Commentary Magazine


Topic: Obamacare

Can Crist Hold Lead as ObamaCare Loyalist?

On a national electoral map that has a lot of bright spots for Republicans, Florida is a problem. As Marc Caputo wrote yesterday in the Miami Herald, Governor Rick Scott’s polling numbers are enough to turn the stomachs of the GOP party faithful in the Sunshine State. Even polls conducted by Republicans all show Scott trailing renegade Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist in his attempt to win re-election. Crist leads Scott in Republican strongholds in the state and can count on landslide-type advantages in areas where Democrats predominate. If those patterns hold, that’s a formula for certain defeat for the Republican.

It is true that there’s still plenty of time for Scott to recover and he has the kind of personal wealth that can finance a formidable counter-attack in the coming months. But his problem is that Crist, who preceded Scott as governor when he was a fellow Republican, is viewed favorably by the public while the controversial incumbent is not. That’s why Scott may view Crist’s decision to link himself inextricably with President Obama as providing his only path to victory. Crist went on CNN’s “State of the Union” yesterday and played the loyal Democrat in an awkward interview that had to make members of his current party wince. Crist denied that hundreds of thousands of Floridians had lost their insurance coverage as a result of the president’s signature health care law and even stuck to that implausible position even when Candy Crowley told him “that’s a fact.”

That exchange raises the prospect that the Florida governor’s race may provide an interesting test case as to whether the national GOP theme of running against ObamaCare in the midterms can salvage the party’s otherwise gloomy prospects in Florida. As we’ve seen in past midterms the vastly different electorate in non-presidential years can turn easy wins for the party of the incumbent president into nail biters, especially when a race can be nationalized. While there’s good reason to believe that Scott’s unpopularity makes such a scenario extremely unlikely in Florida, embracing the president and his unpopular and misnamed Affordable Care Act may be a case of Crist unnecessarily tempting fate.

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On a national electoral map that has a lot of bright spots for Republicans, Florida is a problem. As Marc Caputo wrote yesterday in the Miami Herald, Governor Rick Scott’s polling numbers are enough to turn the stomachs of the GOP party faithful in the Sunshine State. Even polls conducted by Republicans all show Scott trailing renegade Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist in his attempt to win re-election. Crist leads Scott in Republican strongholds in the state and can count on landslide-type advantages in areas where Democrats predominate. If those patterns hold, that’s a formula for certain defeat for the Republican.

It is true that there’s still plenty of time for Scott to recover and he has the kind of personal wealth that can finance a formidable counter-attack in the coming months. But his problem is that Crist, who preceded Scott as governor when he was a fellow Republican, is viewed favorably by the public while the controversial incumbent is not. That’s why Scott may view Crist’s decision to link himself inextricably with President Obama as providing his only path to victory. Crist went on CNN’s “State of the Union” yesterday and played the loyal Democrat in an awkward interview that had to make members of his current party wince. Crist denied that hundreds of thousands of Floridians had lost their insurance coverage as a result of the president’s signature health care law and even stuck to that implausible position even when Candy Crowley told him “that’s a fact.”

That exchange raises the prospect that the Florida governor’s race may provide an interesting test case as to whether the national GOP theme of running against ObamaCare in the midterms can salvage the party’s otherwise gloomy prospects in Florida. As we’ve seen in past midterms the vastly different electorate in non-presidential years can turn easy wins for the party of the incumbent president into nail biters, especially when a race can be nationalized. While there’s good reason to believe that Scott’s unpopularity makes such a scenario extremely unlikely in Florida, embracing the president and his unpopular and misnamed Affordable Care Act may be a case of Crist unnecessarily tempting fate.

Crist’s decision to play the die-hard Democrat/Obama enthusiast is presumed to be smart politics. Democrats know that his decision to abandon the GOP had little to do with principle and everything to do with opportunism. He left the Republicans because they preferred to nominate Marco Rubio for the U.S. Senate seat the former governor coveted in 2010. Crist needs to convince rank-and-file Democrats who voted against him when he was a Republican and then an independent to turn out in November rather than to sit out the governor’s race. But while liberals may find his turncoat act distasteful, they tend to be more pragmatic about such things than the conservative base. Unlike the conservative base that places a higher value on ideological purity (as establishment Republicans who have been unseated by implausible Tea Party candidates could testify), liberal Democrats generally prefer winning elections. 

The irony here is that while being rejected by conservatives somehow enhanced Crist’s popularity, he seems to think that his future rests on transforming his political persona to that of a Democrat who is determined to march in lockstep with the leader of his party even on his most unpopular and least successful initiatives. Given the widespread dissatisfaction with Scott, Crist would probably do better trying to run this year as a moderate independent running on a Democrat line rather than to do a complete makeover as a true Blue Obama acolyte. But his comments about ObamaCare show that Crist’s opportunism may be getting the best of him.

Crist’s lead may be strong enough to withstand his decision to double down on ObamaCare and perhaps his loyalty to his new leader may induce Democrats to turn out in the numbers he needs to retire Scott. It’s also possible that Scott’s unpopularity rather than any national issue will determine the outcome of the race. But Crist’s ObamaCare comments won’t go unnoticed and will be used against him by the GOP. Florida may have gone for Obama in the last two elections and its changing demography may, like other purple states, may be making it a more friendly state for Democrats. But Crist’s over-the-top and blatantly insincere embrace of the president could give Republicans the chance to hold onto a governor’s seat that might otherwise be a lost cause.

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The Obamacare Disaster Is Now Undeniable

The Washington Post has the bombshell story of the month: “A pair of surveys released on Thursday suggest that just one in 10 uninsured people who qualify for private health plans through the new marketplace have signed up for one—and that about half of uninsured adults has looked for information on the online exchanges or plans to look.” Well, and there goes the famed rationale for the health-care law—which was to bring the people, numbering anywhere between 31 million to 47 million depending on how and whom you count, without insurance into the system.

Why aren’t they signing up? First off, there will always be people who choose to live on the margins in some way or other. They don’t want to be in the system, they’re paranoid about the system, they keep their money in their mattress and lots of cans in the basement. But mostly, people aren’t signing up now and haven’t had health care before because of the cost: “Of people who are uninsured and do not intend to get a health plan through the marketplaces, the biggest factor is that they believe they could not afford one.”

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The Washington Post has the bombshell story of the month: “A pair of surveys released on Thursday suggest that just one in 10 uninsured people who qualify for private health plans through the new marketplace have signed up for one—and that about half of uninsured adults has looked for information on the online exchanges or plans to look.” Well, and there goes the famed rationale for the health-care law—which was to bring the people, numbering anywhere between 31 million to 47 million depending on how and whom you count, without insurance into the system.

Why aren’t they signing up? First off, there will always be people who choose to live on the margins in some way or other. They don’t want to be in the system, they’re paranoid about the system, they keep their money in their mattress and lots of cans in the basement. But mostly, people aren’t signing up now and haven’t had health care before because of the cost: “Of people who are uninsured and do not intend to get a health plan through the marketplaces, the biggest factor is that they believe they could not afford one.”

Since October 1 of last year, the coverage of the Obamacare disaster has centered on the technical catastrophe of the healthcare.gov and the transitional problems afflicting insurers, employers, and the insured alike—and more recently the administration’s desperate efforts to delay the penalties and controls imposed by the law to limit the political fallout. It is safe to say, though, that this is the worst possible news for Obama and his people. They have thrown the entire health-care system into unprecedented chaos for a population that is, it seems, staying as far away from it as possible. Little has been fixed; much has been made far worse; nothing makes sense; and good luck to the Democrats who have to defend their votes for this colossal cock-up in November.

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Dems May Regret More OCare Delays

After dozens of delays of various aspects of ObamaCare, Democrats are still facing a tsunami of voter anger this fall in midterm elections that are looking more and more like a disaster for the president’s party. The administration’s answer to their plight is simple: delay more implementation of the president’s unpopular and misnamed Affordable Care Act.

The Hill is reporting today that the White House is planning on announcing yet another ObamaCare delay:

As early as this week, according to two sources, the White House will announce a new directive allowing insurers to continue offering health plans that do not meet ObamaCare’s minimum coverage requirements. Prolonging the “keep your plan” fix will avoid another wave of health policy cancellations otherwise expected this fall.

The cancellations would have created a firestorm for Democratic candidates in the last, crucial weeks before Election Day. The White House is intent on protecting its allies in the Senate, where Democrats face a battle to keep control of the chamber.

The political motivations for this move are obvious. Prior to the rollout of ObamaCare last fall, Democrats drew a line in the sand on any delay of the president’s signature health care law. Rather than push back the implementation of the legislation a single day, they allowed the government to be shut down for weeks causing untold suffering to the American people. That was a political masterstroke. The mainstream media blamed the GOP for the fiasco since their demands for delaying or defunding the law seen as unreasonable and unrealistic. What a difference a few months makes.

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After dozens of delays of various aspects of ObamaCare, Democrats are still facing a tsunami of voter anger this fall in midterm elections that are looking more and more like a disaster for the president’s party. The administration’s answer to their plight is simple: delay more implementation of the president’s unpopular and misnamed Affordable Care Act.

The Hill is reporting today that the White House is planning on announcing yet another ObamaCare delay:

As early as this week, according to two sources, the White House will announce a new directive allowing insurers to continue offering health plans that do not meet ObamaCare’s minimum coverage requirements. Prolonging the “keep your plan” fix will avoid another wave of health policy cancellations otherwise expected this fall.

The cancellations would have created a firestorm for Democratic candidates in the last, crucial weeks before Election Day. The White House is intent on protecting its allies in the Senate, where Democrats face a battle to keep control of the chamber.

The political motivations for this move are obvious. Prior to the rollout of ObamaCare last fall, Democrats drew a line in the sand on any delay of the president’s signature health care law. Rather than push back the implementation of the legislation a single day, they allowed the government to be shut down for weeks causing untold suffering to the American people. That was a political masterstroke. The mainstream media blamed the GOP for the fiasco since their demands for delaying or defunding the law seen as unreasonable and unrealistic. What a difference a few months makes.

Will Democrats get away with it? Given the unwillingness of the same media that lampooned Republicans for suggesting the same thing only six months ago, they just might. In addition to that, there have been so many delays of the law’s implementation that even those Americans who pay attention to the issue may have lost track of what aspects of the president’s scheme are being enforced.

Liberals may still be pretending that ObamaCare will be popular or that the only problem with its rollout was a glitch-ridden website that was fixed. But in only a few months they have also developed a healthy fear of the consequences of its implementation. Already millions of Americans have lost their insurance coverage or access to their doctors because of the dictates of this new law that branded every policy that did not conform to their arbitrary standards as “junk” insurance. Sticking to that talking point hasn’t been easy for liberal talking heads on television but once more Americans feel ObamaCare’s impact, it will be impossible.

Once the delays are rescinded and the employer mandates are put in place along with the rules for individual policyholders, the results will be far-reaching and serious. At that point, it won’t be possible to deny the fact that the number of Americans who have been hurt by this law may not only equal the total helped but, in fact, may outnumber them.

