The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

November 1, 2013

Taylor Armerding | Party-line response to Obamacare website fiasco

JOHNSTOWN — Maybe, as President Obama and his sycophants keep insisting, everything will be just fine with the Obamacare website, healthcare.gov, in a few weeks or a few months. Ten years from now, when everybody’s getting gold-plated health care and paying next to nothing for it, who will remember a few “glitches” at the start?

Still, it makes one wonder …

If this truly is the president’s signature achievement, doesn’t it seem a bit strange that, with 31⁄2 years and $400 million to get this website ready, it wasn’t a higher priority?

Doesn’t it seem a bit strange that, three weeks into what even his most adoring media supporters are calling a “fiasco” or worse, the president was suddenly talking about a “tech surge,” about bringing in the “best and brightest” inside and outside of government? If he can do it now, why not three years ago?

Does President Obama really expect a nation of 99 percent regular people to believe him when he says that “nobody is more frustrated than I am,” about the catastrophic dysfunction of a website – never mind an entire health insurance market – that he has been promising government will run ever so much better than the private sector?

This is a guy who will get the best health care in the world for the rest of his life. He won’t have to sign up for anything. He will never have to sit in front of a computer and look at error messages, or be told to “try again later,” or to call an 800 number that will be busy. He is forever a member of the 1 percent. Yet he’s telling us this is tougher on him than the rest of us. Can he be serious?

Doesn’t it seem a bit strange when the president assembles the press to tell them there is “no excuse” for such an abysmal failure, yet nobody gets fired? Nobody gets called out as incompetent? Nobody’s pay gets docked? The contractor doesn’t get dumped?

Instead, we are told that the president has “full confidence” in Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius – the member of his cabinet most responsible for implementing Obamacare, and therefore the website. Instead, those who “inexcusably” screwed up will get paid more to fix what they screwed up. Another example of government rewarding failure. Why can’t we all get jobs like that?

Isn’t it even stranger that, after Obama told us the failure is inexcusable, Sebelius then tried to excuse it by telling CNN that the department needed five years to do the job correctly?

Doesn’t it seem a bit strange that of the people paraded out to be personal examples of the wondrousness of Obamacare, none of them is a young, healthy person who must pay higher premiums for something he or she will rarely use, so all the older, sicker people who will use it regularly can pay less?

Isn’t it a bit strange that the best the president’s defenders can do is to blame Republicans for opposing it and trying to defund it? Do they expect us to believe that Obama is the only president in history who has experienced hostile legislative maneuvering from the opposing party?

Let’s try a thought experiment.

Imagine that President George W. Bush had been able to ram his initiative to partially privatize Social Security through Congress, without a single Democratic vote. Imagine that then-Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert brushed aside concerns about the details of the bill by saying, “We’ve got to pass it to find out what’s in it.”

Imagine that the president had assured everybody that if they wanted to stay in the standard version of Social Security, they could do so – that nobody would be forced into private investments.

Then imagine that, in the next mid-term election, Democrats made substantial gains, campaigning against Bush’s effort to “destroy Social Security.” And once they held a majority, they did everything they could to block or undermine the rollout of the initiative. You don’t have to stretch your imagination much to know that this would be greeted with nearly universal applause from the mainstream media. After all, the people had spoken, they would say.

Yet if Bush, re-elected for a second term, then tried to claim that the Social Security legislation was “settled law,” that Democrats fighting it were from the “Taliban” wing of their party, that they should stop “rooting for failure” and join him in trying to make it work – that if they wanted to undo it, they ought to “go out and win an election” – well, you don’t have to stretch your imagination to know that “BushHitler” bumper stickers would be riding on most cars in California, New York, Massachusetts and other blue states.

Of course they were rooting for it to fail – they don’t think it’s good for the country. “Doesn’t the president know we did win elections?” they would screech. “Doesn’t he know that dissent is the highest form of patriotism?”

And if the new system had a “glitch-filled” launch, you know the news would not feature stories of happy people who were thankful they finally had some control over their retirement savings. No, it would be all about people having problems.

But then, none of this is all that strange. This has always been the divide between the way the media cover Republicans and Democrats.

So, repeat after them: Obamacare will be fine. Nothing but a few glitches to see here.

Taylor Armerding is an independent columnist. His column is distributed by CNHI News Service.

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