Belmont Club

If I Can Fake It There, I'll Fake It Anywhere

Professionals, artists and intellectuals in New York City, after years of struggling to obtain favorable terms from the health insurance industry,  now find their efforts negated by Obamacare.  Anemona Hartocollis relates the plight of the Big Apple’s elite in the New York Times.

Many in New York’s professional and cultural elite have long supported President Obama’s health care plan. But now, to their surprise, thousands of writers, opera singers, music teachers, photographers, doctors, lawyers and others are learning that their health insurance plans are being canceled and they may have to pay more to get comparable coverage, if they can find it.

They are part of an unusual, informal health insurance system that has developed in New York, in which independent practitioners were able to get lower insurance rates through group plans, typically set up by their professional associations or chambers of commerce. That allowed them to avoid the sky-high rates in New York’s individual insurance market. …

But under the Affordable Care Act, they will be treated as individuals, responsible for their own insurance policies. For many of them, that is likely to mean they will no longer have access to a wide network of doctors and a range of plans tailored to their needs. And many of them are finding that if they want to keep their premiums from rising, they will have to accept higher deductible and co-pay costs or inferior coverage….

The predicament is similar to that of millions of Americans who discovered this fall that their existing policies were being canceled because of the Affordable Care Act. The crescendo of outrage led to Mr. Obama’s offer to restore their policies, though some states that have their own exchanges, like California and New York, have said they will not do so.

These developments have precipitated a mini-cultural crisis in this exclusive set. How could this happen to us?

“We are the Obama people,” said Camille Sweeney, a New York writer and member of the Authors Guild. Her insurance is being canceled, and she is dismayed that neither her pediatrician nor her general practitioner appears to be on the exchange plans. What to do has become a hot topic on Facebook and at dinner parties frequented by her fellow writers and artists.

“I’m for it,” she said. “But what is the reality of it?”

“Ms. Meinwald, the lawyer, said she was a lifelong Democrat who still supported better health care for all, but had she known what was in store for her, she would have voted for Mitt Romney.”

Had she but known? But she must have known. People at this level of talent must have suspected the reality from the first, though some part of their psychology prevented them from facing it. Unlike low-information voters, they can add. Simple arithmetic would have shown that from the beginning Obamacare, in order to work, needed access to a source of funds that would enable it to pay for the uninsurable or those unwilling to buy insurance.

Meinwald and her friends had those funds.

When Obama announced he was inviting people who could not or would not pay for healthcare to the feast, that necessarily meant the bill would have to be stretched over those with money in their pockets.  And the NYC elite made the cardinal mistake of having some jake in the first place. The fact that they were successful doomed them. It meant that their fund — and all other well-managed enterprises — would have to be raided to subsidize the failures.

This is called a transfer payment. This is called redistribution. You may want or not want it, but you cannot pretend that redistribution does not redistribute.

If Ms. Meinwald wanted to avoid getting slugged, her group should have imitated Detroit. When you’re bust, you’re off the hook. No stash, no tab. Or, as classic Marxian theory puts it, from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.  Of course the modern Democratic Party has rewritten the slogan slightly to “from each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed,” but that’s a mere detail; that’s progress for you.

What Meinwald may get is intangible. She’ll get first-class illusion. Illusion, Nathan Glazer once wrote, is sometimes a damned fine thing. Responding to Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray’s argument that humans are unequal in The Bell Curve, the Harvard sociologist argued in the New Republic that “some truths may not be worth knowing. Our society, our polity, our elites, according to Herrnstein and Murray, live with an untruth. I ask myself whether this untruth is not better for American society than the truth.”

Personally I’ve never understood why The Bell Curve‘s conclusions are problematic. “Equality” is not the same as identicality. Differences between human groups are not fundamental and variations between them are to be accepted. It’s a wash in the end.  But even if you wished to erase all differences between people, there is no more dangerous ground to begin upon than the untruth.

Leaving aside the question of whether this applies to race, Glazer’s objection certainly applies to the liberal enterprise in general. Reality is cold; it is full of unwelcome news. People are always dying of cancer; or don’t have enough money to pay for everything they want; or wake up to read that China has landed a probe on the moon. Stuff happens and to solve it requires competence. To pretend to solve problems using only a teleprompter requires a big slug of illusion.  Did they think illusion was free?

If self-deception were free it would be easy.  Glazer’s argument that it was better not to know the truth was of course anticipated by Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor, the fable of tyranny as heroic fantasy. In that story the merciless old Inquisitor is outraged to find that Christ has really returned to earth, but he finds that Christ’s message of freedom and voluntarily love will disarrange the obscurantism they have so successfully sold the low-information faithful. And so he has Christ clapped in irons for the crime of telling the truth. The Inquisitor

follows “the wise spirit, the dread spirit of death and destruction”, i.e. the Devil, Satan. He says: “We are not with Thee, but with him, and that is our secret! For centuries have we abandoned Thee to follow him”. For he, through compulsion, provided the tools to end all human suffering and for humanity to unite under the banner of the Church. The multitude then is guided through the Church by the few who are strong enough to take on the burden of freedom. The Inquisitor says that under him, all mankind will live and die happily in ignorance. Though he leads them only to “death and destruction”, they will be happy along the way. The Inquisitor will be a self-martyr, spending his life to keep choice from humanity. He states that “anyone who can appease a man’s conscience can take his freedom away from him”.

And so it is with us moderns. Obamacare will never work on an actuarial basis. It replaces a bankrupt set of programs like Medicaid, with its bankrupt self. But at least we can fool ourselves into thinking it actually does something.

The only difference between the Grand Inquisitor and modern liberalism is that the Inquisitor knows the bill will come. Not just in this life, but possibly also in the next from the Wise Spirit.  From the things that don’t exist according to the liberal creed which purposely defines them out of existence, the better not to think about it. Modern liberals claim they would have voted for Romney had they but known the truth.

But they always knew the truth.  And now the truth is here, so pay up.


Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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