Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank recently poked some fun at the GOP and its tenacious — and, evidently, hopeless — insistence on voting to roll back provisions of Obamacare. Surely, you’ve heard about Albert Einstein’s apocryphal quote defining insanity as doing something over and over again and expecting different results.
The left, you may notice, rarely holds that sort of defeatist attitude about “the law of the land” — not on gay marriage or immigration or No Child Left Behind or, well, any other injustice Washington throws at it. Persistence is a virtue in those cases. In this case, for Republicans (and more than 20 insane Democrats who voted to delay the individual mandate for another year), the choice is madness or surrender.
That’s fine. But there are many definitions of insanity. Take the one offered by “Prozac Nation” author Elizabeth Wurtzel: “Insanity is knowing that what you’re doing is completely idiotic, but still, somehow, you just can’t stop it.” That brings me to President Barack Obama’s Thursday speech kicking off yet another campaign to persuade the public to ignore all available evidence about the Affordable Care Act.
“I recognize that there are still a lot of folks — in (Washington), at least — who are rooting for this law to fail,” Obama tells us. True. But also outside of Washington. Small businesses, for instance. It would be madness, no, to implement a law that would cause (as a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey found) 74 percent of small businesses to fire workers, cut off hiring and cut work hours during the middle of a stagnant economy? It would be lunacy to create an environment that (according to a deep dive by Louise Radnofsky at The Wall Street Journal) would mean consumers seeing insurance rates “double or even triple when they look for individual coverage.” Why would we not reform aspects of a law that many experts predict will trigger companies to avoid federal penalties by offering limited plans sans many benefits, such as hospital coverage, and push people onto subsidized “exchanges”?
Obama singled out states such as California and Oregon for cutting rates in their exchanges, even though he knows that the evidence supporting those claims is arguable at best. He pointed to New York, where the state exchange claims that it will cut rates by 50 percent. But as Avik Roy pointed out in National Review, in 2010 the average per-person monthly premiums in the New York individual market were not “$1,000 or more,” as New York claims, but $357. Moreover, New York’s highly regulated and expensive insurance market — a place that will have some of the highest rates in the nation — spiked in the first place because of Obamacare-style regulatory reforms. Wouldn’t it be insanity to force other states down the same road?
“You’re going to see competition in ways that we haven’t seen before,” says the president, mimicking the language of his opponents, because “market forces” are pushing prices down. We have the ability to buy TVs in this manner, Obama says, so why not health care? Guess what. My television was made in South Korea, and no one forced me to buy one. If we believed that market forces cut prices, the sane thing to do would be to open competition up nationally (even internationally), allowing consumers to buy any kind of plan they want, from anyone they want, rather than have a fabricated, closed, price-controlled exchange.
Obama reiterated that the law will help many people who don’t have health care, and that’s true. Republicans have to confront the reality of that situation. But the evidence also shows that the Affordable Care Act, as it stands, does little for the majority of Americans. So how is moving forward with a massive government overhaul an act of sanity?
Follow David Harsanyi on Twitter @davidharsanyi.