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Bad Salesman, Rotten Product

Mickey Kaus, who has been rooting for ObamaCare to pass, writes:

Lots of intellectual effort now seems to be going into explaining Obama’s (possible/likely/impending) health care failure as the inevitable product of larger historic and constitutional forces. There’s something to this of course–the Framers went overboard in making it hard for the government to act, for example. But in this case there’s a simpler explanation:  Barack Obama’s job was to sell a health care reform plan to American voters. He failed. He didn’t fail because 55% of Americans can never be convinced of anything. Happens all the time. He just failed. He tried to sell expanding coverage as a deficit reducer. Voters didn’t believe him and worried that they would pay the bill in some unadvertised way (through Medicare reductions or future tax increases, mainly). That’s not constitutional paralysis or Web-enabled mob rule. It’s just bad salesmanship.

There really is a lot to that. Kaus, unlike those still snared in the Obama thrall, isn’t afraid to come out and say just how horribly inept Obama has been in persuading Americans of the merits of the bill. There were the lame press conferences (the red-pill/blue-pill inanity was a classic), the redundant speeches, and the media stunts (recall ABC flacking for ObamaCare for a day at the White House?) Part of the reason he was so bad at selling his bill is that he was unwilling to recognize the real concerns of critics and hence to address them head on. He never explained how he was going to cut Medicare by $500B while not impacting care. He didn’t offer a rationale for why young, healthy twenty-and-thirty-something year-old Americans couldn’t be allowed to have low cost, high deductible insurance plans but instead should be forced to purchase really expensive, ObamaCare-approved ones.

Now if Obama did not adequately rebut the criticisms of the bill because there weren’t good answers to the critics’ charges, well, that goes beyond salesmanship to the product’s defectiveness. Couldn’t it have been that voters stubbornly resisted a large tax-and-spend plan that was going to disrupt a flawed, but basically satisfactory system for the vast majority of voters who already have insurance? It seems as though Obama wasn’t all that candid about what was in the bill and what it was going to do because at some level the bill’s proponents understood just how unpopular much of  it was.

In short, it’s like saying the problem with the stimulus bill was that Obama didn’t sell it well enough. No, the problem with the stimulus bill is that it was a bust and no amount of salesmanship was going to convince the voters otherwise. The difference with ObamaCare is that widespread revulsion, Scott Brown’s election, and belated cold feet by Democrats prevented (so far) the bad bill from being passed. And for that we can be thankful.



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