But Democratic optimism about this underhanded and unconstitutional tactic (since the president does not actually have the power to pick and choose which laws or which parts of laws he will enforce) may be misplaced. The mere fact of so many delays as well as the evidence of the damage already done by the law to so many voters may outweigh any tactical advantages won by the stalling strategy.

Even worse, by putting off so much of the pain until after the 2014 midterm elections, Democrats may be setting themselves up for a really unpleasant time in 2015 and 2016. If the majority of Americans are already unhappy with ObamaCare today, that anger will be even greater next year once more employers and individuals are coping with its costs and hardships. If, as may well happen despite the delays, Republicans win back control of the Senate in addition to keeping the House of Representatives, that will put them in position to do more than delay ObamaCare next year but to send a repeal bill to the president. He will veto it and there’s little chance that the Republicans will overturn it. But with anger about this law rising to new heights just when the country is turning its attention to the 2016 presidential race rather than in 2014, that could create even more problems for Hillary Clinton or any other Democrat who wishes to succeed the president.

At that point, Democrats may look back on this year’s ObamaCare delays and the president’s determination to frontload the benefits and backload the pain with genuine regret.

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New ObamaCare Losers: Public Employees

Earlier this week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius mocked the idea that ObamaCare is costing people their jobs. Sebelius even went so far as to say that “every economist will you tell you” that there is no evidence of job loss. According to her, the whole idea of economic suffering related to the misnamed Affordable Care Act is a “myth.” While that kind of hyperbole is easily exposed (Every economist? Really?), ObamaCare critics don’t need to beat the bushes to find conservative economists to counter that assertion. All they need to do is to read today’s New York Times.

The number of those who have already been hurt by ObamaCare are legion, including millions of individual purchasers of insurance who have lost their coverage or been denied the ability to keep their doctors in spite of President Obama’s promise to the contrary. But it’s long been accepted that the employer mandate will eventually reduce the number of full-time workers because of new rules about coverage requirements. Yet it turns out that those affected are not just employees at small or mid-sized companies. The impact on one of President Obama’s key support group turns out to be just as bad. As the New York Times reports:

Cities, counties, public schools and community colleges around the country have limited or reduced the work hours of part-time employees to avoid having to provide them with health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, state and local officials say.

The cuts to public sector employment, which has failed to rebound since the recession, could serve as a powerful political weapon for Republican critics of the health care law, who claim that it is creating a drain on the economy.

President Obama has twice delayed enforcement of the health care law’s employer mandate, which would subject larger employers to tax penalties if they do not offer insurance coverage to employees who work at least 30 hours a week, on average. But many public employers have already adopted policies, laws or regulations to make sure workers stay under that threshold.

Sebelius was as wrong about the question of ObamaCare’s impact on employment as she was about the rollout of the law’s website. But the problem for the administration isn’t just a credibility gap that was already as big as the Grand Canyon. It’s that the ranks of ObamaCare losers are now growing and being filled by people that are the backbone of the Democratic Party. That means the real myth about ObamaCare is the assumption that once it goes into effect it will be transformed from an unpopular law to a beloved national institution like Social Security.

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Earlier this week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius mocked the idea that ObamaCare is costing people their jobs. Sebelius even went so far as to say that “every economist will you tell you” that there is no evidence of job loss. According to her, the whole idea of economic suffering related to the misnamed Affordable Care Act is a “myth.” While that kind of hyperbole is easily exposed (Every economist? Really?), ObamaCare critics don’t need to beat the bushes to find conservative economists to counter that assertion. All they need to do is to read today’s New York Times.

The number of those who have already been hurt by ObamaCare are legion, including millions of individual purchasers of insurance who have lost their coverage or been denied the ability to keep their doctors in spite of President Obama’s promise to the contrary. But it’s long been accepted that the employer mandate will eventually reduce the number of full-time workers because of new rules about coverage requirements. Yet it turns out that those affected are not just employees at small or mid-sized companies. The impact on one of President Obama’s key support group turns out to be just as bad. As the New York Times reports:

Cities, counties, public schools and community colleges around the country have limited or reduced the work hours of part-time employees to avoid having to provide them with health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, state and local officials say.

The cuts to public sector employment, which has failed to rebound since the recession, could serve as a powerful political weapon for Republican critics of the health care law, who claim that it is creating a drain on the economy.

President Obama has twice delayed enforcement of the health care law’s employer mandate, which would subject larger employers to tax penalties if they do not offer insurance coverage to employees who work at least 30 hours a week, on average. But many public employers have already adopted policies, laws or regulations to make sure workers stay under that threshold.

Sebelius was as wrong about the question of ObamaCare’s impact on employment as she was about the rollout of the law’s website. But the problem for the administration isn’t just a credibility gap that was already as big as the Grand Canyon. It’s that the ranks of ObamaCare losers are now growing and being filled by people that are the backbone of the Democratic Party. That means the real myth about ObamaCare is the assumption that once it goes into effect it will be transformed from an unpopular law to a beloved national institution like Social Security.

The findings of the Times report validate the conclusions of the Congressional Budget Office study released earlier this month on the impact of ObamaCare on employment. Though administration figures like Sebelius have been orchestrating a campaign seeking to deny these facts, the Times story illustrates the futility of this effort. Municipalities and public institutions around the country have been cutting the hours of their workers in order to avoid paying for their health care. Thus even though the point of the Affordable Care Act was to get more people covered, the unintended consequence of its passage was to cut the pay as well as deprive a significant population of public-sector workers of their chance to get insurance from their employer.

As the article notes, public workers are being especially hard hit because municipal employers can’t pass along the increased costs of the insurance mandates to consumers the way private companies can try to do. Instead, they must cut down on the number of those they employ. But rather than reduce the ranks of those public employees getting expensive benefits and pensions that often are far more generous than those received by the taxpayers who pay their salaries, the people losing out in the ObamaCare squeeze are those at the bottom end of the wage scale.

These findings once again point out the problem with the administration’s belief that their ObamaCare troubles are merely the result of a rough rollout and will soon disappear. It is true that millions of Americans who are either poor or have pre-existing medical conditions will be net winners as a result of ObamaCare. But unlike government entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, ObamaCare has also created a vast number of net losers who are losing coverage, losing jobs, or getting their hours and possible benefits cut.

The fact that a large number of those losers are members of a demographic that is a key element of the Democratic base is a potential political disaster for the president’s party. Rather than going away as the midterms approach, if the Times is to be believed, it is getting worse. In this case, the Democratic focus on income inequality appears to be pertinent. But rather than being able to blame the plight of low-income workers on the wealthy or the Republicans, it is President Obama’s signature accomplishment that is to blame.

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ObamaCore? Education Reform Hits a Snag

Wherever you stand on the Common Core, an attempt to provide a set of nationwide education standards, it can’t be good news for the program that it has begun to so resemble the disastrous process and rollout of this administration’s last federal reform, ObamaCare. Yet the opposition to the Common Core has followed a familiar pattern.

As the Heartland Institute noted in 2011, “The Obama administration made adoption of the Common Core a criterion for winning part of $4.35 billion in federal Race to the Top grants in 2010, and states receiving Title I appropriations in the future may be required to adopt the standards,” after which “Forty-two states and the District of Columbia adopted the standards in 2009 and 2010 in hopes of winning Race to the Top money.” This led to the first major complaint about the Common Core: conservatives worried the federal government was taking control of state-by-state education policy.

Liberals responded exactly as they did during the ObamaCare debate. Writing for the New York Times, for example, Bill Keller resorted to name-calling and equated conservative concerns about the Common Core standards to birtherism. Keller’s complete and utter disregard for even elementary intellectual engagement with conservatives was indicative of a defensive posture: it seemed the self-conscious ranting of an advocate of a weak policy for which he didn’t have a serious defense.

It portended darker days ahead for the Common Core. After all, there were real concerns about the Common Core from an educational perspective. They wouldn’t go away just because the left wanted them to. And then, true to form, the complaints piled up. The administration responded in typical fashion: Education Secretary Arne Duncan blamed white resentment. Obnoxious racial politics and bureaucratic conceit aside, Democrats were also turning on the Common Core.

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Wherever you stand on the Common Core, an attempt to provide a set of nationwide education standards, it can’t be good news for the program that it has begun to so resemble the disastrous process and rollout of this administration’s last federal reform, ObamaCare. Yet the opposition to the Common Core has followed a familiar pattern.

As the Heartland Institute noted in 2011, “The Obama administration made adoption of the Common Core a criterion for winning part of $4.35 billion in federal Race to the Top grants in 2010, and states receiving Title I appropriations in the future may be required to adopt the standards,” after which “Forty-two states and the District of Columbia adopted the standards in 2009 and 2010 in hopes of winning Race to the Top money.” This led to the first major complaint about the Common Core: conservatives worried the federal government was taking control of state-by-state education policy.

Liberals responded exactly as they did during the ObamaCare debate. Writing for the New York Times, for example, Bill Keller resorted to name-calling and equated conservative concerns about the Common Core standards to birtherism. Keller’s complete and utter disregard for even elementary intellectual engagement with conservatives was indicative of a defensive posture: it seemed the self-conscious ranting of an advocate of a weak policy for which he didn’t have a serious defense.

It portended darker days ahead for the Common Core. After all, there were real concerns about the Common Core from an educational perspective. They wouldn’t go away just because the left wanted them to. And then, true to form, the complaints piled up. The administration responded in typical fashion: Education Secretary Arne Duncan blamed white resentment. Obnoxious racial politics and bureaucratic conceit aside, Democrats were also turning on the Common Core.

And then came the warning that the rollout of the Common Core standards risked looking a lot like the botched rollout of the ObamaCare exchanges, with potentially disastrous results for American education:

The education world is scrambling to avoid its own version of a full-scale HealthCare.gov meltdown when millions of students pilot new digital Common Core tests this spring.

Technological hiccups, much less large-scale meltdowns, won’t do: The results of the Common Core tests will influence teachers’ and principals’ evaluations and other decisions about their jobs. Schools will be rated on the results. Students’ promotion to the next grade or graduation from high school may hinge on their scores. And the already-controversial Common Core standards, designed to be tested using a new generation of sophisticated exams that go beyond multiple-choice testing, may be further dragged through the mud if there are crises.

Indeed, Democrats in Republican-leaning states began criticizing the Common Core rollout as a “train wreck.” Then liberal states–and early supporters of the program–turned against it:

But the newest chorus of complaints is coming from one of the most liberal states, and one of the earliest champions of the standards: New York. And that is causing supporters of the Common Core to shudder.

Carol Burris, an acclaimed high school principal on Long Island, calls the Common Core a “disaster.”

“We see kids,” she said, “they don’t want to go to school anymore.”

If it followed the ObamaCare playbook, it was only a matter of time before the unions joined the chorus of opposition. Sure enough, Politico reports:

The nation’s largest teachers union is pulling back on its once-enthusiastic support of the Common Core academic standards, labeling their rollout “completely botched.”

