Belmont Club

Choosing Never To Choose Again

There was, the president said, no going back on Obamacare.  Despite the “poor execution” of his flagship program “we’re not going back”, adding that if “I’ve got to fight another three years to make sure this law works, that’s what we’ll do” . David Plouffe, one of the president’s former senior advisers allowed that it might take more than 3 years — till 2017 in fact — before it starts to work really well.

It has to go on.

The Los Angeles Times added that if the insurance companies want to survive it had better work.  “Since 2010, they have invested billions of dollars to overhaul their businesses, design new insurance plans and physician practices”. If Obama doesn’t survive Obamacare, neither will the companies.

Besides, what were there not to like? Chris Matthews, surveying the wreckage of the health care rollout saw only a diamond in the dust. “I think I would compare it, Andrea, to a brilliant writer, perhaps, with a great theme who turns in a paper with a lot of misspellings or bad handwriting. It’s a bad way to roll out something. With all the great strengths, potentially, of a national health care system along these lines, the way it was rolled out has hurt it.”

Peggy Noonan however, thinks that sometimes a disaster is just a disaster and a fool is just a fool. She argues the train wreck proves Obama is either smart and dishonest or sincere but stupid. He cannot be both.

Mr. Obama’s problem now is that people think he is smart.

They think, as they look at his health-care vows, that either he didn’t know how bad his program was, what dislocations it would cause, what a disturbance it would be to the vast middle class of America . . .

Or he knew, and deliberately misled everyone.

If they thought he wasn’t very bright, they might give him some leeway on that question. But they think he’s really smart.

So they think he knew.

And deliberately misled.

Andy McCarthy has fewer doubts. Of Noonan’s choice he unhestitatingly picks smart and dishonest. He writes, almost in awe, that “fraud can be so brazen it takes people’s breath away … the individual false statements, sneaky omissions, and deceptive practices…”

The incontrovertible record — disclosures by the Obama administration in the Federal Register, representations by the Obama Justice Department in federal court — proves that Obama’s promises were systematically deceitful. The president’s audacity is bracing, and not just because he lies so casually while looking us in the eye. Obama also insults our intelligence. It is one thing to tuck evidence of falsehood into a few paragraphs on page 34,552 of a dusty governmental journal no one may ever look at. It is quite something else to announce it in a legal brief publicly filed in a case of intense interest to millions of Americans aggrieved by Obamacare’s religious-liberty violations. To be so bold is to say, in effect, “The public is too ignorant and disengaged to catch me, and the press is too deep in my pocket to raise alarms.”

Perhaps Obama is a case of the “smart dishonest president” meets the “low information voter”. McCarthy’s prosecutorial instincts must tingle when he learns — he probably knows already — that the Obamacare project spent torrents of money at the last moment to avert the train wreck they claimed they never saw coming. “The torrent of late spending — almost $352 million of $1 billion in awards to the top 10 contractors — indicates the magnitude of the work still to be done as opening day approached”.

They knew the plane wouldn’t fly and still they sold the tickets to the low information passengers. “Step right up folks, step right up.  Free Kool-Aid. This plane goes straight to Socialism after stopping at Jonestown.”

They are not yet done with what McCarthy calls the “scheme”.  The Blaze says “the to-date cost of the glitchy Obamacare website has topped $1 billion, easily surpassing the $394 million originally estimated by the Government Accountability Office.” The racket is still going gangbusters.

But it’s all money out. The ‘fixed’ Obamacare system doesn’t even have a way to accept monies essential to its working. Reuters reports “President Barack Obama’s administration has found a short-term fix to pay insurance companies for plans selected on, the not-yet-complete government website used to shop for insurance required under Obama’s healthcare program.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has not yet finished building the part of the website that would transfer billions of dollars in subsidies for plan premiums and cost-sharing payments to insurance companies.

It is part of a long technical to-do list that has so far focused on fixing the errors and lag times in the part of the website used by consumers. …

Health plans will estimate how much they are owed, and submit that estimate to the government. Once the system is built, the government and insurers can reconcile the payments made with the plan data to “true up” payments, he said.

This system of bill now, invoice later can also be viewed as a bribe whether intentional or simply accidental. The lovely looseness extends to the IRS. The Associated Press quotes a Treasury official who said “the IRS’ existing fraud detection system may not be capable of identifying (Affordable Care Act) refund fraud or schemes prior to the issuance of tax return refunds”.

The question you have to answer to get a refund is: who sent you? But Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel advised the public not to worry since they wouldn’t see a dime in refunds anyway. That would all go to the insurance companies.

Most of the credits will be paid directly to health insurance companies, with taxpayers seeing the benefit in reduced premiums. Other taxpayers, however, can claim the credits on their federal tax returns, starting with 2014 returns. …

Under the health care law, the IRS is in charge of verifying eligibility for the tax credit and calculating the amount. Taxpayers, however, will have to be careful when they apply for the credits. If taxpayers’ incomes increase while they are receiving the credit, and they get a larger credit than they are entitled to, they may have to repay some or all of the credit when they file their federal tax returns. …

“The Obamacare premium subsidies are a fraudster’s dream come true,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. “The very nature of these credits — pay first, verify a person’s income later — will lead to potentially hundreds of billions of dollars of improper payments.”

But so what? That’s just another problem, another fault, another security hole, another non-function. How can any of that invalidate the Masterpiece that Chris Matthews sees beneath the pile of rubble? It can’t because it’s too late to go back now. Too late for anything except to go on to the bitter end.  As an HHS promotional video ironically says,

Ain’t about the, uh,

cha-ching cha-ching.

Ain’t about the, yeah,

bla-bling bla-bling.

Affordable Care Act.

Don’t worry ’bout the price tag

Ka-ching, ka-choom. Bada-bing, bada-boom.

Obamacare is now offically a zombie, able to shrug off bullets, ignore knives and remain unflinching in the face of blows that would stagger any undead creature. David Corn at Mother Jones has the most likely explanation for the sheer desperation with which the Obamacare is being advanced: “Obamacare Means life and death for both political parties”. Ironically only the Democrats seem to act like they are fighting for their lives. Despite their outward confidence, it is they who are acting like everything was on the line.

Should Obamacare not work, then Obama’s vision—which reflects the progressive tradition of the past century—will be a flat tire. He will no longer be able to advance the cause of government activism. Expand Head Start? Create an infrastructure bank? Why should government be allowed (or trusted) to increase its reach? He can talk about helping the middle class. But how? The failed rollout of the website was a problem in so many ways but especially because it suggested that government cannot perform competently. A more extensive failure with Obamacare would suggest that government cannot be used in the manner Obama wishes to see it utilized.

What’s at stake in this never-ending debate over Obamacare are the foundational premises of each party. The success of Obamacare could be close to a death blow to the GOP. Ditto for Obamacare and the Democrats, should it collapse. Of course, this has implications for next year’s congressional elections—though the traditionally low off-year turnout and gerrymandering could be offsetting factors. But there likely will come a time, if not in months, then in years, when the results of Obamacare will matter as much as the rhetoric generated by Obamacare—perhaps more so. When that day arrives, it will be quite a bad moment for one of the two parties.

Corn captures the issue perfectly. What is on the line is not power over the Left. It is the Left’s power over us. Obamacare is only incidentally about health care. It is really about who gets to tell you how to live; what to pay, who to pay it to. It is really about whether the Democratic Party — and its left wing — get the permanent majority they’ve lusted after forever. They want to control us, whereas we perversely, want to control us.

For Obama it’s now or never. Perhaps McCarthy is right. Whoever would want such a thing so intensely can be up to no good.

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