Even diehard, enthralled supporters of President Obama (i.e., liberal Jews and others) must be squirming at the recent turn of events. Thos who saw through the rapturous receptions, the fawning accolades, the teleprompter-driven clichés and the hero worship are not in the least surprised by the staggering incompetence and the massive policy failures that are now on public display. And the worst thing about it is that its leading proponent is blissfully unaware that there is a problem, and it can be visible to him only when he looks in the mirror.
The sad irony is that the government shutdown that (among other things) sought to delay the implementation of Obamacare for one year might have been averted if the President had only agreed to the delay that will soon be imposed on him by legislation or by reality. The second irony is that many of the Democrats who stood behind him like wooden soldiers and opposed any delay are now seeking a delay as well. Crass politics as usual, but especially unctuous since the retreat follows the brave stand by days, if not hours.
Certain realities have seeped to the surface that are painful to behold, which is not to say they are not also somewhat amusing. The president’s insistence that basically “all is well,” plan is great, glitches will be perfected soon, people (like the human props he stands behind him) love it now and will soon be loving it more, and that he is the “maddest” of anyone reflects a disconnect from anything that is occurring in the real world. Naturally, it is tantamount to a disclaimer of responsibility, as if things he set in motion do not really originate from him – as if execution of policy is not at all within the purview of the articulator of the policy. “It’s not my fault! I’m just like you! Even madder than you!” But he is not, at least he is not supposed to be. Apparently, the buck stops with him just momentarily before it is passed on, like a hot potato, to someone, anyone, else.
Listening to the early but ambiguous boasts about participants in the system aroused the old litigator in me. Within days, the administration suddenly did not have exact figures as to new insurance sign-ups, but knew it was in the “thousands.” Q. Who told you it was in the thousands? How could they know it was in the “thousands” if they did not have the numbers? If they had the numbers, what is the specific number? Every business knows how to monitor daily sales and signups – even hourly – that is to say, every successful business. The most recent allegation – and the most plausible one – is that the enrollees are mostly people taking advantage of the expanded Medicaid. Anyone who has the slightest insight into human nature could have predicted that.
The sheer incompetence is breathtaking. That the system has failed technologically is just the tip of the iceberg. The dawning recognition that the cost of health coverage is skyrocketing for all people except for the growing number who are receiving it from the government for “free” (i.e., their fellow citizens pay for it) is being met with obfuscations, denials, and outright falsehoods. In the real world, insurance companies are canceling policies, doctors are starting to drop patients, and health care (not just coverage) is beginning to suffer. The real problem with health care –the market distortion in pricing brought about by a third-party payer system – has been exacerbated, not relieved. Health care remains the only part of the economy in which neither consumer nor provider has a clue what they are buying or providing actually costs. Imagine a restaurant in which you could eat without ever seeing a menu, or receiving a bill, in which different patrons were charged different amounts for the same item, in which the owner did not know at the time of service what he would receive from the mammoth entity that decides pricing and reimbursement, and in which payments could be arbitrarily denied. That business could not survive.
In critical condition is the liberal mantra that government knows best and has the solution to all problems – medical, social, personal, etc. The simplest part of the health coverage overhaul – the registration – has been bungled despite the cost of $600,000,000 (!), and for the worst reasons: liberal government has little accountability because motivations matter more than results, and the unconscionable hubris of the Chief Executive who did not ensure that the policy that he designed, trumpeted and was named for him actually worked before it was marketed – and then compounded the problem by refusing – because of hubris –to delay it, tweak it or test it. Still to come, once the plan is online, is the shock that will reverberate through the country when the bills come due.
Those who think that the failures herein and the outrageous overreach into our lives are all part of a sinister plot to socialize medicine throughout the country when the system collapses are really giving government too much credit. The idea of present failure as a prelude to some future success is politican-speak, inconceivable to the normal mind. Indeed, one might just as easily conclude that the whole venture is a backhanded attempt to illustrate the virtues of small, limited government. Aha!
And this debacle is linked to the sheer unwillingness, if not incapability, of government to rein in its spending. To one way of thinking that now predominates in Washington, there is no problem that cannot be solved by throwing more of the people’s money at it; and if the problem still lingers, it is only because not enough money was thrown. In that regard, the Republicans, clumsy and awkward as they can sound sometimes, stand in the way of massive revenue enhancements and Obama’s stubborn insistence that more money is needed to satisfy his redistributionist ambitions. That spending has decreased due to the sequester reflected a rare moment of sane statecraft that sticks in the craw of both parties, but especially the left that touts the virtues of big government. An external restraint was probably the only restraint possible, as heavy-handed as it was.
Nonetheless, the ineptitude on domestic issues pales before the dismay, even contempt, with which the international community views America management of its foreign relations today. In 2008, Obama made much of the fact that America’s standing in the world had declined because of “Bush’s wars.” Of course, the standing to which he referred was the United States’ standing in the Arab world, where, sadly but unsurprisingly, it is even lower – far lower – today. But whereas Bush’s America had allies in the world – Israel, Britain, Germany, and others – Obama seems recklessly determined to offend every American ally, and in at least several ways. He projects weakness and indecision such that even France – France! – has decried America’s lack of leadership in world affairs. Even worse, the US has been caught spying on allies (France, Germany, Brazil, and in today’s news, Israel) and again in such a heavy-handed, amateurish way. Whatever the rhetoric emanating from world leaders, this is a new experience for Americans: an American president who is hated by some, dismissed by others, not liked by anyone, disrespected by all and feared by none. Rebuked by Angela Merkel for eavesdropping on her conversations, Obama could do no more than whimper: “We are no longer spying and will not do so in the future.”
Incompetence does produce some bitter fruit.
In truth, the President’s current low approval ratings are tedious and irrelevant; the people, in their wisdom, elected him. But Obama’s attempt to put a happy face on troubling events comes at a price to the media tripe known as “credibility.” For sure, that still matters despite the fact that the election campaign is a distant and distressing memory. Americans need to know that their leaders are not clueless and hapless. The world is still a dangerous place, filled with rogues and brutes who sense American weakness and exploit it by victimizing the innocent. And an economy is also a fragile mechanism that can be grossly impaired through imposed government distortions and thus impeded for years.
The saving grace for Obama – besides the toadying media – is that the abundance of scandals and failures in his administration has engendered a fatigue that prevents the focus on any one of them for a decent interval. Something else will happen in the next few weeks and distract the American people from the present debacles, domestic and foreign.
But that also can’t be good.