The great thing about the Affordable Care Act is that, back in 2010, the people who brought you this new law thought it would work. A lot of people who looked at it for even half a minute could see it was a bad law, and that therefore its effects would be bad. When the law passed, plenty of other people, pleased to call themselves progressives, acted pretty pleased with themselves.
Now that the unfolding failure lies before us, the incompetents who brought us this so-called reform have tried every way they can to avoid responsibility for their misapprehension. In doing so, they proclaim their blithe ignorance and remarkable arrogance. A White House spokesman named Eric Schultz even said, “Nobody anticipated the size and scope of the problems we experienced once the site launched.” Witness Washington’s definition of incompetence: a spokesperson who says, “I’m a screw-up, and I’m the only one who doesn’t know it!” Honestly, the people in the White House and in Health and Human Services do not know what they are doing.
Take a look at Obama’s excuse, that his administration fumbled the ACA rollout. A running back who fumbles the ball is not incompetent. The fumble may not even be a mistake, if the defense on that play was lucky or particularly aggressive. But if you lie about your abilities and tell the coach you can win games with your amazing skill, then fumble time after time because you clearly don’t know how to carry the football, the team has a problem. You have a problem. No one will believe you when you talk about what a great player you are, about what a great team you have, or about anything else for that matter.
Health reform did not have to become another example of government deceit laden with incompetence. It did not have to roll out onto the stage in a shambles. In fact, to call it a rollout is grossly misleading. The impresario pushes a pile of parts and assorted junk onto the stage, and claims that here we have a wagon in the works. Then a team of clowns swarms onto the stage with blowtorches, hammers and duct tape, and the impresario – think of Stanley Tucci’s Caesar Flickerman in The Hunger Games – claims that we’ll have this wagon together after a few more interviews. The audience laughs, until Caesar tells the audience they have to ride in the wagon when it’s done. Is he joking?
“Who could have known this program would fall apart?” the president says. I didn’t know. I didn’t know these subpar, non-compliant policies would be cancelled. That’s a surprise to me. In fact, how could I have known? You all voted for me. Tell me, how could I have known?
Well that’s an interesting question, isn’t it? A lot of capable, competent people told you back in 2009 and 2010 that the ACA, as it took shape, would not work. A lot of people told you that its design was faulty, and that the law would not accomplish what you claimed for it. You dismissed these warnings. You even denounced these experts, who knew more about health care than you did, as political enemies, whose only aim was to make you look bad. You berated them for bad faith, and suggested they didn’t care about the welfare of the American people.
Now we see who acted in bad faith. We also see how bad a deceitful leader looks when he pushes a pile of junk onto the stage. We see how harmful it is when the pile of junk is not only a laughable spectacle, but something we all have to get aboard to ride. Caesar Flickerman’s job in the hunger games is to make the sinister appear innocuous, even fun. Donald Sutherland’s President Snow manages to make even the innocuous appear sinister. President Obama has managed to work himself into both roles: at once the congenial pitchman and the powerful puller of strings. Let’s see what happens to the smug holders of power in our modern day Capitol named Washington. Let’s see whether this story has a happy ending.