National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel said he still believes the standards can improve education. But he said they will not succeed without a major “course correction” — including possibly rewriting some of the standards and revising the related tests with teacher input.

And to complete the cycle, the Common Core’s supporters are now taking the posture that opponents shouldn’t just be against the Common Core but must propose their own ideas: “If someone offers a better option, we will support it.”

None of this is to suggest that the Common Core is nearly the disaster–or constitutionally suspect power grab–that ObamaCare is. And the Common Core’s supporters have a point when they note that some of the arguments against it are based on misconceptions, fears, or unsubstantiated rumors.

But there is an overarching lesson here about the difficulty of national reform, the problematic hints of federal coercion, the humility that desperately needs to be applied to the way our government–or any sprawling bureaucracy–operates. Common Core may in fact have much to offer in the effort to restructure standard education curricula. But it isn’t conspiratorial thinking to be suspicious of grand, one-size-fits-all schemes in a federal republic–a lesson we apparently need to keep learning.

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Vote Turnout Tactics Won’t Sell ObamaCare

Despite all the happy talk we’ve been hearing from the Obama administration and their media cheerleaders about the growing number of those enrolled in ObamaCare, they know they’re in trouble. The total number of enrollees is still far below what is needed to make the program pay for itself. With, as I noted here last week, up to 20 percent of those already counted as having signed up failing to pay their premiums and thus still not covered, the shortfall of customers is one of many problems plaguing the president’s signature health care plan.

To recruit more customers, the administration and its allies are pulling out all the stops. Television ads are flooding the airwaves with celebrities attempting to sell the benefits of ObamaCare as if it were soap while veterans of the president’s reelection campaign are literally hitting the bricks, going door to door in targeted neighborhoods trying to find new customers one at a time.

But, as the New York Times makes clear in a piece that was clearly intended to be sympathetic to the effort, marshaling the same resources that produced a massive turnout to vote for Barack Obama may turn out to be a lot easier than persuading Americans to buy ObamaCare:

The hunt for the uninsured in Broward County got underway one recent afternoon when 41 canvassers, armed with electronic maps on Samsung tablets, set off through working-class neighborhoods to peddle the Affordable Care Act door to door. Four hours later, they had made contact with 2,623 residents and signed up exactly 25 people.

Many of their targets, people identified on sophisticated computer lists generated in Washington as unlikely to have health insurance, had moved away. Some were not home. Many said they already had insurance through Medicare, their parents or a job. A few were hostile at the mere mention of President Obama’s health care law.

“We’re going to repeal that,” one man said gruffly as he shut the door in the face of a canvasser, Nancy Morwin, 58, a retired social worker.

While that prediction may be disputed, it’s clear that the full-court press to inflate ObamaCare enrollment may not be enough to either answer questions about its acceptance or to make it possible for the program to survive.

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Despite all the happy talk we’ve been hearing from the Obama administration and their media cheerleaders about the growing number of those enrolled in ObamaCare, they know they’re in trouble. The total number of enrollees is still far below what is needed to make the program pay for itself. With, as I noted here last week, up to 20 percent of those already counted as having signed up failing to pay their premiums and thus still not covered, the shortfall of customers is one of many problems plaguing the president’s signature health care plan.

To recruit more customers, the administration and its allies are pulling out all the stops. Television ads are flooding the airwaves with celebrities attempting to sell the benefits of ObamaCare as if it were soap while veterans of the president’s reelection campaign are literally hitting the bricks, going door to door in targeted neighborhoods trying to find new customers one at a time.

But, as the New York Times makes clear in a piece that was clearly intended to be sympathetic to the effort, marshaling the same resources that produced a massive turnout to vote for Barack Obama may turn out to be a lot easier than persuading Americans to buy ObamaCare:

The hunt for the uninsured in Broward County got underway one recent afternoon when 41 canvassers, armed with electronic maps on Samsung tablets, set off through working-class neighborhoods to peddle the Affordable Care Act door to door. Four hours later, they had made contact with 2,623 residents and signed up exactly 25 people.

Many of their targets, people identified on sophisticated computer lists generated in Washington as unlikely to have health insurance, had moved away. Some were not home. Many said they already had insurance through Medicare, their parents or a job. A few were hostile at the mere mention of President Obama’s health care law.

“We’re going to repeal that,” one man said gruffly as he shut the door in the face of a canvasser, Nancy Morwin, 58, a retired social worker.

While that prediction may be disputed, it’s clear that the full-court press to inflate ObamaCare enrollment may not be enough to either answer questions about its acceptance or to make it possible for the program to survive.

Some of the early efforts to persuade young and presumably healthy “invincibles” to sign up were downright embarrassing. The “Got Insurance” campaign launched by Colorado liberals claimed the program would facilitate sexual hookups and keep them healthy even if they abused alcohol. But while the ads running on sports channels and the Olympics featuring retired basketball stars Magic Johnson and Alonzo Mourning are more tasteful, they seem based on the same premise that the right kind of marketing is all that’s needed to convince Americans that the misnamed Affordable Care Act is something they need or want.

It may be that the slightly less than one percent success rate of the Broward County canvassers portrayed in the Times story might, if replicated throughout the nation, be enough to pump up the program’s enrollment numbers to the point where it will be proclaimed a success. But as the article also illustrated, most if not all of those signed up by the campaign fall into the category of those who are not the ideal ObamaCare recruits. A few people with pre-existing conditions and families with small children were found and enrolled by the Florida canvassers. However, these are patients who will soak up the care rationed out by the scheme. Even more rare were young and healthy customers who are unlikely to need much care and will thus pay for the others with their premiums. But even there, some of those who agreed to be enrolled found that problems with the infamous HealthCare.gov website prevented them from being signed up on the spot.

It can be argued that any government benefit program needs to be marketed to the public. But the massive effort already undertaken on behalf of ObamaCare has done more to highlight the massive public resistance to the law than anything else. At this point, only someone living under a rock or on Mars is unaware of the law or the fact that the administration is desperate to persuade more Americans to avail themselves of the insurance it is selling. Selling ObamaCare door to door the same way encyclopedias or beauty products were marketed in the 1950s and 60s may make sense to the president’s team, but the problem is not so much a matter of sales technique as it is a refusal to understand the public’s unhappiness with the law.

As the results in Broward illustrate, with enough effort it will be possible to find a great many customers who are the likely beneficiaries of ObamaCare. The poor and those with health problems that kept them from being insured don’t need a hard sell to understand they will gain from taking part. But unless the administration can con millions more young and healthy people to buy into it, the entire edifice is doomed to collapse in a sea of red ink that will only be rectified by the kind of massive federal bailout of insurers that the American people were told wouldn’t happen. Neither Magic Johnson nor the Obama reelection turnout effort can sell America on a product it doesn’t want.

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ObamaCare Supporters Swear They Can Be Trusted This Time

In the last couple of days, the political press has introduced us to the Democrats’ emerging strategy for the upcoming midterm congressional elections. They will be running as the arsonists who can be trusted to put out their fire. They are being less explicit about the first part, of course. The New York Times has a story that exemplifies the cognitive dissonance. It begins with a campaign ad by Democratic Representative Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona trumpeting the fact that when the Healthcare.gov website sputtered out of the gate, she wagged her finger at it.

But how did that website come about? It was an important component of ObamaCare, of course. And how did ObamaCare come about? Well, you’d have to go elsewhere for that information; Ann Kirkpatrick treats the disastrous health-care reform law as if it were some sort of anonymous cyberattack. In fact, Democrats passed ObamaCare over the objections of all Republicans and some Democrats. Kirkpatrick should know: she was one of the votes in favor of ObamaCare. Ann Kirkpatrick, then, helped unleash this horrendous law on her constituents.

But Kirkpatrick isn’t the only one. The Times itself seeks to avoid the messy topic of why the country is suffering from ObamaCare in the first place. The whole article talks about Democrats running on an agenda of “fixing” elements of the law, but only buried late in the story do we get a hint about the culprits. The call is coming from inside the House:

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In the last couple of days, the political press has introduced us to the Democrats’ emerging strategy for the upcoming midterm congressional elections. They will be running as the arsonists who can be trusted to put out their fire. They are being less explicit about the first part, of course. The New York Times has a story that exemplifies the cognitive dissonance. It begins with a campaign ad by Democratic Representative Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona trumpeting the fact that when the Healthcare.gov website sputtered out of the gate, she wagged her finger at it.

But how did that website come about? It was an important component of ObamaCare, of course. And how did ObamaCare come about? Well, you’d have to go elsewhere for that information; Ann Kirkpatrick treats the disastrous health-care reform law as if it were some sort of anonymous cyberattack. In fact, Democrats passed ObamaCare over the objections of all Republicans and some Democrats. Kirkpatrick should know: she was one of the votes in favor of ObamaCare. Ann Kirkpatrick, then, helped unleash this horrendous law on her constituents.

But Kirkpatrick isn’t the only one. The Times itself seeks to avoid the messy topic of why the country is suffering from ObamaCare in the first place. The whole article talks about Democrats running on an agenda of “fixing” elements of the law, but only buried late in the story do we get a hint about the culprits. The call is coming from inside the House:

Moreover, not all congressional Democrats are talking about the health care law in their advertising or their routine stump speeches — and even some of those hoping to explain their support are being far from laudatory. The commercial for Ms. Kirkpatrick, the Arizona Democrat, by the House Majority PAC refers to the “disastrous health care website,” as does a spot the group did for Representative Joe Garcia, Democrat of Florida.

If you blinked, you might have missed it. Twenty-one paragraphs into the story we get a note about Democrats “hoping to explain their support.” Yes, ObamaCare was in fact an act of Congress. And that is what complicates this Democratic strategy. In order to confront the manifold problems in ObamaCare, they have to acknowledge its existence. And its existence is thanks to them.

And it’s not just voting for the law in the first place. The Times story also talks about the predicament facing Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, who, thanks to the shady “Louisiana Purchase,” provided a crucial vote for the bill. The Times mentions that her ad campaign will show her taking action, for example with “legislation she sponsored that would allow individuals to keep their insurance plans even if the plans did not meet the minimum requirements of the health law.”

Why can’t individuals keep their insurance? It’s not just the law’s regulations: an effort was made in late 2010 to alleviate that consequence of ObamaCare and allow folks to keep their insurance. Mary Landrieu was instrumental in defeating it and keeping ObamaCare as punitive as possible. What has changed? The public outrage and the fumbled rollout of the health-care exchanges, certainly. But other Democrats, as the Times reports, thought if they ignored the voters they would just go away:

“Part of what we learned in 2010 is that this is a real issue of concern to voters and you can’t dodge it, you have to take it on, and I think Democrats are much more ready and willing to do that in 2014,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster who has done surveys for Democrats on the law. “We certainly have enough evidence now that this is not a fight you can win if you are in a defensive crouch.”

