Friday, December 13, 2013

Cruising the Web

One of the most amusing statements coming from Barack Obama was when he told Chris Matthews about his realization that “we have these big agencies, some of which are outdated, some of which are not designed properly.” Well, duh! Perhaps if he had paid attention to, well...anything in public affairs, he might have reached this realization earlier before he spent close to a trillion dollars on a stimulus and then discovered that shovel-ready jobs aren't exactly shovel ready. Or he would have had a bit more modesty before he and his party totally rearranged the health industry and put HHS in charge. But then Obama has recently become aware that "insurance is complicated to buy." The guy is a slow learner, that's for sure. George Will has fun with Obama's "tardy epiphany about government's flaws."
Obama’s tardy epiphanies do not temper his enthusiasm for giving sauropod government ever-deeper penetration into society. He thinks this serves equality. Actually, big government inevitably drives an upward distribution of wealth to those whose wealth, confidence and sophistication enable them to manipulate government.

The day before Obama shared with MSNBC his conclusion that big government defends its irrationalities but is insufficiently big, his speech du jour deplored today’s increasing inequality and distrust of government. He seems oblivious to the mutual causations at work.

Of course Americans distrust one another more as more and more factions fight one another for preferential treatment by government. Of course government becomes drained of dignity, and becomes corrosive of social cohesion, as it becomes a bigger dispenser of inequality through benefits to those sufficiently clever and connected to work its levers.

Obama correctly says that not only do we “tend to trust our institutions less,” we also “tend to trust each other less.” Of course there are parallel increases in distrust: Government’s dignity diminishes as government grows to serve factions of those sophisticated at manipulating its allocation of preferences. Social solidarity is a casualty of government grown big because it recognizes no limits to its dispensing of favors.
But liberals seem to think that government bureaucrats are, somehow, more noble and more efficient than any worker in private industry. And Charles Krauthammer is also amused by Obama's slow learning curve.
Barack Obama is not just late to discover the most elementary workings of government. With alarming regularity, he professes obliviousness to the workings of his own government. He claims, for example, to have known nothing about the IRS targeting scandal, the AP phone records scandal, the NSA tapping of Angela Merkel. And had not a clue that the centerpiece of his signature legislative achievement — the online Obamacare exchange, three years in the making — would fail catastrophically upon launch. Or that Obamacare would cause millions of Americans to lose their private health plans....

The paradox of this presidency is that this most passive bystander president is at the same time the most ideologically ambitious in decades. The sweep and scope of his health-care legislation alone are unprecedented. He’s spent billions of tax money attempting to create, by fiat and ex nihilo, a new green economy. His (failed) cap-and-trade bill would have given him regulatory control of the energy economy. He wants universal preschool and has just announced his unwavering commitment to slaying the dragon of economic inequality, which, like the poor, has always been with us.

Obama’s discovery that government bureaucracies don’t do things very well creates a breathtaking disconnect between his transformative ambitions and his detachment from the job itself. How does his Olympian vision coexist with the lassitude of his actual governance, a passivity that verges on absenteeism?
All that Obama has to answer his own failures is to...give a speech. That is all he has in his tool of tricks.
What bridges that gap is rhetoric. Barack Obama is a master rhetorician. It’s allowed him to move crowds, rise inexorably and twice win the most glittering prize of all. Rhetoric has changed his reality. For Obama, it can change the country’s. Hope and change, after all, is a rhetorical device. Of the kind Obama has always imagined can move mountains.

That’s why his reaction to the Obamacare Web site’s crash-on-takeoff is so telling. His remedy? A cross-country campaign-style speaking tour. As if rhetoric could repeal that reality.

Managing, governing, negotiating, cajoling, crafting legislation, forging compromise. For these — this stuff of governance — Obama has shown little aptitude and even less interest. Perhaps, as Valerie Jarrett has suggested, he is simply too easily bored to invest his greatness in such mundanity.
Perhaps Obama is paying attention to Timothy Egan who writes today in the New York Times that Obama should "govern in poetry" because he likes remembering the great presidential speeches of the past. So forget about all that governing rigmarole, President Obama, just give more stirring speeches. This is just the sort of nonsense that feeds President Obama's self-deception that his failures in governance can be fixed by a speaking tour.

Megan McArdle listened in on the HHS conference call in which they announced that they are asking insurance companies to keep people on their plans for a little bit in January even if their plan has been cancelled, or their doctors are no longer on their network, or if people haven't paid. And McArdle realizes what those new pronouncements tell us about what HHS is seeing in the statistics on enrollment that they are not telling us about.
This tells us a few things, I think. The first is that the administration is deeply worried about people who had insurance they liked who are now going into January with either no insurance or with insurance that doesn’t cover doctors and treatments they’re receiving. And because the administration has access to the enrollment data, this further suggests to me that the enrollment spike we saw at the very end of November and the beginning of December has not reached a pace at which they can reasonably expect that the 5 million people who had their plans canceled will have replaced their coverage by Jan. 1. There’s no way to know for sure, of course, but if enrollment was still rapidly accelerating, they wouldn’t need to basically beg insurers to help them eke out as many December enrollments as possible.

The second thing it tells you is that the administration has reached the limits of its November strategy of using last-minute rule-making to implement on-the-fly changes to the law. Most in the latest round aren’t even rules, or even changes to rules; they’re requests. The insurers may well go along -- they, too, have a big stake in Obamacare’s success. But by making the request in public, the administration has given itself room to blame insurers when people lose access to doctors, drugs or insurance. Now they can say, “Well, we asked them not to do that.”

Day by day, the administration is putting more of the onus on insurers to make this market work -- voluntarily, out of the goodness of their hearts or at least out of mutual self-interest. In some ways, that may be a good thing; insurers are pretty good at delivering insurance, so giving them a freer hand may make sense. But, of course, it hands an awful lot of power to insurers that just a few months ago the administration seemed committed to taking away. It probably wouldn’t be doing that if it weren’t worried about how things are going.
In other words, the administration is realizing that things are more of a mess than their sunny reporting of a few hundred thousand people having enrolled so far. And the only thing they know to do is beg insurers to pretend that things haven't been messed up as badly as they have indeed been messed up.

Rich Lowry notes the "left's reality problem."

PoliFact termed President Obama's and other Democrats' repeated promises that "if you like your health care plan, you can keep it" as its "Lie of the Year." But, as Sean Higgins points out, PoliFact is ignoring their own history of giving support to Obama's claim in past years as a true or maybe "half true" statement as well as rating Republicans' claims that millions would lose their insurance under Obamacare as "false" statements. PoliFact should come clean about their own support for what they are now realizing is the "Lie of the Year."

Jonah Goldberg looks at the trifecta of lies that were used to sell Obamacare. We know that millions won't be able to keep their healthcare plans. And millions more won't be able to keep their doctor. And then there is the third lie that Obamacare will save the country money on health care. It will bend the cost curve down. Perhaps PoliFact can figure out that that will be the Lie of the Year next year.

Kathleen Sebelius is now calling for HHS's inspector general to investigate her department's own incompetence. Philip Klein is not impressed.
Like Oedipus seeking to investigate those who brought a curse upon Thebes, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius has asked her department's inspector general to look into the problems that have plagued the rollout of the federal website.
Her own department has been stonewalling everyone for months about their work on Obamacare rollout. And they're still stonewalling both the press and members of Congress.

Reuters reports on how Obamacare enrollment stands in each state and what percent of the uninsured have now selected a plan. The numbers aren't impressive, especially in those states depending on the federal government for coverage.