Obama’s “fumble” press conference and the death of managerial liberalism
The post-Obama era officially began on Thursday, as the President took the stage (half an hour late, as is his custom) to deliver a bizarre, rambling press conference that sometimes sounded like an argument he was having with himself. Few oratories in American history have done as much damage to the concept of managerial liberalism – the idea that the State is better equipped to manage important aspects of mainstream life than private industry.
That’s distinct from welfare liberalism, which also isn’t doing very well these days – check the latest fraud scandal from your favorite precinct of Food Stamp Nation – but at least retains the moral allure of charity. The American public generally supports the idea of a safety net, and responds to appeals for aid to the desperately impoverished.
But that’s not at all what Obama-style government is about, although the President loves to make appeals to welfare liberalism – as he did in this press conference, by once again tossing around phony numbers of uninsured Americans supposedly desperate for the relief his dying ObamaCare scheme would provide. (He quoted 40 million today, a figure that is impossible to reach without including illegal aliens, who are – at the moment – not covered by ObamaCare.) He insisted that nothing would be worse than dragging America back to the supposedly horrible old days of a (relatively) free health care industry… a time when 85 percent of the public was satisfied with its coverage.
ObamaCare is not just about providing welfare assistance to the desperately poor, however. If it was, it wouldn’t involve a trillion-dollar takeover implemented through thousands of pages of regulations. The basic rationale for the Affordable Care Act was the ostensible superiority of genius government planning over messy, voluntary transactions conducted between evil, predatory private companies and their idiotic customers, who Obama was insulting just days ago as deluded rubes who were foolish to desire the low-quality products foisted upon them. It was supposed to be a good thing ObamaCare came along to destroy those millions of “sub-par” insurance policies, because the dim bulbs of the American populace would never have understood the urgent need to dispose of their old, affordable, satisfactory plans to buy high-priced policies filled with “benefits” they don’t want, and in some cases are biologically incapable of using.
But the old excuses are gone, and Obama’s new excuses – driven by full-blown panic from congressional Democrats looking a a 2014 massacre – completely destroy the rationale for managerial liberalism. He said insurance is really complicated, so of course Big Government needs a lot of time to get it right. He said he had no idea how poorly Healthcare.gov fared during testing – or else he wouldn’t have been “stupid” enough (his word!) to spend months making boasts about how wonderful it was all going to be. He was still saying that weeks into the disastrous launch, of course, but he essentially threw the entire Department of Health and Human Services overboard to claim that only in the last few days did he realize what a fiasco the system was.
This incredibly potent version of the Incompetence Defense – that unique Obama Administration tactic of claiming you should not be fired because you’re not very good at your job – was followed by the President’s assurances that now he’s going to start “asking a lot of questions.”
He’s not just making himself look foolish with these naughty-toddler excuses, he’s discrediting the entire theory of superior government planning. He’s telling you that his trillion-dollar apparatus is incapable of managing itself. Everyone lies to everyone else. Managers are kept in the dark, all the way through a half-dozen levels of redundant bureaucratic management. The President who seized control of health insurance could not be bothered to spend a single hour finding out how the project was going before it launched, crashed, and wreaked havoc. At one point during Thursday’s presser, Obama mused aloud that government procurement is always wasteful and inefficient. Now he tells us!
Amusingly, someone apparently told Obama that repeatedly saying the phrase “it’s on me” would make him look responsible, even as he labored mightily to explain why none of it was really on him. He was quick to jab fingers of blame in every direction. It’s all the media’s fault for reporting the bad news! (Yes, he said that. Twice. Loyal Democrat partisans in the media, who labored mightily to get him elected and re-elected, are going to have a rough afternoon digesting those accusations.) It’s the Republican’s fault, for making it necessary to be deceptive and secretive, lest the political opposition find useful material for its arguments. It’s the fault of congressional Democrats. His own Administration underlings betrayed him. State insurance commissioners should have done better, and should now step up to fix what Obama’s titanic mega-government couldn’t get right with three years of planning.
And, of course, above all, it’s the insurance companies’ fault. The purpose of today’s presser was originally reported to be the announcement of a “fix” for insurance policy cancellations, but it was really all about setting the Little Partners up to take the fall… because they obeyed the law, but betrayed the will of the Great Leader. Given the volume of childish excuses he pumped out, you’d think it might be hard for Obama to keep up the Great Leader act, but he’s counting heavily on his loyal supporters’ instinctive hatred of private industry. He just needs to point at insurance executives and mumble something that sounds like “treason.” The mob will take it from there.