In one sense, it’s encouraging that Democrats are kinda-sorta confronting reality. But in another sense, this follows the classic storyline of American liberalism. Progressives animated by ideology, ignorant of policy and economics, and filled with contempt for the voters institute leftist policy. The policy is, unsurprisingly, a wreck. As others attempt to clean up their mess, liberals intervene to promise to fix what they’ve done, usually through yet more state coercion.

The arsonists promise that this time they can be trusted with the matches and lighter fluid. If that’s the best the Democrats have to go on, ObamaCare may have done more harm to their brand than even their opponents expected.

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The Tea Party’s Gift to American Politics

On Fox News Sunday Senator Mike Lee debated Representative Xavier Becerra over the president’s repeated lawless acts related to the Affordable Care Act. (Mr. Obama has unilaterally changed or delayed the ACA 24 times without seeking the approval of Congress.)

It was a rout, with Senator Lee blowing apart the argument offered up by Representative Becerra. The Democrat from California was misleading in his claims. He ducked the questions asked by host Chris Wallace and kept reverting to pabulum and talking points.

Senator Lee, on the other hand, was terrific. His answers were crisp, direct, and articulate. He was principled without coming across as dyspeptic. He also helped educate both Mr. Becerra and the public by (to take one example) making the point that not all executive orders are created equal, thereby deftly answering the charge that because Ronald Reagan used executive orders more often than Mr. Obama, the latter has violated the constitutional less often than the former.

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On Fox News Sunday Senator Mike Lee debated Representative Xavier Becerra over the president’s repeated lawless acts related to the Affordable Care Act. (Mr. Obama has unilaterally changed or delayed the ACA 24 times without seeking the approval of Congress.)

It was a rout, with Senator Lee blowing apart the argument offered up by Representative Becerra. The Democrat from California was misleading in his claims. He ducked the questions asked by host Chris Wallace and kept reverting to pabulum and talking points.

Senator Lee, on the other hand, was terrific. His answers were crisp, direct, and articulate. He was principled without coming across as dyspeptic. He also helped educate both Mr. Becerra and the public by (to take one example) making the point that not all executive orders are created equal, thereby deftly answering the charge that because Ronald Reagan used executive orders more often than Mr. Obama, the latter has violated the constitutional less often than the former.

This is probably as good a time as any, then, to praise Senator Lee, who has become one of the most impressive lawmakers in the land. I had my disagreement with him on the wisdom of the government shutdown. (I think the record shows that this gambit was foolish and counterproductive.) But overall, Senator Lee has been outstanding. He’s delivered some very thoughtful speeches. Among other things, he said this:

Anger is not an agenda. And outrage, as a habit, is not even conservative. Outrage, resentment, and intolerance are gargoyles of the Left. For us, optimism is not just a message — it’s a principle. American conservatism, at its core, is about gratitude, and cooperation, and trust, and above all hope.

It is also about inclusion. Successful political movements are about identifying converts, not heretics. This, too, is part of the challenge before us.

Moreover, Senator Lee is at the forefront of advocating a conservative reform agenda on issues ranging from poverty and opportunity to criminal justice and higher-education reforms to changes in transportation policies and tax reforms aimed at helping families with children.

Senator Lee, in both his tone/bearing and the substance of his ideas, is exactly the kind of Republican the GOP and the conservative movement need to be their public face and voice: reasonable and reassuring, a person interested in ideas and governing, a man of clear and right convictions.

Mike Lee is among the greatest gifts the Tea Party has given to American politics.

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Kings, Presidents, and Barack Obama

From the first president to our current chief executive, Americans have always chafed against the growing power of the presidency. Having come into existence in protest against the unchecked power of a king and an unaccountable parliament, Americans have always been particularly sensitive to the notion that the executive branch should take on the trappings or the imperial grasp of monarchy. And yet the history of our republic is told in no small measure by the way in which our presidents have gradually accumulated more power. For the most part that involved their conduct of military and foreign policy, the aspects of government that the Constitution made the direct responsibility of the president.

Invariably the exercise of that power, whether it involved George Washington’s decision to negotiate a treaty with Great Britain or Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus and the conduct of the war against southern rebels, caused critics to accuse these presidents of acting like monarchs. However, such accusations were heard when some presidents acted on domestic issues as well. Andrew Jackson’s “war” on the Second Bank of the United States prompted his Whig opponents to call him a king. In the 20th century the executive branch grew into the modern presidency, and talk of presidents as kings changed to one of an imperial presidency in which the occupant of the White House seemed to have usurped the congressional prerogative to declare war. But as we celebrate President’s Day, Barack Obama has turned that traditional debate about the presidency on its head. In doing so, he has resurrected centuries-old worries about an attack on the rule of law by an out-of-control president.

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From the first president to our current chief executive, Americans have always chafed against the growing power of the presidency. Having come into existence in protest against the unchecked power of a king and an unaccountable parliament, Americans have always been particularly sensitive to the notion that the executive branch should take on the trappings or the imperial grasp of monarchy. And yet the history of our republic is told in no small measure by the way in which our presidents have gradually accumulated more power. For the most part that involved their conduct of military and foreign policy, the aspects of government that the Constitution made the direct responsibility of the president.

Invariably the exercise of that power, whether it involved George Washington’s decision to negotiate a treaty with Great Britain or Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus and the conduct of the war against southern rebels, caused critics to accuse these presidents of acting like monarchs. However, such accusations were heard when some presidents acted on domestic issues as well. Andrew Jackson’s “war” on the Second Bank of the United States prompted his Whig opponents to call him a king. In the 20th century the executive branch grew into the modern presidency, and talk of presidents as kings changed to one of an imperial presidency in which the occupant of the White House seemed to have usurped the congressional prerogative to declare war. But as we celebrate President’s Day, Barack Obama has turned that traditional debate about the presidency on its head. In doing so, he has resurrected centuries-old worries about an attack on the rule of law by an out-of-control president.

Unlike many of his predecessors, President Obama lacked the confidence and the support he needed to conduct military operations without prior congressional approval. The spectacle of the president asking Congress to authorize a strike on Syria’s chemical-weapons capacity last summer and then withdrawing that request once he realized he would lose illustrated not only his shaky personal standing but also an abdication on his part of the power to react to international threats that his predecessors had acquired. Yet even as Obama has become weaker in the category of foreign and defense policy, he has sought to expand his power elsewhere. The president’s decisions to selectively enforce laws, whether it be immigration regulations or the implementation of his own signature health-care legislation, has created a new kind of imperial presidency. The question now is no longer about the use of clear constitutional authority as commander in chief to conduct wars without much congressional or judicial oversight but about the way this president seems to prefer to govern at home without respect for the rule of law. This is creating a new kind of constitutional crisis that should trouble Americans even more than their past concerns about Mr. Obama’s predecessors.

Barack Obama is far from the first president to come to the conclusion that he should be able to govern on his own. All presidents have at times sought to ignore both the legislative and judicial branches. But the president’s decision to treat ObamaCare as a law that can be enacted according to his whims or political advantage is an extraordinary abuse of power. With more than two dozen delays of various aspects of the law over the past year, the administration has attempted a piecemeal implementation that will frontload its benefits and postpones much of the pain of the law’s provisions for both employers and the economy. While this has been defended as a response to the business community’s problems, that argument falls flat when one realizes that the delays are not so much about rescuing the economy from a massive federal power grab as they are merely putting off the disaster until after first the 2012 presidential election and now the 2014 midterms.

Put in the context of the president’s declaration about the use of executive orders in the State of the Union address, this creates the impression that there is a White House that appears to govern on its own without respect to either the Constitution or the will of the American people. By saying that he will govern wherever possible in the final three years of his term by executive orders rather than wait for Congress to pass the laws he wants, the president is signaling the beginning of a new constitutional order that puts past disputes about the use of force in a different perspective. If his predecessors often overstepped their authority or created new powers out of thin air it could be justified as flowing from their constitutional authority to protect and defend the United States from foreign enemies. But by declaring himself a one-man legislature and executive, this president presents a new threat to the rule of law that can’t be rationalized in that manner.

The American republic and its Constitution have proved that they can survive all manner of threats and political crises. That will also be true of Obama’s selective approach to being the country’s chief legal officer. But just as his predecessors have used past power grabs to justify their own expanding authority, so, too, will the presidents who follow Barack Obama into the Oval Office build on his abuses. That should cause all Americans, whether they are liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, to fear for the future of the rule of law in this country. Though talk of presidential monarchs is as old as the United States, in this case, the worries may be justified.

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ObamaCare’s Potemkin Enrollment Figures

Yesterday, mainstream media outlets were trumpeting some good news about President Obama’s embattled signature health-care legislation. More than 1.1 million people enrolled in ObamaCare in January. That was a marked increase over previous months when a dysfunctional website and widespread skepticism about the law kept enrollment numbers down. While the million new ObamaCare customers were not enough by themselves to offset the dramatic shortfall in the enrollment figures that calls into question the ability of the scheme to pay for itself, the White House and Democrats were encouraged by the fact that a large number of this total were made up of those aged 18-34, who are presumably healthy.

Until now most of those buying ObamaCare were either sick, elderly, or had pre-existing conditions that made it hard for them to purchase insurance. Without a lot more of these young “invincibles,” the plan will simply sink under the weight of an avalanche of red ink. The January figures were enough to pump some badly need confidence about ObamaCare into the political atmosphere, especially after another discouraging administration decision earlier this week to postpone the employer mandate until 2015.

But just one day after that news reassured Democrats that ObamaCare would survive despite all of its problems, today we learn about a new aspect of the enrollment figures that undermines that optimistic story line. As the New York Times reports, of the millions who had purchased ObamaCare prior to last month a staggering 20 percent did not pay their premiums. Though these people are still being counted among the total of those who are enrolled, they are, in fact, not covered and won’t be until the bill is paid, assuming that ever happens. That means the figures the administration has been proclaiming as good news are entirely fictional. Whatever the reason for the failure to pay, be it inability or a lack of intention ever to do so, this massive shortfall makes it clear that the ObamaCare enrollment numbers are Potemkin figures that say nothing about the actual total of those covered by a plan that is already desperately short of the people needed for it to function.

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Yesterday, mainstream media outlets were trumpeting some good news about President Obama’s embattled signature health-care legislation. More than 1.1 million people enrolled in ObamaCare in January. That was a marked increase over previous months when a dysfunctional website and widespread skepticism about the law kept enrollment numbers down. While the million new ObamaCare customers were not enough by themselves to offset the dramatic shortfall in the enrollment figures that calls into question the ability of the scheme to pay for itself, the White House and Democrats were encouraged by the fact that a large number of this total were made up of those aged 18-34, who are presumably healthy.

Until now most of those buying ObamaCare were either sick, elderly, or had pre-existing conditions that made it hard for them to purchase insurance. Without a lot more of these young “invincibles,” the plan will simply sink under the weight of an avalanche of red ink. The January figures were enough to pump some badly need confidence about ObamaCare into the political atmosphere, especially after another discouraging administration decision earlier this week to postpone the employer mandate until 2015.

