thursdays, candidate debates, vote counts, the State of the Union, the Response to the State of the Union, federal government shutdowns, federal government re-openings, days that aren’t Thursday, etc. I’ve been to many an event that started because somebody found a bottle of wine in or around the fridge. (Protip: There is always a bottle of wine or spirits in the vicinity of a D.C. fridge.)
A recurring topic at recent parties has been the incredible rollout of Obamacare, which has been so remarkable as to warrant a mellifluous shout out from none other than Brad Paisley (a recurring feature in Obama’s White House) and Carrie Underwood at the Country Music Awards. Beyond the usual allegations of racism against anybody who criticizes anything Democrat-related, one of the recurring themes of reaction to the unaffordability of the Affordable healthcare has been to impugn the intelligence, morality, or priorities of those complaining about losing their plans.
One element of this approach is the classic Nanny-State offense: people are upset because they don’t know what’s good for them. President Obama pioneered this argument in early attempts to retcon “context” into his lie malleable promise that we could keep our health plans if we wanted them. The New York Times (D-Acela) caught the Hail Mary and ran with it, backed up by other liberal media. A number of my liberal friends have taken up this talking point by, among other things, somewhat-rhetorically asking what government-determined minimum provisions our pre-Obamacare plans lack. (They have generally avoided the awkward fact that many of these “better” plans actually offer worse coverage.)
The obvious rejoinder to this contemptible rebuke is that we dissatisfied taxpayers are grown men and women who are perfectly capable of deciding whether or not our current health plans suit our needs for prices we’re willing to pay. Nobody feels sorry for millionaires like Dylan Ratigan having to pay a few thousand dollars more for anything. Reasonable people do take umbrage at the idea of 60-year-old women paying out the nose for worse care they didn’t want. If I happen to be wrong about that, I eagerly await the Escalating Costs Affordable Household Act, in which the government will let us keep kick us out of our cars and houses because they don’t have 360-degree cameras or come with income-determined subsidized children cared for by live-in vegan housekeepers provided by the IRS.
A second element is one championed with didactic persistence by the likes of Greg Sargent, Ezra Klein, and other liberals: lots of not-remotely-rich people have to pay profoundly more for (worse) coverage because it helps the poor and elderly, and that’s worth the inconvenience suffered by those who were promised no inconvenience. When I bemoaned the fact that the cheapest ACA-compliant plan my insurer could offer me—a very not-rich twentysomething just a couple years out of college—would nearly double my premiums and hike up my deductibles (while offering me “benefits” I could never use), a number of my liberal friends echoed pro-ACA media in talking up the reasons why the higher costs for people like our friends (of all and no political persuasions) and me were necessary.
The rejoinder here became obvious through a question I publicly asked one of the defenders: “Are you paying for your own healthcare?” The answer, if it isn’t predictable, was: No.
And there’s the rub.
Many fine soliloquys and ostensibly thoughtful discussions of the many sacrificing for the few, the “better-off” investing in the “worse-off,” the “haves” doing their duty by the “have-nots” spring from the mouths and fingers of people who will not themselves have to sacrifice anything. It’s all well and good for New York Times editors, Washington Post columnists, MSNBC program hosts, or young liberals on plans provided by large employers (whose mandate was delayed) or their parents to wax poetic about the need to appreciate the “success stories” of Obamacare and accept the “tradeoffs” of the beleaguered middle as a regrettable price for progress because they—liberal professionals and professional liberals—are not (yet) paying that price.
It’s great that the president finally apologized for making losers out of millions of people through his not-so-Affordable Care Act and lying about it. But his contrition, even if sincere, is not terribly reassuring. It will not resolve the financial struggles to which he has consigned us “losers,” nor does it even suggest a commitment to concrete reforms that will alleviate the price the professional Left knows only in allegory. The liberal, pro-Obamacare people who are paying that price are largely shocked and appalled, as I noted in an earlier post.
Perhaps those liberal “losers” will now appreciate the tongue-in-cheek descriptor on my friend Ryan Fazio’s Twitter account: “One day I hope I’m rich enough to be a Democrat.”
Unfortunately for us, most of the government is run by people who are more than rich enough to be Democrats or more than well enough connected to avoid the consequences of Democratic “tradeoffs.” And unfortunately for us, those people still think they know better than us about what we need to know—or be lied to about—and what we need to have (or not have). Hence, we should read reports like the recent one in the New York Times with a heavy dose of cynicism:
“Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, introduced legislation this week to force insurance companies to reissue the health plans they have been canceling by the thousands. And officials in several states have sought assurances from insurance companies that people will not be dropped until the federal health insurance website is working.
The president did not endorse those specific efforts and did not elaborate on how he intended to help people who were faced with paying higher premiums for a new insurance plan. Mr. Obama said the White House was looking at a “range of options” to help people whose policies had been canceled.”
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the best way to help people keep the coverage they want is to let people keep the coverage they want.
But it is unlikely the administration has any intention of allowing a proposal like Landrieu’s to become law since it would undermine the entire structure of the law. For this reason, as Avik Roy observes, “President Obama didn’t express any regret for the policies that caused people to lose their existing coverage.” To the contrary, as Roy explains in detail, Obama continued to lie about the effects of his signature law even while apologizing for those effects. The administration knew back in 2010 that number of people losing plans would be closer to $93 million (quite probably more) than “5 percent of the population.” The very design of the law ensures that mandated options for most people will be more expensive. And, perhaps most damningly, the aforementioned Nanny-State offense to protect people from their own autonomy has been the public position of the administration for years.
It is to this very Nanny-State offense—and to those who defend the law by rightfully attacking the previous awful healthcare regime—that Roy offers a succinct summation of the core problem with Obamacare as intended, passed, and effected against the Middle America:
“Any serious health reform program—left, right, or center—would involve some disruption of our existing health-coverage arrangements. What makes Obamacare such a deeply flawed piece of work is not that it disrupts our existing arrangements, but that it disrupts those arrangements by forcing people to buy costlier coverage.
And not only does Obamacare force people to buy costlier coverage, it most significantly punishes a population that is already disadvantaged in our current system: people of average income who buy coverage on their own, and don’t benefit from the heavy subsidies enjoyed by people with government- or employer-sponsored insurance.”
If I may state the obvious: the Affordable Care Act would never have passed in the first place if Democrats and the media were honest about these cancellations in 2009. If they had presented the “tradeoffs” for Obamacare’s winners and losers clearly and intelligibly, Democrats might have been forced to pursue more conservative, market-oriented proposals of the sort Republicans had been advocating at the time. But Obamacare’s proponents opted for misdirection, the law passed over prescient objections, and so here we are.
When the chips are down, and it comes to choosing between us and the healthcare law, the progressives in our government and their enablers in the media have made their choice abundantly clear: the law won.