Observations on Obamacare

In Newsweek, November 16, 2009, p. 20, Fareed Zakaria says, “There are two general health-care crises in America — one involving coverage and the other cost.  The Obama plan appears likely to tackle the first but not the second.  This is bad economics but also bad politics: the crisis of cost affects 85 percent of Americans, while the crisis of coverage affects about 15 percent.  Obama’s message to the country appears to be ‘We have a dysfunctional health-care system with out-of-control costs, and let’s add 45 million people to it.'”

In Newsweek, November 23, 2009, p. 21, Robert J. Samuelson criticizes President Obama for saying the proposed health care reform will control costs and reduce government spending as government-financed health care is extended to millions of additional people.  He says, “The disconnect between what Obama says and what he’s doing is so glaring that most people could not abide it.  The president and his allies have no trouble.  But reconciling blatantly contradictory objectives requires them to engage in willful self-deception, public dishonesty, or both.”

One might expect criticisms like this from Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin, but these criticisms appeared in Newsweek, which advertises its pro-government bias.  Speaking of Sarah Palin, the cover of the November 23 edition in which Samuelson’s column appears features a photo of her (looking very good in her jogging atire) with the caption, “HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE SARAH?  SHE’S BAD NEWS FOR THE GOP — AND FOR EVERYBODY ELSE TOO.”  And just a few weeks ago the cover featured a photo of Al Gore, with the caption, “THE THINKING MAN’S THINKING MAN.”

When Newsweek, a magazine that promotes it’s pro-government, and pro-Democrat, bias, is running columns critical of Obamacare, that suggests that its shortcomings are recognized across the political spectrum.  These aren’t just minor criticisms either.  Zakaria says the Obama plan would add to “a disfunctional health-care system with out-of-control costs,” and Samuelson accuses President Obama of “willful self-deception, public dishonesty, or both.”

The question then is: if it is so easy to see the faults, why does Obama, and his party, keep pushing something so obviously flawed.  The only answer I can think of is politics.  They said they were going to pass health care reform, they ran on that platform, and now they are determined to do it despite the widespread recognition that if they succeed the outcome will make the nation worse off.

Randall G. Holcombe is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University. His Independent books include Housing America: Building Out of a Crisis (edited with Benjamin Powell); and Writing Off Ideas: Taxation, Foundations, and Philanthropy in America .
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