Obama's 'transformational vision' crumbles as the ACA fails
It is, as Charles Krauthammer calls it, "the new, more ambitious, social-democratic brand of American liberalism introduced by Obama, of which Obamacare is both symbol and concrete embodiment."
Perhaps it's a bit premature to identify the death of liberalism, or big government. But there is little doubt that both have taken a body blow to their credibility that they will be a long time recovering from.
Beyond the competence issue is the arrogance. Five million freely chosen, freely purchased, freely renewed health-care plans are summarily canceled. Why? Because they don't meet some arbitrary standard set by the experts in Washington.
For all his news conference gyrations about not deliberately deceiving people with his "if you like it" promise, the law Obama so triumphantly gave us allows you to keep your plan only if he likes it. This is life imitating comedy -- that old line about a liberal being someone who doesn't care what you do as long as it's mandatory.
Lastly, deception. The essence of the entitlement state is government giving away free stuff. Hence Obamacare would provide insurance for 30 million uninsured, while giving everybody tons of free medical services -- without adding "one dime to our deficits," promised Obama.
This being inherently impossible, there had to be a catch. Now we know it: hidden subsidies. Toss millions of the insured off their plans and onto the Obamacare "exchanges," where they would be forced into more expensive insurance packed with coverage they don't want and don't need -- so that the overcharge can be used to subsidize others.
The reaction to the incompetence, arrogance and deception has ranged from ridicule to anger. But more is in jeopardy than just panicked congressional Democrats. This is the signature legislative achievement of the Obama presidency, the embodiment of his new entitlement-state liberalism. If Obamacare goes down, there will be little left of its underlying ideology.
Perhaps it won't go down. Perhaps the Web portal hums beautifully on Nov. 30. Perhaps they'll find a way to restore the canceled policies without wrecking the financial underpinning of the exchanges.
Perhaps. The more likely scenario, however, is that Obamacare does fail. It either fails politically, renounced by a wide consensus that includes a growing number of Democrats, or it succumbs to the financial complications (the insurance "death spiral") of the very amendments desperately tacked on to save it.
If it does fail, the effect will be historic. Obamacare will take down with it more than Mary Landrieu and Co. It will discredit Obama's new liberalism for years to come.
If you're 50 or older, you may remember the last time liberalism imploded. The presidency of Jimmy Carter was a lot like Obama's, except Carter was - thankfully - too incompetent to get anything done. His proposals to massively overhaul the energy industry never went anywhere, nor did much of the rest of his ambitious social agenda.
But liberalism was discredited largely because it had failed to deliver on its promise to dramatically reduce poverty by massively increasing government spending. When Ronald Reagan came along and pointed out that the emperor had no clothes, conservatism gained in credibility despite efforts to marginalize both Reagan and his philosophy.
It didn't take as long this time for liberalism to fall - probably because it actually got a tryout with Obamacare. But you can be sure that liberals will go back to the drawing board and emerge with new "transformational" schemes to harry and harass the American citizen.