The danger in dropping the public option

The most dangerous outcome of this weekend’s ostensible concession would be if ObamaCare acquires a “moderate” gloss and the public comes to think the rest is innocuous. Cashiering the public option doesn’t eliminate the plan’s many other problems: The federal fisc is already a shambles because of our current health entitlements, and a new $1 trillion liability is unsustainable given the deficits and tax burden required to finance them. Democrats plan to subsidize insurance up to 300% of the poverty level, which for a family of four is about $66,000. That commitment will only grow, as do all government health programs. ObamaCare would still impose costly new mandates on individuals and businesses and dismantle even the parts of the health-care system that are working well now.

The real goal this year is to create enough of the architecture for government-run health care; eliminating the public option merely slows the march. Still, that Mr. Obama has been forced to publicly repudiate one of his main ideas shows how much he over-interpreted his 2008 mandate. His election was not a call for larger government or a return to 1970s-era entitlement liberalism a la Henry Waxman or Pete Stark. Rather, it was in favor of the amorphous change—”change we can believe in”—to clean up the Beltway mess and toss out an exhausted GOP.