Sunk Costs

Too late to turn back

It takes a long time for giants to die.  Although many analysts saw the beginnings of Obamacare’s decline early, most did not. As Nietzsche put it in his Parable of the Madman tremendous events take a while to be felt: “lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time … be seen and heard.”  Now the first thunderclap has arrived and  people are looking up at the dimming star in the first stages of worry.   The AP says that Minnesota Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, once one of Obamacare’s stalwart supporters, has proclaimed the Affordable Care Act “no longer affordable”. Ed Morrissey describes how Obamacare went from promise to problem.


Not even a series of disasters in Mnsure implementation shook Dayton’s confidence in Obamacare, refusing to accept a recommendation in January 2014 from an independent consultant to shut down Mnsure and rely on the HHS federal exchange. Instead, Dayton poured tens of millions more into the state exchange, insisting that the rocky beginning belied Obamacare’s glorious and successful future.

That was then; this is now. On Wednesday, Dayton declared the status of the individual insurance market an “emergency” and that the Affordable Care Act was an oxymoron. “Ultimately, the reality is that the Affordable Care Act is no longer affordable for an increasing number of people,” Dayton told the media. Dayton’s remarks came a week after Bill Clinton admitted that Obamacare was “the craziest thing in the world,” and that consumers “wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half.”

But nothing could have stuck in the knife like Hillary’s admission during her 2nd debate with Donald Trump that one reason to elect her president was that she would fix Obamacare. Like Governor Dayton she cited the enormous effort that had already gone into the failed program.  She cited it as a compelling reason to spend even more money fixing it.  “We can’t just rip it up and throw it away,” she said.

Hillary has made the same argument in the field of foreign policy.  There are so many problems left over from Obama the electorate would be foolish not to choose someone already familiar with the catastrophe.  If elected president, she’ll ‘fix’ Syria.  At the second presidential debate on Sunday, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton advocated “a U.S.-led military intervention to stop Russian and Syrian warplanes bombing civilians in rebel-held areas like Aleppo, even if it meant clashing with Russia.”  Look in coming days to see the same logic employed with regards Afghanistan, where news of Obama losing the “war of necessity” is coming to the fore, even in the New York Times.  Recently Afghan government forces were massacred as they withdrew under a negotiated ceasefire.


KABUL, Afghanistan — Outgunned and surrounded by Taliban fighters in a chronic combat zone of southern Afghanistan, the police officers and soldiers thought they had negotiated passage to safety. They had walked into a trap.

In what appears to be one of the worst massacres of Afghan forces in a protracted and forgotten war, at least 100 were killed when the Taliban fighters opened fire on them from all directions as they tried to flee through the agreed-upon retreat route, Afghan officials said Wednesday.

Accounts of the massacre, which happened Tuesday near the southern city of Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province, punctuated a growing crisis in Afghanistan’s armed forces that goes to the heart of their sustainability: They are sustaining enormous casualties from a revitalized Taliban insurgency and are facing increased problems recruiting. Many vacancies go unfilled.

From Aleppo to Mosul, Yemen to Libya; from the Ukraine to Iran; from Japan to the Philippines the number of places that need fixing keeps growing.  Domestically the situation is similar: the next four years must be devoted to repairing what last 8 years destroyed.  At every step Hillary will cite her familiarity with the problems as reason for putting her in charge and inveigh against throwing away the gigantic investments of the past. The dictum “we can’t just rip it up and throw it away” is psychologically convincing.  It applies to a wide variety of situations, from the trillion dollar Obamacare debacle to the hundreds of billions spent trying to ingratiate the US with Iran.


However economists call this the sunk cost fallacy.  It is “used by economists and behavioral scientists to describe the phenomenon where people justify increased investment of money, time, lives, etc. in a decision, based on the cumulative prior investment (“sunk costs”), despite new evidence suggesting that the cost, beginning immediately, of continuing the decision outweighs the expected benefit.”  The sunk cost fallacy explains why people continue to eat rancid food in a restaurant because they’ve already paid for it.  It also explains why a Third Obama term is necessary.  Somebody’s got to fix the effects of the last two.

The storm petrels from Obamacare are now being seen.  The juries on the rest of Hope and Change are coming in with the verdict.  The rumor of their arrival can already be heard in the corridor.  Some can already guess the verdict.  The rest must wait for it to be read out.  Nietzsche’s Madman understood that people often understood things only belatedly. Until the the thunderclap actually arrives no one will pay the slightest attention.  At last the Madman threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. “I have come too early,” he said.

That’s the trouble with history; any time before too late is often too early.

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