So says Jon Meacham on today’s Morning Joe, using an embarrassing but relatively innocuous episode from the Reagan administration to describe the impact of ObamaCare on the progressive agenda. Meacham, a contributing editor to Time magazine, worries that this episode will get trotted out “for years and years” to rebuke progressives who want to pursue massive government projects, but Harold Ford has a better handle on its meaning (via Andrew Johnson at The Corner):
“This is a self-inflicted wound for people who believed in the public sector,” he said. “This is, in a way, the progressive equivalent of declaring ketchup a vegetable,” Meacham said on Wednesday morning; he also referred to the Packard Commission’s findings of a $600 toilet seat at the Pentagon as a similar anecdote of bungled government programs. “It will be used for years and years.”
Harold Ford, Jr. chimed in to agree that it will “raise real questions for the long-term about whether the government and public entities can manage enormous projects like this.”
That’s actually the long-term risk for the progressive agenda. It’s not just that Republicans and conservatives can toss out a rhetorical bomb occasionally to embarrass big-government advocates. It’s that the American people are getting a ringside seat for the definitive demonstration of what happens when government takes over the private sector because it thinks it can make decisions better than the market does. And that’s not limited to Healthcare.gov, which should have been easy to launch with $400 million and 42 months of lead time, but the whole structure of the forced-redistribution model.
On the other hand, Ford then starts to make the argument that the issue isn’t policy overreach, but implies that the wrong people were put in place to accomplish that, to which Meacham objects. Expect to hear that argument a lot over the next several months as the creaky structure of ObamaCare collapses under its own weight — it would have worked with better people in charge. No, in fact, it was doomed from the starting principle of thinking that a few politicians could run a free market better than those participating in it, including both providers and consumers.
CBS has more bad news on that score:
It is indeed “down the tubes,” but it will leave the skyrocketing premiums for consumers amid the rubble when it crashes. And with the incentives and disincentives now in place, younger and healthier Americans have no reason to buy expensive comprehensive insurance with high deductibles simply to redistribute their wealth to buffer costs for older and wealthier Americans, when they can just as easily pay the fine and buy insurance if they suddenly need it, thanks to the must-insure mandate. That destruction will have a lot more political significance than calling ketchup a vegetable or a $600 Pentagon toilet seat, and it will haunt the progressive agenda for a generation or more, as I wrote last week.