The inverse genius of Barack Obama becomes more of a marvel each day.
Is it a rule of politics that great measures shouldn’t pass on slender majorities? He enacted a huge bill with majorities running against it, and he and the system haven’t been the same since.
Is it agreed that the "greatest good for the greatest number" should be the goal of all parties? He’s reducing the good of the many for the partial relief of the few.
Is the justification for redistribution to spread wealth and well-being among as many as possible? He’s spreading angst and anxiety to millions and millions who, until October, seemed content and secure.
The remaining fans of his plan to break health care and rebuild it on the lines recommended by liberal bloggers compare it to other programs — Social Security, Medicare, Medicare Part D — that made waves at first, and then settled in nicely. But in two crucial ways it is radically different, and it's these ways that tell us it won't.
Most social policy involves the redistribution of money, and none of the plans mentioned above were immune from that. But the costs of these plans were funded by taxes, spread out over all of the country and, due to progressive taxation, fell hardest on those who could pay. Dispersed and proportional, the cost was accepted as moral and justified.
But the costs of Obamacare fall like a hammer on discrete groups of people who face hikes of hundreds of dollars in premiums in being forced — by the collapse of their plans — to go on exchanges. And most of these people are not rich. The pain was direct, and the pain was immediate, and the pain was communicated in the press and to Congress, where it was enough to force Obama into an improvised (and unworkable) program "fix" to keep 100 House Democrats from stampeding to the Republicans' side. And at the same time, the program costs more and causes people problems they never expected (and were promised they never would face).
The second big difference is that Medicare, et al, raised taxes on people, but otherwise left them alone. Obamacare isn’t just costing people more money, it’s vastly curtailing their medical choices in ways they perceive as a threat. They can’t keep their doctors. They can’t keep their hospitals. And some state exchanges produce "narrow networks" that put good doctors and hospitals out of their reach.
By threatening their lives as well as their budgets, Obama has created a huge class of losers, who statistically overrun the small class of winners and outweigh them in savvy, no doubt. "A significant minority of losers or self-perceived losers and a few high profile bad outcomes are more than enough to cause real political problems," as Kaiser Foundation head honcho Drew Altman informs us. They’re not a minority, and they have, and they will.
As National Journal's James Oliphant tells us, the plan will insure about 25 million, about half of the number serviced by Medicare, at the expense of almost everyone else in the country, who stand to lose something — in anxiety, money, or care. Those helped "represent just a relative handful of people, many of whom sit at the lower end of the political spectrum, and engage little with the political process ... that’s what’s going to make any sort of renewed national sales pitch so difficult. Among the politically active, the damage is done."
This is what political unviability looks like. We will have to do something to help the uninsured to get coverage. But it will have to be something else.
Noemie Emery, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."