But just one day after that news reassured Democrats that ObamaCare would survive despite all of its problems, today we learn about a new aspect of the enrollment figures that undermines that optimistic story line. As the New York Times reports, of the millions who had purchased ObamaCare prior to last month a staggering 20 percent did not pay their premiums. Though these people are still being counted among the total of those who are enrolled, they are, in fact, not covered and won’t be until the bill is paid, assuming that ever happens. That means the figures the administration has been proclaiming as good news are entirely fictional. Whatever the reason for the failure to pay, be it inability or a lack of intention ever to do so, this massive shortfall makes it clear that the ObamaCare enrollment numbers are Potemkin figures that say nothing about the actual total of those covered by a plan that is already desperately short of the people needed for it to function.

The news about the nonpayment of premiums is startling:

Paying the first month’s premium is the final step in completing an enrollment. Under federal rules, people must pay the initial premium to have coverage take effect. In view of the chaotic debut of the federal marketplace and many state exchanges, the White House urged insurers to give people more time, and many agreed to do so. But, insurers said, some people missed even the extended deadlines.

Lindy Wagner, a spokeswoman for Blue Shield of California said that 80 percent of the people who signed up for its plans had paid by the company’s due date, Jan. 15. Blue Shield has about 30 percent of the exchange market in the state.

Matthew N. Wiggin, a spokesman for Aetna, said that about 70 percent of people who signed up for its health plans paid their premiums. For Aetna policies taking effect on Jan. 1, the deadline for payment was Jan. 14, and for products sold by Coventry Health Care, which is now part of Aetna, the deadline was Jan. 17.

Mark T. Bertolini, the chief executive of Aetna, said last week that the company had 135,000 “paid members,” out of 200,000 who began to enroll through the exchanges.

As we noted earlier this month, many of the state exchanges are having problems relating to dysfunctional websites or bad management. The result is chaos around the nation that undermines the happy talk emanating from the White House about the million new ObamaCare customers last month.

The question about nonpayment is not a technicality. Many of those purchasing the insurance may be first-time buyers and not understand that they must pay their bill before coverage starts rather than long after the fact, as they can with a credit card transaction. Or it may be that some enrolled with no intention of paying or thinking that the hype about the glories of ObamaCare they’ve heard in the mainstream media and from the president absolved them of the obligation to pay for it. But either way, the large number of non-payments renders the enrollment figures broadcast this week utterly meaningless.

We won’t know for months how many people are actually taking part in the problem, or whether they amount to anything close the figure needed for it to be fiscally solvent. Unless more young and healthy consumers buy into the plan, the massive wealth transfer envisioned by the law simply won’t take place. If so, the government will be forced to step in to save the health-care scheme with a bailout that will amount to a vast increase in the already staggering figures needed to pay for entitlements. Combined with the fact that the administration is seeking to postpone the most painful aspects of the law until after the midterm elections this fall, the long-term outlook for the law remains bleak. But whether it recovers from these blows or not, today’s news should inspire even more skepticism about ObamaCare in a public that never supported it in the first place.

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Why Have Health-Care Costs Been Rising so Much More Slowly of Late?

On a par with President Obama’s oft-repeated masterpiece of mendacity that “If you like your insurance plan you can keep your insurance plan,” is his claim that the Affordable Care Act has already begun to slow down the rise in medical costs.

There’s only one problem with that. The ACA came into effect (well, at least those parts Obama did not decide to waive on his own, non-existent authority) on October 1, 2013, and medical cost increases have been slowing for more than a decade. So what did cause the slow down?

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On a par with President Obama’s oft-repeated masterpiece of mendacity that “If you like your insurance plan you can keep your insurance plan,” is his claim that the Affordable Care Act has already begun to slow down the rise in medical costs.

There’s only one problem with that. The ACA came into effect (well, at least those parts Obama did not decide to waive on his own, non-existent authority) on October 1, 2013, and medical cost increases have been slowing for more than a decade. So what did cause the slow down?

John C. Goodman, head of the National Center for Policy Analysis, makes the argument that the causative agent has been the Health Savings Account, which first became legally possible in 2003. The HSA and its close cousin Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA) provide company employees with a high-deductible insurance plan to cover catastrophic events and a savings account that can be used to cover routine medical expenses. If the money in the savings account is not needed, it usually is added to the employee’s retirement account.

HSAs have grown by leaps and bounds since 2003. In 2005 there were about 1 million people covered by them. At the end of 2012, about 15 million were.

This structure has great economic advantages. For one thing, health insurance becomes health insurance, covering unexpected costs that would be financially calamitous, just like car and house insurance does. It does not cover routine expenses, such as the infamous birth-control pills, that are much more expensive to cover in what amounts to a pre-payment plan, as I have explained before.

But most important, it gets health-care consumers to ask the magic question: How much is this going to cost? When consumers have to ask that question, costs are kept under control much more easily. As Milton Friedman explained, no one spends other people’s money as carefully as they spend their own. When it becomes in a person’s self-interest to find the cheapest way to get a job done, he will find the cheapest way. If it makes no difference to him, why bother? Life is short enough.

This has had supply-side effects as well. As Goodman explains, “The emergence of so many people paying for care with their own money is also changing the supply side of the market, leading to walk-in clinics that post their prices and provide timely care, and places like Walmart that offer $4 generic drugs financed by cash, not costly insurance.”

Altogether, HSAs cost about 25 percent less than traditional health insurance.

HSAs were not legally possible before 2003 because Senator Ted Kennedy, who favored a single-payer system, used all of his very considerable legislative skill to keep them off the market. He feared, correctly, that they would work effectively to keep down costs and thus pose a threat to the socialization of health care he so wanted, so he fought them tooth-and-nail.

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Jefferson’s Lesson for Conservatives

Yesterday, timed almost perfectly with the unlawful extension of the ObamaCare employer-mandate delay, President Obama was touring Monticello with the visiting French president when he joked about breaking protocol there. “That’s the good thing as a President, I can do whatever I want,” he said according to the pool report. I’m never sure anymore if this sort of thing is really a gaffe, or if the president is just trolling conservatives. Either way, it got the requisite attention.

One of the comments was to note the irony of Obama making such imperious boasts at the home of a president who feared just such a display of lawless executive whim. At Hot Air, Ed Morrissey, for example, said: “That’s precisely the opposite of the example set by Jefferson, at least in terms of the presidency. Too bad Obama hasn’t learned that lesson yet.” And of course I agree … mostly. The truth is, Jefferson actually has something in common with Obama in this regard. Both found their presidencies weighed down by public disapproval. But Jefferson, of course, respected it–and in the end, like many things Jefferson set his mind to, took it a bit overboard.

But first he flexed more executive power than he’s remembered for. In 1807, when American ships were being abused on the open seas, Jefferson believed he had two options: go to war, or keep the traders in harbor. He opted for the second. His proposed trade embargo was an astoundingly bad idea, though it received congressional approval. But Jefferson was showing signs that his everyday personality was ill-suited to the presidency. Richard Brookhiser notes that:

There was a too-good-for-this-world streak in Jefferson’s character that showed itself in many ways, from his mountaintop house, to his dislike of face-to-face argument, to his pride, which also found expression in the embargo.

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Yesterday, timed almost perfectly with the unlawful extension of the ObamaCare employer-mandate delay, President Obama was touring Monticello with the visiting French president when he joked about breaking protocol there. “That’s the good thing as a President, I can do whatever I want,” he said according to the pool report. I’m never sure anymore if this sort of thing is really a gaffe, or if the president is just trolling conservatives. Either way, it got the requisite attention.

One of the comments was to note the irony of Obama making such imperious boasts at the home of a president who feared just such a display of lawless executive whim. At Hot Air, Ed Morrissey, for example, said: “That’s precisely the opposite of the example set by Jefferson, at least in terms of the presidency. Too bad Obama hasn’t learned that lesson yet.” And of course I agree … mostly. The truth is, Jefferson actually has something in common with Obama in this regard. Both found their presidencies weighed down by public disapproval. But Jefferson, of course, respected it–and in the end, like many things Jefferson set his mind to, took it a bit overboard.

But first he flexed more executive power than he’s remembered for. In 1807, when American ships were being abused on the open seas, Jefferson believed he had two options: go to war, or keep the traders in harbor. He opted for the second. His proposed trade embargo was an astoundingly bad idea, though it received congressional approval. But Jefferson was showing signs that his everyday personality was ill-suited to the presidency. Richard Brookhiser notes that:

There was a too-good-for-this-world streak in Jefferson’s character that showed itself in many ways, from his mountaintop house, to his dislike of face-to-face argument, to his pride, which also found expression in the embargo.

Jefferson’s secretary of state, James Madison, had much to do with the embargo policy. Madison thought American exceptionalism (though of course he didn’t use the term) would assert itself, and the American people would win this game of economic chicken. They did not. The two ignored a prescient warning from Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin that “Governmental prohibitions do always more mischief than had been calculated.” (Gallatin would be better remembered today, perhaps, had the Congress not blocked his nomination to be Madison’s secretary of state later on.)

But even more important, Gallatin cautioned that the difficulty of enforcing the embargo would force Jefferson to make a choice: “Congress must either vest the executive with the most arbitrary powers … or give it up altogether.” Gallatin had correctly predicted the course of the policy. Its failure took a toll on Jefferson. Brookhiser writes: “But the effort tore him up. Was he appalled by the means he had been driven to use? The party of liberty and light government was behaving more odiously than the Federalists had a decade earlier” by restricting free trade where the Federalists restricted free speech.

In any case, it sickened Jefferson, and he quite literally gave up on the presidency. He didn’t leave office–that might have been more of a scandal, but less of a constitutional offense than the course he chose, which was to simply have Madison, his unelected secretary of state, act as de facto president for the remainder of his last year in office. Madison was duly elected in the next election, but Jefferson’s actions risked undermining the system he helped create, and it was an insult to popular democracy.

The comparison between Jefferson and Obama can only be taken so far without becoming ludicrous. When Jefferson “gave up” on the process he bowed out quietly. When Obama did so, he simply discarded the process and did what he wanted. Hence, Obama’s “joke” isn’t really a joke except to the extent to which it’s on us. Nonetheless, there are a couple of lessons. One is that Madison eventually went to war, but did so from a position of greater weakness, lower public morale, and with a less prepared military. An instinct to avoid war is laudable, but in Jefferson and Madison’s case it resulted in rolling back economic freedom and nearly strangling the young nation’s economy. History has vindicated Gallatin, while also cruelly neglecting him.

The other lesson is one about the temptations of power. Jefferson turned out to be quite stubborn; his preferred policy could only be carried out by crossing his own principles, and that’s what he did. This is not to take away from Jefferson’s legacy, but to point out that Jefferson was a critic of John Adams’s crackdown on liberty when he was out of power, and ended up curbing freedom when his turn came.

Conservatives are noting that Obama is setting a disturbing precedent–but it’s one Democrats seemingly approve of. Thus it could be used in any number of ways by the next Republican president. Conservatives should resist the temptation to follow the left’s precedent the next time they have the chance. The extent of Obama’s lawlessness is the exception, and it should remain that way.