His Majesty graciously allowed insurance companies to keep selling the products he described as “bad apples” just days ago, because his unworthy subjects seem to have an appetite for such apples. The insurance industry is not excited by the offer to retain an inventory of products that don’t make business sense any more, thanks to ObamaCare’s draconian mandates. Also, they don’t seem eager to assume their designated role as scapegoats. “This doesn’t change anything other than force insurers to be the political flack jackets for the Administration,” said one industry insider. “So now when we don’t offer these policies, the White House can say it’s the insurers doing this and not being flexible.”
“This is a joke,” another source in the industry told reporters. “It doesn’t change anything but allow the White House to blame insurance companies.”
Karen Ignagni, CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, responded at greater length, but was equally blunt:
Making sure consumers have secure, affordable coverage is health plans’ top priority. The only reason consumers are getting notices about their current coverage changing is because the Affordabe Care Act requires all policies to cover a broad range of benefits that go beyond what many people choose to purchase today.
Changing the rules after health plans have already met the requirements of the law, Obamacare, could destabilize the market and result in higher premiums for consumers. Premiums have already been set for next year, based on assumptions of when consumers will be transitioning to the marketplaces.
If now fewer younger and healthier people choose to purchase health coverage in the exchanges, premiums will increase, and there will be fewer choices for consumers.
Say what you will about the insurance companies’ motivations for getting involved with ObamaCare, but they were assured that people would be forced to buy the new plans they’re being forced to offer. There can be no escape for anyone from Barack Obama’s scheme, and he knows it. That’s why his “fix” is just political smoke and mirrors, designed to deflect blame. If this “fix” was actually implemented, as Ignagni pointed out, the ensuing “rate shock” would make today’s cancellation chaos look a pleasant evening at the opera by comparison.
What’s the point in discussing any of these little gimmicks and distractions? How many components of a fantastically complicated system are we supposed to tear out before conceding that the system is badly designed, and must be scrapped? President Obama made a compelling case for getting Big Government out of the insurance business, with full ObamaCare repeal, as quickly as possible. By his own account, the government cannot handle such a complicated industry, and it’s regulations don’t make sense – Obama himself mused that his own Affordable Care Act amounts to forcing people to buy cars they can’t afford, in one of those moments when his aides were probably hissing “shut up, you fool!” through clenched teeth, and vulnerable Democrats were screaming into their own clenched fists.
I can’t imagine there will be many takers for Obama’s excuse that “buying insurance is hard,” and we should forgive the failure of HealthCare.gov because “the website is doing a lot of stuff.” (It’s full of thingamajigs!) Buying insurance wasn’t really all that hard before Barack Obama got involved. In fact, for an awful lot of people, it was more or less automatic – their employer handled most of the details. This President has gotten a lot of mileage out of short voter memories, but I think most of us can still remember what buying insurance was like before October 1, and it wasn’t the headline-grabbing existential crisis that it is now.
Even though he’s saying it as a cheesy political trick to deflect blame, his “offer” to let people keep their old plans is tantamount to an admission that most of ObamaCare’s rules don’t make sense. His efforts to escape responsibility for what he described as a “fumbled” rollout amount to a concession that he never should have been trusted with the project, and it’s not just him, it’s the entire system he represents. Why on Earth would any rational person give him another chance to fall asleep at the switch? Who would voluntarily do further business with a company that committed this kind of “fumble,” without any effort whatsoever to cashier the managers responsible, or improve its practices?
The monarch of managerial liberalism just spent an hour explaining that Big Government cannot be trusted to manage things, and cannot be held accountable when it fails. Obama made a fool of himself today, and a mockery of his own governing philosophy. Republicans would be equally foolish to throw him a lifeline by keeping any “fix” proposals on the table. Full repeal should be the price of Democrat political survival. A lot of them are, or soon will be, frightened enough to accept.
The greater disaster of the employer market collapsing looms on the horizon, along with doctor access shock, sticker shock, and other horrors. Do you think October and November have been rough months for ObamaCare? This is as good as it gets. Obama just gave his Little Partners in the insurance industry every reason to turn on him. He might even have irritated his loyal servants in the mainstream media by chastising them in public. A strategy to achieve zero blame also tends to leave one with few friends.