By Chris Stirewalt
A belief in science and technology is as central to liberalism as spiritual faith is on the right. That’s not to say that there aren’t lots of religious liberals, but just that the devotion to “progress” is the central aim of the political movement for more than a century.
How crushing, then, that the most liberal president of all time would oversee the most notable technological failure by the federal government, perhaps ever. The disastrous launch of the Web site and telephone banks for President Obama’s new health-insurance entitlement program is laughable at best, terrifying at worst and no matter what, astonishingly incompetent.
Obama, whose campaigns were praised endlessly for tech savvy and who revels in being the first high-tech president, has overseen a massive tech botch. This understandably infuriates liberals who plumped for their president and his law on the grounds that government was up to the task and that Obama could deliver a brighter, sleeker, faster and more affordable future for health care. As it turned out, he couldn’t even oversee a Web launch.
Some Republicans, not content to endure just their party’s current reversals, are imagining future defeats. Some on the right are saying ObamaCare’s failure to launch is really a trap intended to create a single-payer insurance system; that the “fix” will be to socialize all health insurance.
Liberals certainly believe that the president’s public-private partnership on subsidized insurance will be a gateway to a European-style system. At the time of passage, the left wingers consoled themselves in the belief that the failings in the larger program of ObamaCare – scarcity of care, unaffordable private coverage, mass dumping of employee coverage etc. – would be remedied by a future (Democratic) president and Congress.
Obama himself wanted a “public option” but had to retreat in the face of opposition from Clinton Democrats in the Senate. His compromise plan, which included the individual mandate much hated on the left and much assailed by him in his primary campaign, would have to be an interim step before the next interim step.
Obama, whose campaigns were praised endlessly for tech savvy and who revels in being the first high-tech president, has overseen a massive tech botch.
But eventually, with millions more dependent on the government for health insurance and the existing system in tatters, we’d all have to go Canadian. A law born of crisis would precipitate a future crisis that could be exploited to reach the left’s ultimate objective. A tricky loop-de-loop, yes, but that thinking helped Nancy Pelosi cajole her restive conference to swallow a more moderate Senate plan.
But you don’t get to Ottawa by way of a hideously embarrassing launch. Hundreds of billions of dollars and three years spent making something done with simplicity and grace every day by the private sector is not how you expand government’s role. Liberals most of all wanted the launch to go smoothly. You can’t have a new entitlement if there aren’t enough beneficiaries.
We are still at the point where it would be far cheaper and easier to simply provide direct subsidies, via tax credits, to the relatively narrow demographic band of those folks who want insurance but can’t afford it because of pre-existing conditions. The demolition of the current system is underway but of all the alternatives to the president’s plan on offer, a bigger, more centralized plan would hardly be the frontrunner.
It becomes increasingly clear that Team Obama returned to ramming speed and proceeded with launch even when the boys from IT said that they were heading for disaster. One assumes that it was anger at Republican efforts to retard the law that drove the president’s men to jump forward. The fact that the White House so blithely addressed the possibility of delaying the individual mandate suggests that the launch was more politics than practicality.
Obama is, as usual, in reaction mode, talking about a “tech surge” and the like. But the damage done to his program and the Democratic claim that government is a credible custodian of more Americans’ health insurance is already obvious. And it’s going to get worse.