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Conservative Vindication

There’s been a lot of fine commentary on the right about the decision by the president to delay the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate for another year, which is just the most recent in a series of lawless acts by Mr. Obama, all aimed at keeping his teetering health plan from utterly collapsing.

It’s worth pointing out, I think, that the manifold and multiplying failures of the Affordable Care Act were predicted by conservatives, many of whom warned–in advance, repeatedly, on the record–how awful ObamaCare would be. Things are, if anything, worse–or at least worse, quicker–than many on the right predicted.

The reality is that on the facts and arguments surrounding the most far-reaching and transformative domestic program since the Great Society, conservatives were absolutely right and the left was absolutely wrong. That is the case when it comes to ObamaCare’s effect on (among other things) jobs, on businesses, on coverage for the uninsured, on keeping your plan if you like it, on premiums and deductibles, on its cost, and on its overall effect on our health-care system.

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There’s been a lot of fine commentary on the right about the decision by the president to delay the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate for another year, which is just the most recent in a series of lawless acts by Mr. Obama, all aimed at keeping his teetering health plan from utterly collapsing.

It’s worth pointing out, I think, that the manifold and multiplying failures of the Affordable Care Act were predicted by conservatives, many of whom warned–in advance, repeatedly, on the record–how awful ObamaCare would be. Things are, if anything, worse–or at least worse, quicker–than many on the right predicted.

The reality is that on the facts and arguments surrounding the most far-reaching and transformative domestic program since the Great Society, conservatives were absolutely right and the left was absolutely wrong. That is the case when it comes to ObamaCare’s effect on (among other things) jobs, on businesses, on coverage for the uninsured, on keeping your plan if you like it, on premiums and deductibles, on its cost, and on its overall effect on our health-care system.

Progressives have full ownership of ObamaCare. They built it, they passed it, they own it. This is a “teachable moment,” to use a favorite Obama phrase, when it comes to both the political philosophy and competence of liberalism. Conservatives are absolutely correct to keep reminding the public what they said versus what President Obama and liberals said about the Affordable Care Act; to test their promises against what really happened and to test conservative predictions against what really happened.

On the health-care debate, conservatives have done to liberals what the Seahawks did to the Broncos in the Super Bowl. It’s been a rout, and it will shape American politics for years to come.

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More ObamaCare Delays Won’t Save Dems

From its inception, the strategy behind the Obama administration’s implementation of ObamaCare has been simple: to frontload the benefits and postpone the pain and costs of this massive government intrusion into the private sector for as long as possible. This deceitful approach enabled President Obama run for reelection in 2012 on the spurious promise of extending insurance coverage to the poor and those with pre-existing conditions without being held accountable for the problems with the law that would only become apparent in his second term. Over the course of the last year, as the president’s signature accomplishment debuted with a disastrous rollout, the administration has retreated bit by bit from its insistence on implementing the entire unwieldy and gargantuan edifice on the American people immediately after Obama was safely ensconced in his second term. A dysfunctional website and the president’s broken promises about patients being able to keep their coverage and their doctors has led to the law being dismantled piece by piece as various elements were delayed. Today, yet another element of the law was similarly postponed, by executive order. As the New York Times reports:

The Obama administration announced Monday that it would again delay enforcement of a federal requirement for certain employers to provide health insurance to employees, giving medium-size companies extra time to comply. The “employer mandate,” which had already been delayed to Jan. 1, 2015, will now be phased-in beyond that date for some businesses with more than 50 employees.

The motivation for this latest delay is transparently political. By delaying yet one more element of the law until after the midterm elections, the administration hopes to save some faltering Democratic red-state incumbents who, unlike the president, are faced with the difficult task of running for reelection in the wake of the ObamaCare rollout. Though the pain of the health-care law is already being felt by millions of Americans who have lost their coverage and are facing higher costs for insurance that fails to meet their needs, Democrats are trying to do anything they can to put off the devastating impact the law will have on employers and, by extension, the economy.

But the problem here is not only the flagrantly political nature of this decision. Rather, it is the spectacle of a law being stretched to the breaking point by an administration that thinks it can selectively cherry-pick what parts of the law it will enforce. With ObamaCare enrollment numbers already falling millions short of what they would have to be for the law to be cost-effective, no amount of playing fast and loose with enforcement can disguise the fact that the scheme appears to be headed for collapse.

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From its inception, the strategy behind the Obama administration’s implementation of ObamaCare has been simple: to frontload the benefits and postpone the pain and costs of this massive government intrusion into the private sector for as long as possible. This deceitful approach enabled President Obama run for reelection in 2012 on the spurious promise of extending insurance coverage to the poor and those with pre-existing conditions without being held accountable for the problems with the law that would only become apparent in his second term. Over the course of the last year, as the president’s signature accomplishment debuted with a disastrous rollout, the administration has retreated bit by bit from its insistence on implementing the entire unwieldy and gargantuan edifice on the American people immediately after Obama was safely ensconced in his second term. A dysfunctional website and the president’s broken promises about patients being able to keep their coverage and their doctors has led to the law being dismantled piece by piece as various elements were delayed. Today, yet another element of the law was similarly postponed, by executive order. As the New York Times reports:

The Obama administration announced Monday that it would again delay enforcement of a federal requirement for certain employers to provide health insurance to employees, giving medium-size companies extra time to comply. The “employer mandate,” which had already been delayed to Jan. 1, 2015, will now be phased-in beyond that date for some businesses with more than 50 employees.

The motivation for this latest delay is transparently political. By delaying yet one more element of the law until after the midterm elections, the administration hopes to save some faltering Democratic red-state incumbents who, unlike the president, are faced with the difficult task of running for reelection in the wake of the ObamaCare rollout. Though the pain of the health-care law is already being felt by millions of Americans who have lost their coverage and are facing higher costs for insurance that fails to meet their needs, Democrats are trying to do anything they can to put off the devastating impact the law will have on employers and, by extension, the economy.

But the problem here is not only the flagrantly political nature of this decision. Rather, it is the spectacle of a law being stretched to the breaking point by an administration that thinks it can selectively cherry-pick what parts of the law it will enforce. With ObamaCare enrollment numbers already falling millions short of what they would have to be for the law to be cost-effective, no amount of playing fast and loose with enforcement can disguise the fact that the scheme appears to be headed for collapse.

The list of ObamaCare delays was already impressive when I noted the announcement in December that those whose coverage was cancelled would not face penalties for not buying ObamaCare for a year:

On July 2, the White House abruptly announced a one-year delay, until 2015, in a provision that requires larger employers to offer coverage to their workers or pay penalties. 

On Nov. 27, it deferred a major element of the law that would allow small businesses to buy insurance online for their employees through the federal exchange.

Earlier, in April, the administration said that the federal exchange would not offer employees of a small business the opportunity to choose from multiple health plans in 2014.

And in October 2011, the administration scrapped a long-term care insurance program created by the new law, saying it was too costly and would not work.

Seen in totality, it appears that ObamaCare is unraveling like a cheap sweater. But though the administration is trying to limit the number of those who are inconvenienced or hurt by the law, this latest decision is one more shred of evidence that proves the assumptions about the law’s popularity were completely unfounded. Democrats assumed that once the law began to be implemented the benefits it distributed would quickly make it as beloved as Social Security or Medicare. But it is now abundantly clear that the numbers of ObamaCare losers may well equal or exceed the total of those who will benefit from it. No amount of lawlessness on the part of a president who lacks the constitutional power to enforce only the laws or the parts of laws that he likes can conceal the enormity of the ObamaCare fiasco.

Unfortunately for the president and Democratic incumbents, the sheer number of ObamaCare exemptions and delays has grown to the point where it is no longer possible to pretend that the only problem with the law was a glitch-ridden website or Republican obstructionism. No matter how many of its ill-conceived moving parts the presidential orders say need not be implemented before November, the accumulated weight of its failure may prove too heavy a burden for Democrats who must answer to the electorate for their votes to shove this monstrosity down the collective throat of the American people.

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The Risible ObamaCare Counterattacks

I wrote a column earlier this week in which I said that the report by the Congressional Budget Office on the federal budget over the next decade might have delivered the “death blow” for ObamaCare. Pete Wehner responded here by saying he was not as “optimistic” as I. The truth is that I didn’t write the column in a spirit of optimism or pessimism. What was striking to me about the CBO report was how it detailed a problem with ObamaCare that had gone all but unnoticed in the debates over its passage and in the criticisms of it since: The way in which its complex system of subsidies might create perverse incentives for people who receive the subsidies. The very real possibility is that this “disincentive to work,” as the CBO’s own director put it to Congress, will be the proverbial straw that breaks ObamaCare’s back. It’s not the report itself, in other words; it’s what the report reports.

This is far from the worst aspect of ObamaCare, really, but it’s a problem no one who supports the bill could possibly have wanted to have to cope with. Add it to all the other bad news since ObamaCare’s official launch on October 1 of last year, and you have a program that is increasingly difficult to defend on its own merits, that might pose profound political risks to those who do try to defend it, and that may provide profound political benefits to those who oppose it and seek its repeal and replacement by a better set of health-care reforms.

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I wrote a column earlier this week in which I said that the report by the Congressional Budget Office on the federal budget over the next decade might have delivered the “death blow” for ObamaCare. Pete Wehner responded here by saying he was not as “optimistic” as I. The truth is that I didn’t write the column in a spirit of optimism or pessimism. What was striking to me about the CBO report was how it detailed a problem with ObamaCare that had gone all but unnoticed in the debates over its passage and in the criticisms of it since: The way in which its complex system of subsidies might create perverse incentives for people who receive the subsidies. The very real possibility is that this “disincentive to work,” as the CBO’s own director put it to Congress, will be the proverbial straw that breaks ObamaCare’s back. It’s not the report itself, in other words; it’s what the report reports.

This is far from the worst aspect of ObamaCare, really, but it’s a problem no one who supports the bill could possibly have wanted to have to cope with. Add it to all the other bad news since ObamaCare’s official launch on October 1 of last year, and you have a program that is increasingly difficult to defend on its own merits, that might pose profound political risks to those who do try to defend it, and that may provide profound political benefits to those who oppose it and seek its repeal and replacement by a better set of health-care reforms.

Its defenders have been reduced, over the past couple of days, to a series of risible partisan “gotcha” responses that indicate just how desperate things are getting for those who support ObamaCare. 

Risible response #1: Republicans dishonestly mischaracterized its findings by claiming the report said 2 million will be thrown out of work when all it said was that the lure of subsidies will cause the departure of workers from the workforce equivalent to 2 million full-time jobs. OK, perhaps there was a failure of nuance in the effort to seek quick political gain, but the Talmudic analysis of the difference between the two is ridiculous. Fine, so 2 million won’t be thrown out of work; rather, they will leave working voluntarily because the deal they get from the government for not working is too good to pass up. That’s a better argument?

