The Obama administration has come to learn that its two most significant achievements — the stimulus and ObamaCare — are fundamentally flawed. President Obama’s admission that “there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects” is to the stimulus what Ronald Reagan’s praising the freedoms of the Soviet Union would have been to the Cold War: a vitiation of the president’s political ideology. The same can be said for the administration’s granting waivers to big companies and unions, freeing almost 1 million employees from the ill effects of his health-care plan.
So the president is getting an education. Kind of like a school where the $862 billion tuition is picked up by the public and word problems describe real people in real circumstances. If unemployment is at 7.7 percent and you invest $7 billion of taxpayer money in the study of ant behavior, sage grouse mortality, and corporate travel and the refurbishment of abandoned forts, how many speeches attacking George W. Bush will you have to make before November?
Those opposed to the stimulus were not the reactive “party of no”; they were the party of knowing. They knew that warped incentives and listless bureaucracies make governments inefficient producers and employers. There is no such thing as a shovel-ready government project, because government cannot swing into therapeutic action the way liberals like to think. Conservatives know something else Barack Obama has yet to cover: there are shovel-ready jobs — in the private sector. At any given time, this country is bursting with entrepreneurs, Americans with blueprints and business plans on which they’re willing to stake everything. Perhaps next semester, Obama will learn about creating a friendly financial environment that allows small businesses to break ground, succeed, and hire. For now, it’s hampering regulations and looming taxes all the way.
The health-care-law exemptions granted to McDonald’s, the United Federation of Teachers, and 28 other employers expose the unfeasibility of ObamaCare at its core. The lucky parties didn’t want to incur the costs of phasing out annual caps on employee medical coverage. There is no reason to think doing so will be easier for employers who have not yet sought waivers. What did not work for McDonald’s and others will not work, period. The flood of objections has yet to begin. The waivers also threaten America’s claim to being a country of laws, not men. If every one of the president’s learned lessons results in a corresponding hall pass administered by the federal government, we will soon have compromised the legal framework vital to the conservation of an advanced and civilized society.
Even as Obama learns, he unlearns. He has not backed away from either the folly of stimulus or the debacle of ObamaCare. Similar to most educations today, his is as expensive as it is worthless. Like insuring more patients or cutting costs and surging forces or drawing down troops, the poles of ignorance and knowledge merely represent another false choice requiring no presidential decision. He’s seen the light but prefers the dark. “Obama 2.0,” as the administration conceives it, will involve more detailed explanations of the same bad policies. The rest of the country doesn’t enjoy this executive luxury. In a couple of weeks, concerned Americans will face a political choice that’s as real as it gets. It is unlikely that their education, hard earned these past 20 months, will go to waste.