The Democrats have been going through the five stages of grief on ObamaCare. It started with denial, the insistence that the system was working just fine except for a few glitches on its website. Then there was anger, with a few left-leaning commentators venting their frustration with Obama for dropping the ball on the implementation of ObamaCare.
Now they have moved on to bargaining: maybe the "fixed" website will be just good enough to save the system from total collapse and stave off a grim electoral reckoning for Democrats.
Chances are it won't; I'll get to that in a moment. But the big change is this: ObamaCare's backers have stopped claiming or expecting that the system is going to work well, that it's going to be easy to use, that it's going to save everybody money.
They've stopped telling us that if we like our plan, we can keep it, and instead they tell us that our old plan was no good, anyway. They've stopped telling us that the law is going to save us money and give us free stuff. Instead, the new advertising tagline for ObamaCare adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services is "Forget About the Price Tag." No, really. They've stopped telling us that we're going to love the law once we find out what's in it, because—well, because we're finding out what's in it.
Given two months to deal with the initial shock, they have successfully lowered their expectations and put their shoulders back beneath the task of defending the law, with all of its problems.
Exhibit A is Margaret Talbot: a writer for The New Yorker who, like me, has had her policy cancelled and now has to pay a lot more. She was initially upset, she writes, but then "I remembered my values": "the new health-care law exists for the common good, not just the individual consumer.... So yes, I'll subsidize someone else’s prenatal coverage."
This guff about "values" is partly a lie. If paying hundreds of extra dollars a month to subsidize poor women's prenatal care were among Ms. Talbot's "values," she would already have been giving money for that cause to a private charity. Your values are the things you actually do voluntarily, not the nice things you would like to think about yourself, or the things you do only when someone forces you. More to the point, her values are not leading her to give her own money to subsidize others. They are leading her to volunteer your money. And my money, and everybody's money. This is the left's well-known concept of "compassion": showing how generous they can be with other people's money.
It's awfully magnanimous of her to decide for us what our values are and to back a law that forces us to be true to what she thinks our values ought to be. I would pat her on the back for it, but she's too busy doing that herself.
Yet there is a note of panic at the end, a premonition of the bad news still to come. She concludes:
But they had better work out the problems with the ACA; if they don't, and it doesn't fulfill its promise of insuring the uninsured, I'm really going to feel like a chump.
If she's not certain of that, then what the hell was the rest of the piece about? Her "values," apparently, don't prompt her to examine whether the sacrifice she's volunteering us for actual ends up benefiting anyone.
Because if she did, she would find plenty of evidence that it won't.
The ObamaCare website fixes don't really fix anything. The site still can't handle enough traffic, not enough to meet the targets necessary to sustain the new government-sponsored insurance markets. Even when the site works on the front end, the electronic forms sent to insurers, which are the real guts of the system, are still not reliable. The payment system that funnels money from customer to insurers is not even built yet, much less tested. The result is that a substantial number of people may think they have purchased insurance under ObamaCare, only to find out on January 1 that they haven't. And that's not to mention the tens of millions of additional people who are about to be kicked off of their insurance and find out that they are forced to pay more on the government exchanges, if they can obtain any coverage at all.
So there is every reason to believe that this law will ending up kicking millions of people off their existing insurance and leave them stranded. There is now a good chance that on January 1, when the law's new coverage is supposed to come into effect, the number of people who are uninsured will actually increase.
But I have no doubt that when this happens, a hard core of ObamaCare's supporters will adjust. They will "remember their values." The new health-care law exists for the common good, not "just" the individual, so it's OK if no actual individual benefits from it.
Ayn Rand knew all about this kind of collectivist reasoning, and she described it this way:
The good of others is a magic formula that transforms anything into gold.... Your standard of virtue is not an object, not an act, not a principle, but an intention. You need no proof, no reasons, no success, you need not achieve in fact the good of others—all you need to know is that your motive was the good of others, not your own. Your only definition of the good is a negation.
I describe this as the Milton Factor: the advocates of government control would rather rule in Hell than leave us the hell alone. History shows that socialism's true believers will ride the system all the way down. They start by saying, as an HHS official notoriously declared, that they hope they aren't creating a "Third World experience." But they don't blink when they end up in the Third World, or worse. (What's worse? See Michael Totten's latest on the living ruins of Havana, a once-prosperous city ridden down into the Third World and below by every Western socialist's favorite regime.)
This is what the left means by their "values": what matters to them isn't whether anyone benefits; it's that we all sacrifice. It's not whether the little guy actually gets pulled up; it's about making sure that everyone above him gets pulled down.
So over the next year, take a good look around. As the ObamaCare disaster continues to unfold, notice how the left will rally and continue to defend it, no matter how bad it gets.
They will remember their values—and so should the rest of us. I hope we remember it for a long time.
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