Risible response #2: Republicans and conservatives are hypocrites because they also claim to want to decouple health care from employment. For decades now, conservative health-care reformers have pointed out that the single worst policy decision in this entire mess was to give employers the tax deduction for providing health care rather than giving the deduction to each individual worker. But the reason for this was to empower individuals and to give them the responsibility for policing their own health care decisions rather than creating a deranged system in which the consumer has no idea what anything actually costs and has no incentive to shop around for a better deal. It wasn’t to decouple health care from employment by making the dole more attractive than self-sufficiency.

Risible response #3: Conservatives mischaracterized the report’s findings on the number of uninsured under ObamaCare. Without it, the report says, there would be 57 million uninsured by 2024. With it, the report says, there will be 31 million uninsured by 2014. Thus, ObamaCare will provide health care to 26 million people who otherwise wouldn’t have it. So it’s good. The point I made in my column was that President Obama said in September 2009 there were 31 million uninsured. The report says in 2024 there will be 31 million uninsured. If 31 million uninsured was unacceptable in 2009 and the key fact in creating this new $2 trillion program, how could the projection that there will be 31 million uninsured in 2024 be considered an endorsement of ObamaCare’s success? In any case, what is missing from any such projection is the fact that one way or another, had there been no ObamaCare, there would still have been significant revision at some point of the health-care system, which everyone acknowledges is broken. Since we can’t know what other changes might have been made, we can’t possibly know how many uninsured there might have been in this alternate 2024.

The law’s defenders are finding it necessary to fight battles on its behalf they had no idea they would have to fight and for which they are understandably ill-prepared. It’s one thing to say the law is necessary, and that it will have good effects; it’s quite another to have to say it’s OK that it will lead people out of the workforce in order to collect government benefits—and nyah nyah nyah Republicans and conservatives. ObamaCare is now law, and the degree to which is is a badly-designed, jury-rigged mess is mostly what people are coming to know about it. That is why I said this report may mark the moment its doom was sealed—because it’s springing leaks in places no one ever thought he was going to have to patch, even as Obama and his people continue to try to plug the holes that everyone already knows about. 

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The Tragedy of the Times Editorial Page

The New York Observer ran an article yesterday not only on how awful the New York Times editorial pages have become (hardly a stop-the-presses news item), but how fed up and in “semi-open revolt” the news side of the Times is about the editorial side. Referring to Andrew Rosenthal, the Times’s editorial page editor, one Times reporter said, “Andy’s got 14 or 15 people plus a whole bevy of assistants working on these three unsigned editorials every day. They’re completely reflexively liberal, utterly predictable, usually poorly written and totally ineffectual. I mean, just try and remember the last time that anybody was talking about one of those editorials.”

For obvious reasons, the reporter was speaking not for attribution. The article is not-to-be-missed reading, as Times reporters eviscerate the likes of Tom Friedman (“an embarrassment”) and Maureen Dowd, (“[she’s] been writing the same column since George H. W. Bush was president”).

Today, the Times’s lead editorial demonstrated just what the news-side guys are talking about. Entitled “Freeing Workers From the Insurance Trap,” it is nothing more than a slight restatement of what Jay Carney peddled yesterday at the White House news briefing. Had it been issued as a White House press release (and maybe it was, just sent only to Andrew Rosenthal), I doubt anyone would have doubted its authenticity.

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The New York Observer ran an article yesterday not only on how awful the New York Times editorial pages have become (hardly a stop-the-presses news item), but how fed up and in “semi-open revolt” the news side of the Times is about the editorial side. Referring to Andrew Rosenthal, the Times’s editorial page editor, one Times reporter said, “Andy’s got 14 or 15 people plus a whole bevy of assistants working on these three unsigned editorials every day. They’re completely reflexively liberal, utterly predictable, usually poorly written and totally ineffectual. I mean, just try and remember the last time that anybody was talking about one of those editorials.”

For obvious reasons, the reporter was speaking not for attribution. The article is not-to-be-missed reading, as Times reporters eviscerate the likes of Tom Friedman (“an embarrassment”) and Maureen Dowd, (“[she’s] been writing the same column since George H. W. Bush was president”).

Today, the Times’s lead editorial demonstrated just what the news-side guys are talking about. Entitled “Freeing Workers From the Insurance Trap,” it is nothing more than a slight restatement of what Jay Carney peddled yesterday at the White House news briefing. Had it been issued as a White House press release (and maybe it was, just sent only to Andrew Rosenthal), I doubt anyone would have doubted its authenticity.

It argues, like Carney, that the destruction of 2.5 million jobs over the next ten years, as predicted by the non-partisan (but liberal-leaning) Congressional Budget Office, is wonderful news because it will mean that 2.5 million wage slaves have decided, thanks to ObamaCare, to opt for a life of elegant leisure instead of working. How that squares with the universally held opinion that robust job growth, not shrinkage, is the key to a robust recovery, or the fact that 7.8 million Americans are working part-time because they can’t find full-time jobs, is blithely ignored.

Virtually no one agrees with the White House or the Times on this, of course. The Wall Street Journal writes that, “now we learn that the law is a job destroyer that is removing rungs from the ladder of upward economic mobility.” As Peter Wehner noted, John Podhoretz thinks the CBO report is a “death blow” to ObamaCare. Even Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, not exactly a right-wing zealot, writes that “This is grim news for the White House and for Democrats on the ballot in November. This independent arbiter, long embraced by the White House, has validated a core complaint of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) critics: that it will discourage work and become an ungainly entitlement. Disputing Republicans’ charges is much easier than refuting the federal government’s official scorekeepers.”

The descent of what was once by far the world’s most influential editorial page into banal irrelevance and party-line predictability is a journalistic tragedy. It reminds me a bit of King Lear.

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Do We Want to Free Americans from Work?

The response from the White House and liberal outlets to yesterday’s Congressional Budget Office report that predicted a loss of a staggering 2.3 million full-time jobs as a result of the implementation of ObamaCare was every bit as astonishing as the report itself. Rather than facing up to the sobering news and acknowledging that the job loss was a disastrous, if unintended consequence of the misnamed Affordable Care Act, liberals cheered. Or at least pretended to cheer.

We were told the loss of all these jobs is good because it means Americans who maintained full-time employment in order to keep their health insurance no longer need be “tied” to their jobs. ObamaCare now gives them the “freedom” to work less, pursue their dreams, or just kick back and enjoy life without the drudgery involved in productive employment thanks to the president’s signature health-care legislation. Viewed this way, it’s not job loss but a glorious liberation from the burdens of “job lock.”

A White House economic adviser put it this way: 

It reflects the fact that workers have a new set of options and are making the best choices that they can choose to make for themselves given those options.

More articulate, if no less problematic, was this explanation from the New York Times editorial page:

The new law will free people, young and old, to pursue careers or retirement without having to worry about health coverage. Workers can seek positions they are most qualified for and will no longer need to feel locked into a job they don’t like because they need insurance for themselves or their families. It is hard to view this as any kind of disaster.

This transparent partisan spin is unconvincing, not only because it is rooted in a reality that has less to do with the plight of most working people than of elites who look forward to prosperous retirements once their company goes public. The true disaster here is the reality of another massive government program that not only burdens employers and makes them less inclined to offer benefits but has also created a widespread disincentive for people to work. The CBO numbers illustrate once again that ObamaCare is primarily a redistributionist program that helps a small group of people but penalizes an equal or greater number while placing an intolerable burden on the economy.

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The response from the White House and liberal outlets to yesterday’s Congressional Budget Office report that predicted a loss of a staggering 2.3 million full-time jobs as a result of the implementation of ObamaCare was every bit as astonishing as the report itself. Rather than facing up to the sobering news and acknowledging that the job loss was a disastrous, if unintended consequence of the misnamed Affordable Care Act, liberals cheered. Or at least pretended to cheer.

We were told the loss of all these jobs is good because it means Americans who maintained full-time employment in order to keep their health insurance no longer need be “tied” to their jobs. ObamaCare now gives them the “freedom” to work less, pursue their dreams, or just kick back and enjoy life without the drudgery involved in productive employment thanks to the president’s signature health-care legislation. Viewed this way, it’s not job loss but a glorious liberation from the burdens of “job lock.”

A White House economic adviser put it this way: 

It reflects the fact that workers have a new set of options and are making the best choices that they can choose to make for themselves given those options.

More articulate, if no less problematic, was this explanation from the New York Times editorial page:

The new law will free people, young and old, to pursue careers or retirement without having to worry about health coverage. Workers can seek positions they are most qualified for and will no longer need to feel locked into a job they don’t like because they need insurance for themselves or their families. It is hard to view this as any kind of disaster.

This transparent partisan spin is unconvincing, not only because it is rooted in a reality that has less to do with the plight of most working people than of elites who look forward to prosperous retirements once their company goes public. The true disaster here is the reality of another massive government program that not only burdens employers and makes them less inclined to offer benefits but has also created a widespread disincentive for people to work. The CBO numbers illustrate once again that ObamaCare is primarily a redistributionist program that helps a small group of people but penalizes an equal or greater number while placing an intolerable burden on the economy.

As our John Podhoretz said in a column published today in the New York Post, the impact of ObamaCare on work choices is no different from any other “government handout” in that it can give people a good reason not to work since doing so would actually result in a loss of income rather than a net gain. But since this financial assistance is underwritten by higher taxes as well as increased health-care costs for those not receiving the subsidy, the result also discourages productive economic activity at the other end of the spectrum.

One of the president’s evergreen themes is that the goal of his health-care legislation and his entire economic program is to help hard-working Americans. But, as the CBO demonstrates, ObamaCare’s impact on the economy reveals is that it will punish those who work and encourages some to stop. This will, as Ross Douthat argues elsewhere in today’s Times, hurt far more than it helps:

Given the current economic landscape, especially — in which persistently high unemployment coexists with a growing population of workers too discouraged to even look for work — the size and scope of a work-discouraging effect matters a great deal: The bigger the effect, the more likely that the people dropping out aren’t just, say, parents cutting hours to spend more time at home while the other spouse works full time, but people we should want to be attached to the workforce, for their own long term good and the good of the economy as well.

While liberals are lauding an economic disincentive to work, for weeks they have also been arguing that precisely this outcome is inapplicable when discussing legislation to indefinitely extend unemployment benefits indefinitely. When conservatives pointed to economic studies that proved that creating a system under which benefits were transformed from a temporary measure to a permanent subsidy would mean that the long-term unemployed would be less likely to search for work, liberals dismissed this as a slander against the unemployed. But economic facts are not as pliable as liberal talking points would have them. One cannot simultaneously explain ObamaCare job losses as a beneficial result of a disincentive to work while simultaneously insisting that there is no such effect when discussing the unemployed.

As the CBO made clear, we are just now starting to comprehend how disastrous the unintended consequences of ObamaCare will be. The job loss numbers paint a picture of a country where work will be discouraged and productivity penalized. A proper understanding of the long-term problems this will create for the nation goes beyond the political impact of ObamaCare. Americans don’t need to be freed from work. A government that sees this as a beneficial development is one that has not merely lost touch with the basic middle class values it claims to champion but is also one that feels no compunction at putting the nation on a path to certain economic ruin.

