Belmont Club

Accidental Heroes

The Spectator notes that the campaign for Mosul is turning a new Race for Berlin. Everyone wants to be in at the end so they can be in at the beginning of a new post-Syrian, post-Iraqi, and perhaps even post-Turkish world. “The positioning of forces in this final push is expected to redraw the boundaries in northern Iraq. Kurds, Shia and Sunni Arabs, not to mention various minority groups, all have claims to stake.”

For the Shia-dominated Iraqi government, whose army will attack Mosul from the south, this is a chance to reunify the country under the control of Baghdad. Iran, which supports Shia militias fighting alongside the Iraqi army, wants the same thing.

But for the Kurdish peshmerga here, the fight against Isis is another chance to carve out an autonomous state.

Many Western recruits are flocking to the Peshmerga to be in at the finish, perhaps recalling Shakespeare’s famous words: “And gentlemen in England now a-bed shall think themselves accursed they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks that fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”  As with all historical events of this kind it is hard to say who plotted the outcome. Perhaps no one did, not really.

The tempo and drama of war headlines have obscured another significant victory dance: the race to be in at the death of Obamacare.  Dead it is.  Even Vox is tolling the funeral bell. Sarah Kliff writes. “Big insurers have quit Obamacare. That means more shoppers only get one choice. n 2016, there were 182 counties with only one Obamacare insurer. In 2017, there will be 687 counties with only one Obamacare insurer. …There are fewer competitive Healthcare.gov markets than ever before … Obamacare’s marketplaces have become less competitive since 2014.”

The Washington Post reports that enrollment in Obamacare has fallen to half of expected. What we are watching, says Forbes, is the ugly death spiral Obamacare. The president’s legacy did not even outlive his term.

As premiums soar, the choice of doctors and hospitals is dwindling. The Blue Cross offering in Dallas originally looked like a high grade employer plan. But like two thirds of the plans nationwide, the insurer has now switched to HMO coverage only. There is not a single exchange plan in Dallas that currently covers the highly prestigious Southwest Medical Center or the equally renowned Children’s Medical Center. Ominously, the only plans that appear to be avoiding losses are ones that look like Medicaid and are run by Medicaid contractors….

An even bigger source of trouble is on the supply side. Health plans are being allowed to dump their sickest, most costly enrollees on their rivals with impunity. For example, 35 state risk pools were allowed to send their high cost enrollees into the exchanges, where they began paying premiums far below the cost of their care. Ditto, for Obamacare’s federal risk pool. The city of Detroit was allowed to dump 10,000 early retirees into an exchange, paying far less in premiums than the medical costs that traveled with them. Other financially stressed cities with unfunded post-retirement health care liabilities are following suit. Given the irresistible temptation to let others pay their bills, can the nation’s largest employers be far behind?

After $1.2 trillion dollars it has folded in on itself like a burned-out dwarf star whose core is Medicaid.  Like the anticipated collapse of Mosul the fall of Obamacare has set off a race to claim victory. Lamar Alexander rushed to podium to say, ‘I told you so’. But like the combatants in the Syrian civil war they are also rushing into the ruins to mark out post collapse boundaries. “A leading GOP senator emphasized the need for Republicans to maintain their congressional majority to fix Obamacare, which he said is collapsing due to high prices.”

In so doing they are only doing what opportunists do.  The reality is that Republicans — despite majorities in both Houses — couldn’t kill Obamacare, but arithmetic did.  Anything that keeps losing money must inevitably run out of it and the president’s flagship health program was no exception. When human systems fail it is the physical feedback loop of reality that will kick in.  Every time. Guaranteed.

Perhaps the greatest victim of the Internet Age is the myth that government does important things.  We now realize that happens mostly when it would have happened anyway.  The reality is that governments can accomplish shockingly little — a fact emphasized by NPR’s story that there is nothing to show for the $13.5 billion in aid given to governments and nonprofit organizations in Haiti. In retrospect the Haitians would have been better off if Western taxpayers had just bought $13.5 B worth of hamburgers from McDonalds, pizza from Domino’s or KFC chicken. It would have actually gotten to Haiti and home delivery too. As matters stand all the Haitians got was typhoid from UN latrines.

Maybe the designers of Obamacare should have just written health vouchers totalling $1.2 trillion to each citizen and told them to add it to their funds and go buy the insurance of their choice.

Perhaps the real purpose of politicians is to provide headlines; to create a backboard against which the actual citizenry can bounce their hopes and hates. Speaking of which, hatred which gets a lot of bad press in the media these days is perhaps more useful than we think because once enough people realize that government can’t then they will do for themselves. Nearly everything useful in the average house — or the average country — was invented by someone who realized that government didn’t have any mousetraps that worked.

It may be that the greatest contribution of the 2016 presidential campaign will be not who it puts in the White House but how it has changed the attitudes of the electorate and what ideas it has implanted in their heads.  And the winner is: “don’t count on it.”

Ironically the best use of a politician’s time is probably taking credit for what someone achieved because if it keeps them from trying to do something themselves. The Obama administration, after years of opposing fracking, now counts American energy independence as it’s proudest achievement. In fact the Department of Energy now claims fracking has been good for the environment. Who knew?  But let it be. Many people have criticized president Obama for spending his time on the golf course or making up playlists for Spotify.  But maybe we would all have been better off and Mosul had fallen much sooner if he did it more often.

As the Obama administration closes out it’s final days it is interesting to reflect on how things have amazingly changed places. When history is written it is more than likely that Obamacare — which was his idea — will be recorded as the administration’s greatest failure, while cheap oil — which he hated — proved not only to be it’s greatest success but ultimately the sword which destroyed ISIS in the end. On to Mosul. On to energy independence. On to the next victory speech.

In God We Trust, because in politicians we can’t.

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