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Obama Bets Against Human Nature — and Usually Loses

A good way to get beaten up in the hallway at a tough school is to assure the local king-of-the-hill thug that both of you really have a lot in common. In some sense, Obama’s entire Middle East policy mirrors the hilarious scene in Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino, where the white punk attired in pseudo-gang attire believes he can out-jive gangbangers into leaving his girl alone. He can’t. Obama has unfortunately become such a wannabe in the eyes of unapologetic Middle East gangsters.

On the home front, Obamacare is imploding largely because interested parties are acting in predictably human ways that escape Obama and his elite technocrats.

Why would an employer incur extra health care costs when he could juggle and reduce employee hours to avoid them? If you work for government most of your life, you are usually not fired, usually expect annual pay raises, and usually are assured of an ample pension.

But not the self-employed. The tire store owner, the 200-acre peach grower, or the restauranteur sees hourly money going out but not necessarily coming in. That constant angst makes the entrepreneur wonder which wrong decision will be the proverbial final expense that breaks his back.

In other words, there is nothing in Obamacare to turn natural self-interest into group interest: not the employer mandate; not the clumsy efforts to force healthy youth to pay a tax for care they most likely will not use; not assuring the well-funded public employee or union member that he can get even better government-brokered insurance; and not even telling the uninsured homeless person that he should sign up and pay something for a plan rather than walk into the free emergency room or local cost-free government clinic.

At the very time the president made it in the material and psychological self-interest of the employer to pull back from hiring, he gave equally negative incentives for people to scramble for work by vastly expanding food stamps, unemployment and disability benefits, and health care entitlements. The result is that a part-time job in Obama’s new economy is either no better, or often worse, than receiving government benefits while sitting at home. Why would most -- human nature being what it is -- take a break from watching daytime television to take a pay cut to pick peaches or mop floors?

Bosses are also human, and resent the tiresome class rhetoric. “Spread the wealth” or “not the time for profit” initially could be written off as the president’s funny tics. But add in “fat cat,” “one percent,” “millionaires and billionaires,” and “you didn’t build that” and the monotonous becomes bothersome and finally odious.

The business person is all too human and understands that Obama seems to resent his success, and thus will seek to regulate it further, tax it more, and deride it in ways that express either his ignorance of how hard it is to make a profit or a teenage sense of envy of earned success. But an economy is simply the sum total of millions of private agendas -- partly the result of predictable material self-interest, partly a consequence of equally predictable notions of honor or pride. Feeling that the president does not respect what you do does not encourage risk-taking; magnified millions of times over, that individual stasis instead leads to a collective slowdown.