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The GOP’s Opening

I’m slightly less hopeful than John that the new Congressional Budget Report has dealt a death blow to the Affordable Care Act–but I certainly agree with him that the CBO report is “devastating” when it comes to the “inefficiencies, ineffectualities and problematic social costs of ObamaCare.” And John’s crisp analysis of just how far short the ACA has fallen from the claims made by the president–including CBO’s projection that in 10 years about the same number of people will lack insurance as before–underscores what an epic failure Mr. Obama’s signature achievement is turning out to be.

The CBO report affords another chance, then, to point out that the ACA isn’t just an indictment of the Obama presidency; it is an indictment against reactionary liberalism. ObamaCare was the capstone of a half-century effort by progressives to remake the American health-care system. Now they have, and the results range from awful to catastrophic.

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I’m slightly less hopeful than John that the new Congressional Budget Report has dealt a death blow to the Affordable Care Act–but I certainly agree with him that the CBO report is “devastating” when it comes to the “inefficiencies, ineffectualities and problematic social costs of ObamaCare.” And John’s crisp analysis of just how far short the ACA has fallen from the claims made by the president–including CBO’s projection that in 10 years about the same number of people will lack insurance as before–underscores what an epic failure Mr. Obama’s signature achievement is turning out to be.

The CBO report affords another chance, then, to point out that the ACA isn’t just an indictment of the Obama presidency; it is an indictment against reactionary liberalism. ObamaCare was the capstone of a half-century effort by progressives to remake the American health-care system. Now they have, and the results range from awful to catastrophic.

This doesn’t ensure Republicans a sail on a summer sea. There are still significant problems facing the GOP, demographic and otherwise, when it comes to presidential elections–problems I’ll focus on in a later post. For now, though, it’s enough to say that thanks to the combination of Mr. Obama’s staggering incompetence and flawed ideology, and the resultant harm to the America people, voters will give the Republican Party another look. It’s an open question as to whether the party will take the necessary steps–in tone, countenance, and substance–to take advantage of it. We’ll know more during the next year–and a lot more once the GOP has a nominee.

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CBO Political Dynamite: OCare Job Losses

Judging by his State of the Union address and the confidence with which Democrats have tried to focus the national political conversation on income inequality, it was obvious that the administration had concluded that ObamaCare was no longer a political problem. But today’s report from the Congressional Budget Office predicting that the health-care law would result in the loss of more than two million full-time jobs shows just how unfounded that conclusion has turned out to be. The report, which provides the most detailed analysis of the impact of ObamaCare on the economy, said the law would reduce hours worked by Americans across the board.

As the New York Times reports:

The budget office analysis found that much of the law’s effect comes from reducing the need for people to take a full-time job just to get insurance coverage, and from the premium subsidies effectively bolstering household income.

But it will also have an effect on businesses, the report said, including by encouraging them to reduce employee hours to avoid the so-called “employer mandate.”

The report also chipped away at the administration’s main argument for retaining the controversial law: the vast expansion of benefits for the poor and those unable to obtain insurance because of pre-existing conditions:

The budget office also estimated that about a million fewer Americans than expected will receive health insurance coverage in 2014 through the marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act, primarily because of the troubled rollout of the exchanges. It also revised its estimates of the number of people receiving coverage through Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Plan coverage, lowering it by about 1 million.

While the White House is attempting to spin the numbers to prove that the job losses are meaningless, the political impact of this report is clear: ObamaCare will remain a major, if not the single most important, political issue in the 2014 midterm elections. Moreover, since the CBO says most of the damage won’t be fully felt until after 2016, the idea that the health-care law will be widely accepted once implemented is also a pipe dream of the Democrats who passed it without a single Republican vote. That means Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, dreaming of the White House must understand that they will also be faced with the absolute necessity of defending the law in the next presidential election cycle.

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Judging by his State of the Union address and the confidence with which Democrats have tried to focus the national political conversation on income inequality, it was obvious that the administration had concluded that ObamaCare was no longer a political problem. But today’s report from the Congressional Budget Office predicting that the health-care law would result in the loss of more than two million full-time jobs shows just how unfounded that conclusion has turned out to be. The report, which provides the most detailed analysis of the impact of ObamaCare on the economy, said the law would reduce hours worked by Americans across the board.

As the New York Times reports:

The budget office analysis found that much of the law’s effect comes from reducing the need for people to take a full-time job just to get insurance coverage, and from the premium subsidies effectively bolstering household income.

But it will also have an effect on businesses, the report said, including by encouraging them to reduce employee hours to avoid the so-called “employer mandate.”

The report also chipped away at the administration’s main argument for retaining the controversial law: the vast expansion of benefits for the poor and those unable to obtain insurance because of pre-existing conditions:

The budget office also estimated that about a million fewer Americans than expected will receive health insurance coverage in 2014 through the marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act, primarily because of the troubled rollout of the exchanges. It also revised its estimates of the number of people receiving coverage through Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Plan coverage, lowering it by about 1 million.

While the White House is attempting to spin the numbers to prove that the job losses are meaningless, the political impact of this report is clear: ObamaCare will remain a major, if not the single most important, political issue in the 2014 midterm elections. Moreover, since the CBO says most of the damage won’t be fully felt until after 2016, the idea that the health-care law will be widely accepted once implemented is also a pipe dream of the Democrats who passed it without a single Republican vote. That means Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, dreaming of the White House must understand that they will also be faced with the absolute necessity of defending the law in the next presidential election cycle.

The CBO report isn’t all bad news for Democrats as it predicts lowered deficits in the years to come. But try as they might, the job loss numbers are a body blow to the president’s party heading into a midterm election cycle in which the odds were already stacked against them. With ObamaCare enrollment numbers significantly below where they must be for the system to pay for itself and state exchanges burdened by “glitches” that also imperil the law’s success, the outlook for the misnamed Affordable Care Act is grim.

Since the law’s passage in 2010 critics feared the employer mandate would result in massive cuts in full-time employees as small companies reduced workers to part-time status in order to avoid the costs and the regulatory headaches of complying with the statute. It has also led to the decisions of major companies such as Target, Trader Joe’s, and Home Depot to reduce insurance coverage for part-time employees pushing them into the exchanges to purchase ObamaCare.

All this adds up to a situation in which the number of ObamaCare losers is starting to outnumber the total number of Americans who benefit from the law. The assumption all along by both hopeful Democrats and worried Republicans was that once it was in place the law’s distribution of benefits would make it impossible to significantly amend or repeal it. But with each passing month as the disastrous rollout of the law continues, and more details of its catastrophic effects on the economy become apparent, it becomes clearer by the day that the problems it is creating for millions of Americans who have seen their existing plans canceled and replaced with more expensive coverage or are faced with the loss of full-time employment cannot be ignored.

Democrats who plan to face the voters in November by trying to change the subject to discussions of the minimum wage or vague talk about inequality must think again. Ignoring the devastating impact of ObamaCare on an economy that is still not fully recovered from 2008 is not a winning strategy. Faced with voters who know from their own experience they are paying a heavy price in jobs, increased health-care costs, and poorer coverage, Democrats are going to have to do better than to tell the people that ObamaCare is off-limits for discussion or debate.

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ObamaCare: Yesterday’s Failures Today

The ObamaCare rollout has been such a mess that explaining its manifold failures has become somewhat complex. But basic news coverage of the law is still studded with quotes that, while describing individual weaknesses of the law, would serve as succinct summations of the government’s incompetence. Today’s New York Times story offers a couple of good candidates.

The back story, briefly, is that last month more results from the Oregon Medicaid study were released, further undercutting the central claims of ObamaCare. Part of the recriminations that followed had to do with the fact that the government had not been utilizing randomized studies, which are considered the “gold standard” in medical research, when planning out ObamaCare. Today the Times carries a story on how ObamaCare is funneling taxpayer money into new research facilities–and you won’t be surprised to hear that the government’s new facilities are not using the most reliable methodology:

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The ObamaCare rollout has been such a mess that explaining its manifold failures has become somewhat complex. But basic news coverage of the law is still studded with quotes that, while describing individual weaknesses of the law, would serve as succinct summations of the government’s incompetence. Today’s New York Times story offers a couple of good candidates.

The back story, briefly, is that last month more results from the Oregon Medicaid study were released, further undercutting the central claims of ObamaCare. Part of the recriminations that followed had to do with the fact that the government had not been utilizing randomized studies, which are considered the “gold standard” in medical research, when planning out ObamaCare. Today the Times carries a story on how ObamaCare is funneling taxpayer money into new research facilities–and you won’t be surprised to hear that the government’s new facilities are not using the most reliable methodology:

The idea seemed transformative. The Affordable Care Act would fund a new research outfit evocatively named the Innovation Center to discover how to most effectively deliver health care, with $10 billion to spend over a decade.

But now that the center has gotten started, many researchers and economists are disturbed that it is not using randomized clinical trials, the rigorous method that is widely considered the gold standard in medical and social science research. Such trials have long been required to prove the efficacy of medicines, and similarly designed studies have guided efforts to reform welfare-to-work, education and criminal justice programs.

The story then quotes health experts complaining about the missed opportunities. And what is the government using instead of the “gold standard”? The Times explains:

Instead, the Innovation Center has so far mostly undertaken demonstration projects; about 40 of them are now underway. Those projects test an idea, like a new payment system that might encourage better medical care — with all of a study’s participants, and then rely on mathematical modeling to judge the results.

Dr. Patrick Conway, the director of the center, defended its reliance on demonstration projects, saying they allowed researchers to evaluate programs in the real world and regularly adapt them. “Does it look like it is working?” he asked. “If it does not look like it is working, we can stop.”

That is the first of two classic quotes from the story underlining the government’s failures: “If it does not look like it is working, we can stop.” That’s not, apparently, the case with ObamaCare. It doesn’t appear to be working but the government’s natural tendency when watching bad money float away is to toss good money in after it.

But the better candidate for “ObamaCare in a nutshell” comes from the Times’s description of the activities of two health experts, one of whom was involved in the Oregon study. The Times notes the fact that the U.S. has been slow to use randomized studies despite their accuracy, and then adds:

The situation is different in the developing world. There, randomized trials have become common in health care and other areas, sponsored by a variety of groups like J-PAL, a global network of researchers that was organized by M.I.T. and Harvard economists.

So far, J-PAL has conducted over 440 randomized trials in 55 countries, according to Amy Finkelstein, an M.I.T. economist.

Dr. Finkelstein and Lawrence Katz, a Harvard economist, have now started J-PAL North America to spur randomized trials in, among other areas, health care.

So there you have it: in order to fix one of ObamaCare’s weaknesses, experts are importing methods from the developing world.

Now, in fairness to the administration, the lack of randomized trials is an issue across the board–it’s not a problem invented for or by ObamaCare. But it’s still quite telling that with a blank slate (and a practically blank check of taxpayer money) the government founded an Innovation Center to take us into the future of government health-care services with the past’s outdated and maligned systems and practices.

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