Obamacare's crisis of legitimacy

Thomas Lifson
Despite a lot of brave talk publicly, Democrats are scared about the consequences of Obamacare, to the point of trying to silence critics through federal regulatory agencies. But the law is a stinking mess, with more losers than winners, and the Pottery Barn Rule will apply. Everyone with a gripe about their helath insurance now knows that the Democrats are the ones who broke it.

This crisis for Democrats will not blow over soon, and one reason not much noticed lately but lurking nonetheless is the way the law was passed. Noemie Emery has a must-read essay in the Weekly Standard on the legitimacy crisis:

There are written rules that make an act legal, and unwritten ones that make it legitimate, and it is the latter ones this act fails. Medicare, Social Security, and the Civil Rights Act had four things in common that made them iconic: They embodied a popular consensus that was strong if not universal; they were passed by large margins with bipartisan backing, which meant their appeal crossed many factions; they were transparent and easy to follow, so the country and Congress could make informed judgments; and they were passed by the usual order of legislative business. The Affordable Care Act, on the contrary, was passed with public opinion running strongly against it; it was passed by the minimum number of votes in the House, with no Republicans voting for it; it was passed through the Senate via a loophole, as it could not have passed through normal procedures; and it was so complex, convoluted, and incomprehensible that its contents were a mystery both to the voters and the members who passed it, and remained so until last October, three and a half years after it passed.

Medicare and Social Security were relatively simple transfers of money, paid for with taxes and given to those deemed eligible for them by virtue of circumstance, and the civil rights laws were even more simple: They gave back rights to black citizens that had been taken from them by prior government and citizen actions. Obamacare, on the other hand, was a huge, complex bill of more than 2,000 pages that aimed to remake a vast, complex health insurance system, and created large numbers of winners and losers, in ways that few understood. Much of this ignorance was created on purpose, with the full rollout suspended for years, presumably until after Obama had been reelected and the furor surrounding its passage had wound down. (snip)

The lawmakers who passed Medicare, Social Security, and the Civil Rights Act had no need to suppress or to lie about their intentions. But with the Affordable Care Act, deception clearly was key. And along with the untruths of omission, there were also a number of sins of commission, like the 29 or so times Obama personally assured the public, "If you like your plan, you can keep it. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor," well past the time where he ought to have known that it was a great deal more likely that you could not. But if this had been admitted at the time, the bill would never have passed Congress-and Obama by now might be an ex-president, writing his next volume of memoirs back in Hawaii, safe from the effects of the dread polar vortex, not to mention the political vortex at home.

Thus, the new health care regime in all its particulars was never really debated by Congress and was not ratified by the 2012 election, as pains were taken to make sure its true features were obscured.

Let the reckoning begin in 2014 and play out full blast in 2016.

 

Despite a lot of brave talk publicly, Democrats are scared about the consequences of Obamacare, to the point of trying to silence critics through federal regulatory agencies. But the law is a stinking mess, with more losers than winners, and the Pottery Barn Rule will apply. Everyone with a gripe about their helath insurance now knows that the Democrats are the ones who broke it.

This crisis for Democrats will not blow over soon, and one reason not much noticed lately but lurking nonetheless is the way the law was passed. Noemie Emery has a must-read essay in the Weekly Standard on the legitimacy crisis:

There are written rules that make an act legal, and unwritten ones that make it legitimate, and it is the latter ones this act fails. Medicare, Social Security, and the Civil Rights Act had four things in common that made them iconic: They embodied a popular consensus that was strong if not universal; they were passed by large margins with bipartisan backing, which meant their appeal crossed many factions; they were transparent and easy to follow, so the country and Congress could make informed judgments; and they were passed by the usual order of legislative business. The Affordable Care Act, on the contrary, was passed with public opinion running strongly against it; it was passed by the minimum number of votes in the House, with no Republicans voting for it; it was passed through the Senate via a loophole, as it could not have passed through normal procedures; and it was so complex, convoluted, and incomprehensible that its contents were a mystery both to the voters and the members who passed it, and remained so until last October, three and a half years after it passed.

Medicare and Social Security were relatively simple transfers of money, paid for with taxes and given to those deemed eligible for them by virtue of circumstance, and the civil rights laws were even more simple: They gave back rights to black citizens that had been taken from them by prior government and citizen actions. Obamacare, on the other hand, was a huge, complex bill of more than 2,000 pages that aimed to remake a vast, complex health insurance system, and created large numbers of winners and losers, in ways that few understood. Much of this ignorance was created on purpose, with the full rollout suspended for years, presumably until after Obama had been reelected and the furor surrounding its passage had wound down. (snip)

The lawmakers who passed Medicare, Social Security, and the Civil Rights Act had no need to suppress or to lie about their intentions. But with the Affordable Care Act, deception clearly was key. And along with the untruths of omission, there were also a number of sins of commission, like the 29 or so times Obama personally assured the public, "If you like your plan, you can keep it. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor," well past the time where he ought to have known that it was a great deal more likely that you could not. But if this had been admitted at the time, the bill would never have passed Congress-and Obama by now might be an ex-president, writing his next volume of memoirs back in Hawaii, safe from the effects of the dread polar vortex, not to mention the political vortex at home.

Thus, the new health care regime in all its particulars was never really debated by Congress and was not ratified by the 2012 election, as pains were taken to make sure its true features were obscured.

Let the reckoning begin in 2014 and play out full blast in 2016.