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Entitlement Entanglement

March 16, 2010

In the French Cowboy’s opinion President Obama has taken the wrong route when he was faced with a fork in his ‘health care reform’ path. Obama’s was a bad strategy from the start, all right: letting congressional Democrats write a blue print for a sixth of the US economy – and in the middle of an economic downturn at that – was a mistake, no matter how you look at it. But as late as a couple of weeks ago Obama still had a chance to turn things around. He would never succeed in making a majority of Americans like his health care plans, but he still could have said “OK, I really wanna make this right, so let’s start over.” Instead, Obama chose the headstrong, tone-deaf strategy of trying to force health care “reform” in its current, deeply unpopular form down the American people’s throat.

It wouldn’t have been a pretty sight had Obama agreed to a do-over on the health care bills and it would have risked to make him look very weak. But the alternative was even worse: Obama ignoring the fact that poll after poll shows Americans opposed to the current version of ObamaCare – and the more they learned about it the more unpopular it became – and, after disgraceful sausage-making and questionable vote-trading deals, spreading the message that ObamaCare shall become the law of the land, no matter what. Alas, it was this alternative that Obama opted for.

Had the President admitted that ObamaCare in its current fashion is not what Americans want to see enacted and proposed to start from scratch, he would have signalled that he considers himself as being a servant of the people and that he takes his office seriously. But he chose to side against the majority of Americans and now tries to paint himself selfless for doing so. The underlying logic being, of course, that Obama and his ‘Brain Trust’ know better what’s good for Americans than do Americans themselves. In particular, Americans don’t understand what’s really in those health care bills and Republicans and Fox News have spread lies about the plans. So, if Americans don’t see the benefit of ObamaCare before it is enacted, they will have to see it after it is enacted against their will and Obama will be the Health Care Martyr President.

Had Obama acknowledged the public opinion on his bill he could have suggested to start anew. (Of course, Republicans have demanded that, but the President could claim that it was his idea to make a fresh start.) Almost certainly this would have resulted in a bill less resembling a liberal dream come true than the current red-tape entitlement monster, but in exchange it would have had a genuine chance to pass Congress – and even on (at least nominally) bipartisan votes.

Insisting that the current version of ObamaCare is what the country needs is risky for Obama’s presidency. For one thing, the final bill might not get signed into law after all. Too many Democrats are not convinced of the wisdom of a yea-vote either. If the bill fails, Obama will look extra weak, and no brownie points for genuinely having tried to do the right thing for Americans will be there to help make him look better. For the other, if the bills pass, sooner or later the unintended consequences and the calculated downsides of ObamaCare will become visible. The sooner that happens the more hurtful this will be for Obama’s presidency and for Democrats in general. It is also to be expected that voters will trend Republican in upcoming elections and Democrats will lose their majorities in Congress, making it ever so much harder for Obama to get things done.

So why did Obama chose to force the enactment of ObamaCare? The French Cowboy thinks that Obama considers himself of such import that normal political rules do not apply to him. When Obama talks about ending the old Washington ways, what he actually means is that he, as a person, is so above it all that he can run the US like a monarch and get away with it. Once Obama will be out of office, by definition, the old Washington ways will be back, of course.

ObamaCare will be Obama’s legacy: the ultimate entitlement entanglement that will guarantee huge redistribution of wealth via government. Redistribution, incidentally, is something that Democrats do best. So when politics has become all about who gets what from whom, Republicans’ “Let’s minimise taxes” message will be quite irrelevant. Elections will be won by making enough voters believe that they will be on the receiving end of the redistribution scheme. And no matter how the flows get directed, the government – the black box through which all money flows will be processed – will always be the winner.

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