Obamacare has a new credibility scandal. The substance is not so new. People have been saying for years that the bill is needlessly complex and that it has dozens of little disasters hidden within. That if people understood it, They’d never support it. Some went so far as to say that a bill that convoluted could only be deliberate. It’s just that the critic might be dismissed as partisan…until now.
Now the most cynical of interpretations is undeniable fact, straight from the horse’s mouth. Jonathan Gruber is on video admitting, no, bragging that the law was written to mislead the public and the CBO as to its true effects.
Gruber is wrong, however, on two points. Much (most?) of the public was not fooled, as the bill has never enjoyed widespread support. Gruber’s justification for lying, that the public’s wishes are “stupid” and incoherent, is not true. Meeting the public’s broad health care goals is possible, It just isn’t compatible with the government’s political goals.
Contradictions only arise when we combine Barro’s public wish list with certain existing policy phenomena, including:
- Requiring everyone to carry comprehensive health insurance covering various routine services, irrespective of whether this makes sense for them;
- Substantial and opaque income redistribution through the healthcare system;
- Financing seniors’ health services through federal taxes;
- Maintaining the tax preference for compensation in the form of health benefits over wages;
- Securing the political support of health insurance companies.
The other scandal, though, is the complicity of so many experts, including but not limited to the media.
That politicians should try to exploit the accounting rules was inevitable; that is what people do with accounting rules. I’m not saying that’s what the rules are for, or that they do no good; I’m just saying that about eight seconds after your rules are made, some bright Johnny will start figuring out a way to game them.
What is not inevitable is that journalists should effectively sanction this by saying it’s no big deal. We don’t have to get elected, after all. And those politicians and policy makers aren’t our bosses; the reading public is. We shouldn’t act like we’re part of the insider clique that decides what other people need to know — no, worse, that decides what other people do know. If we knew this all along and voters didn’t, that doesn’t mean voters don’t have a right to be outraged. It means that we’ve lost track of whose side we’re on.