Ezra Klein Admits it’s a Disaster

It has become so clear that the introduction of the Affordable Care Act,
or Obamacare, as it has become known, is such a disaster that even
liberals have to admit it. I found Ezra Klein‘s thoughts
on the subject to be more than a little interesting. At least, he
is honest about the problems that have developed and the likely
causes. He does do his share of Republican bashing, though.

1. So far, the Affordable Care
Act’s launch has been a failure.
Not “troubled.” Not
“glitchy.” A failure. But “so far” only encompasses 14 days. The
hard question is whether the launch will still be floundering on
day 30, and on day 45. As Sarah Kliff noted, Medicare Part D was, at
this point in its launch
, also considered a
disaster.”When online shopping for prescription drug programs
launched back in 2005, things went so badly that the federal
government didn’t even get off the ground until three weeks after
its scheduled launch.” Today, Medicare Part D is broadly considered
a success. But Medicare Part D had something the Affordable Care
Act doesn’t: An opposition party that decided
to be constructive
. The federal health-care law’s not
going to get much help from the Republican

Obamacare passed without a single
Republican vote in either house of Congress. Throughout the process
neither Obama nor the Congressional Democrats ever even tried to
get any support from most Republicans. Because they had large
majorities in both Houses, they believed that they need not
consider the Republicans opinions. The problem is that our
constitution is expressly designed to keep any one party or faction
from simply ramming legislation through. The Democrats’ attitude
and the irregularities by which the bill was passed antagonized the
Republicans and between that and their base being against the act,
they were determined not be be constructive. I should note that
President Johnson also
had a large Democratic majority in Congress, yet he
was able to get Medicare and civil
rights legislation passed with substantial support from both
parties. Indeed, Republican support was crucial for the civil
rights acts, since the Southern Democrats were set against them.

2. Are there problems behind the
In the weeks leading up to the launch I
heard some very ugly things about how the system was performing
when transferring data to insurers — a necessary step if people
are actually going to get insurance. I tried hard to pin the rumors
down, but I could never quite nail the story, and there was a wall
of official denials from the Obama administration. It was just
testing, they said. They were fixing the bugs day by

There really shouldn’t be many bugs in the
system. They have had years to plan and implement this. This is not
filling anyone with confidence. I will skip number three and go on
to four.

4. One thing has gone
abundantly right for the Affordable Care Act: The Republican
Their decision to shut down the government on
the exact day the health-care law launched was a miracle for the
White House. If Republicans had simply passed a clean-CR on Oct. 1
these last few weeks would’ve been nothing — nothing at all —
save for coverage of the health-care law’s disaster. Instead the
law has been knocked off the front page by coverage of the
Republican Party’s disaster. Six weeks later, there would’ve been
another opportunity to close the government. And it’s entirely
possible the federal health-care law still wouldn’t be working. At
that point, the Republican Party would’ve had a very good argument
for delay — and certainly a very good argument for delay of the
individual mandate. It would be the logical outgrowth of both their
messaging and the reality of the law. But that’s not what happened.
Instead, Republicans managed to make themselves so unpopular that
they’ve actually
made the law more popular
. Many Americans believe,
reasonably but wrongly, that the reason Obamacare isn’t working is
that the Republicans shut the government down. And if the
Affordable Care Act does begin to improve in the coming weeks
Republicans will have lost their chance to harm it. And it’s not as
if nobody tried to warn the Republican Party that this was exactly
what would happen

All right, gloat.
I don’t think there is much danger of Obamacare getting any more
popular, at least not if many people experience rising costs and
increasing frustration with their healthcare. I am also not sure
how much the shutdown diverted attention from the disaster. It’s
not like the mainstream media would have devoted much coverage to
it. Number five is the important point.

5. This isn’t about
A lot of liberals will be angry over this
post. A lot of conservatives will be happy about it. But it’s
important to see the Affordable Care Act as something more than a
pawn in the political wars: It’s a real law that real people are
desperately, nervously, urgently trying to access. And so far, the
Obama administration has failed them. The Obama administration’s
top job isn’t beating the Republicans. It’s running the government
well. On this — the most important initiative they’ve launched —
they’ve run the government badly. They deserve all the criticism
they’re getting and more.

This is actually the
whole problem. I have never gotten the impression that Barack Obama
is very interested in the day to day job of actually running the
government. In his brief careers in the Illinois State Senate and
the US Senate, he was not too involved with the details of the
legislative process. His colleagues commented that all he ever
wanted to do was make speeches. I know that in politics you want to
beat the other party. This is natural and expected. The idea that
both parties should put aside partisanship and work for the common
good is a fantasy because different people, even with the best
will, have different ideas of what constitutes the common good and
how to obtain it. Nevertheless, at some point you do have to work
together and govern. Obama’s experience as a community organizer
has taught him to divide people and demonize his opponents. It has
not taught him to bring people together or to lead. Related

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