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Big Government and the balance of hurting

It won’t necessarily matter if ObamaCare hurts more people than it helps.

Byron York at the Washington Examiner takes a look at the relative number of people who stand to be helped and hurt by ObamaCare:

There’s some new information in a just-finished study by the pro-reform Kaiser Family Foundation, which estimates that 17 million people who are currently uninsured or who buy insurance on the individual market will be eligible for Obamacare’s subsidies next year. That’s a lot of people. But then Kaiser adds: “We also estimate that about 29 million people nationally could look to new marketplaces as a place to purchase coverage.”

So, of 29 million people who might enter the Obamacare exchanges, about 17 million would be eligible for subsidies. That’s about 59 percent who would be eligible for taxpayer-paid assistance, versus 41 percent who are not. That’s a majority on the subsidy side, but not a huge one. Then figure that some of those who are eligible for help will only be eligible for very small subsidies. For example, a family of four in St. Louis, Mo., with one parent who earns $48,000 and another who earns $37,000 would be eligible for a subsidy — all of $13 per year to pay for an $8,088 policy — that is virtually no help at all. (The numbers come from the Kaiser Foundation’s online subsidy calculator.)

Out of the 59 percent who are eligible for subsidies, then, some portion will receive subsidies that do not cover the increased cost of their new coverage. For them, Obamacare will be a net loss. So, it’s unlikely Obamacare will actually help the full 59 percent of those eligible for subsidies by Kaiser’s estimate. The bottom line is, Obamacare could very well hurt substantially more than 41 percent of the people who are currently uninsured or purchase coverage on the individual market. That’s not exactly making the system work “better for everybody.”

York goes on to observe that the “help vs. hurt ratio could change considerably, and not in the President’s favor,” when the even larger number of people in the employer market begin losing millions of policies due to the Affordable Care Act.

This is useful, provocative, and discouraging data, but I can’t help taking exception to the conclusion York draws from it:

Obamacare’s future depends on those numbers. The program will not be politically viable if it hurts more people than it helps, and probably not even if it helps a few more than it hurts. If that turns out to be the case, there will be hell to pay politically for the president and his fellow Democrats, likely for a very long time.

Those aren’t quite the rules of the socialist game.  It can survive, and flourish, by hurting a huge number of people while helping only a few.  The important thing is that the many are kept from organizing and resisting effectively, while the few are motivated to show their gratitude during election season.

It would be a strategic mistake to think ObamaCare is doomed if it works out to be a bad deal for a larger number of Americans.  They’ll be told to swallow their injury without complaint.  They’ll be told it’s all for the best, things will work out for the best eventually, and the beneficiaries were in such dire need that only a callous and greedy person could deny them.  We’re already hearing versions of those arguments from Obama and his apologists.

Socialism never works “better for everybody,” although it’s always sold that way.  It’s always a net loss for society as a whole.  Political command is laughably weak and inefficient, compared to the power of voluntary commerce and free-market competition.  Your government-mandated “free” goodies will always be of meager quality compared to what you might have enjoyed under capitalism.  You will be sternly instructed not to complain about the situation.  Angry dependents of the State will be standing by, in case you get any funny ideas about demanding your freedom back.

Leftist ideology is described as the re-distribution of wealth, but in practice it’s more like the re-distribution of misery.  Everything gets worse, and everyone has less, but it’s more “fair.”  Thin gruel is poured into more equally-sized bowls.  Of course, the Ruling Class and its special friends get a better deal – they most certainly are under ObamaCare, in countless ways.  A great deal of seized wealth vanishes into government “overhead” before re-distributed goodies emerge from the system.

Misery can be disguised in many ways.  Taxes can be hidden – ObamaCare contains dozens of them, many hitting the Sainted Middle Class hard in their working-family wallets, but it’s hidden by third-party smoke and mirrors.  A thin, bland layer of taxes, regulation, and deficit spending (which is really just deferred taxation) drains strength from the private sector, leaving it numb and confused… while bright and shiny benefits are brightly wrapped in gift paper and handed to dependents, who will be told exactly who they must vote for, if they want the prizes to keep coming.

Dependency is not an easy virus to shake.  Look at the example of ObamaCare subsidies York provides: “a family of four in St. Louis, Mo., with one parent who earns $48,000 and another who earns $37,000 would be eligible for a subsidy – all of $13 per year to pay for an $8,088 policy – that is virtually no help at all.”  Well, no, it’s not… but you’d be surprised how quickly people will get hooked on the payment of even very small subsidies, and how swiftly they’ll forget those subsidies are only needed because government regulations jacked up the price of their health care.  Before long, the only thing anyone will know is how much they depend on those taxpayer “gifts,” and how difficult it would be to get along without them.

And of course, they’ll be told their ObamaCare subsidies are the very first thing on the chopping block when anyone talks about fiscal restraint or reducing the deficit.  Soon they’ll be told resistance to tax increases means their subsidies will die.  By then, the dependents will no longer view the subsidies as “gifts” or benevolent support generously provided by taxpayers.  They will be viewed as entitlements, as property, and anyone who dares to cut them back will be little better than a thief.

This attitude will only be strengthened by the fact that so many of the people receiving subsidies will also be taxpayers, rather than free riders – Takers who are also Makers.  The family getting that itty-bitty subsidy in York’s example is earning $85,000 a year.  What could be more delightful for the power-hungry socialist?  The people will enslave themselves, and whip themselves bloody for disobedience.

So no, I don’t think ObamaCare’s future will be determined by the balance of hurting, the net number of people who think they’re getting a raw deal.  It will be more complicated than that, especially since the authors of the Affordable Care Act were criminally negligent and dishonest about a great many things, but they made damn sure it will be difficult to repeal.

Written By

John Hayward began his blogging career as a guest writer at Hot Air under the pen name "Doctor Zero," producing a collection of essays entitled Doctor Zero: Year One. He is a great admirer of free-market thinkers such as Arthur Laffer, Milton Friedman, and Thomas Sowell. He writes both political and cultural commentary, including book and movie reviews. An avid fan of horror and fantasy fiction, he has produced an e-book collection of short horror stories entitled Persistent Dread. John is a former staff writer for Human Events. He is a regular guest on the Rusty Humphries radio show, and has appeared on numerous other local and national radio programs, including G. Gordon Liddy, BattleLine, and Dennis Miller.