Hey, I hate to tell the New York Times I told you so, but … oh wait, I’m happy to tell them that. Last week, I wrote two pieces that noted the existential danger posed by the ObamaCare disaster to big-government progressivism, one at the Fiscal Times and the other at CNN. Today, the Gray Lady alerts its readers to the risks of failure and incompetence at the White House:
In his biggest and most important speeches, the president often talks with passion about a “smarter, more effective government.” He has called on Congress to embrace and pay for a “21st century government that’s open and competent.” And he has vowed to work to “rebuild people’s faith in the institution of government.”
But in the pursuit of that lofty goal, Mr. Obama faces determined opposition from conservatives who view government as the problem, not the solution. And to succeed, he must win over an increasingly skeptical public whose trust in government has eroded over decades. A survey last week by the Pew Research Center found that just 19 percent of Americans trust government to do what is right just about always or most of the time.
The breakdown of the federal HealthCare.gov Web site could emerge as a test of Mr. Obama’s philosophy, with potentially serious implications for an agenda that relies heavily on the belief in a can-do bureaucracy. Michael Dimock, the Pew center’s director, said that the longer the problems persist, the more they could bolster what he called the “almost American value that government is inefficient.” …
Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs magazine and a conservative opponent of the health law, said the government’s inability to get the Web site working raises broader questions about how well the rest of the health care law will be implemented in the next several years.
“The promise of the administrative state becomes harder to believe in when it fails in practice,” Mr. Levin said. He added that it was easy to overstate the impact of a Web site that would get fixed eventually. But he said that “there’s a sense that in trying to do too much, the government creates questions about whether it can do anything at all.”
The real problem isn’t confined to the website. It comes from the suddenly-apparent economics of risk pools, and the nature of sharing costs within them. The mandates for coverage have forced insurers to take on a lot more risk, most of it in the form of routine medical care, which means that premiums and deductibles have to rise in order to cover those anticipated costs. Anyone with a basic understanding of supply and demand and a passing familiarity with risk pools would have figured that out immediately, but that doesn’t include anyone in this administration, apparently. Now Americans who believed Obama are getting sticker shock from the results:
The problems with HealthCare.gov are now well documented and continued with an outage on Sunday. But even if the website gets fixed by the end of November, as the White House promises, potentially bigger problems lie ahead.
Middle income consumers are starting to get hit with sticker shock as previously low-priced plans get canceled and replaced with higher-dollar coverage. Stories of consumers getting plans canceled directly contradict Obama’s promise that people who like their plans could keep them under the new law. Defenders of the law say that the new plans will be better. But they will also cost more at a time when wages are stagnant.
And many of these middle class consumers hit by higher rates do not qualify for the federal subsidies intended help millions of lower income consumers get covered, many for the first time. Anger from consumers is likely to add to already rising political pressure to delay or alter the law.
As it’s gotten bigger the federal government appears to have gotten less competent. Apollo was a success on its own terms, but the big government policies that followed — the War On Poverty, the War On Drugs, the War On Cancer — have all been pretty much failures, sometimes disastrous ones.
Even Obama himself is evidence of this problem. His 2012 presidential campaignwas famous for its mastery of technology, building up an electronic campaign infrastructure in just a few months that helped him win the election. But, of course, it wasn’t a government operation. Obama without the government — a technological success. Obama within the government — a technological embarrassment. The difference between success and failure here, as even Obama-haters will have to admit, wasn’t Obama. It’s more likely that a political campaign has clear goals, and lots of freedom to improvise, while a federal program is much more encumbered by law and bureaucracy.
Whatever the cause, it remains indisputable that the federal government isn’t very good at delivering on big projects. The obvious response is to not entrust the federal government with big projects on which it can’t deliver. Instead, they should be left to those who can.
Will our political and pundit class draw the obvious lesson here? Stay tuned.
Better yet, will voters draw the obvious lesson? After all, we get the incompetents and the incompetence we choose.