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December 20, 2013

Meghan McArdle: Obamacare Initiates Self-Destruct Sequence

Ehhhh... I think this is linkbait-edly overstated but it worked. I'm linking it.

Her basic suggestion is that all of these "tweaks" Obama orders by his Kingly Right of Verbal Legislation have the tendency of undermining the actual viability of Obamacare. (Such as it may be.)

As Ezra Klein points out, this seriously undermines the political viability of the individual mandate: “But this puts the administration on some very difficult-to-defend ground. Normally, the individual mandate applies to anyone who can purchase qualifying insurance for less than 8 percent of their income. Either that threshold is right or it's wrong. But it's hard to argue that it's right for the currently uninsured but wrong for people whose plans were canceled … Put more simply, Republicans will immediately begin calling for the uninsured to get this same exemption. What will the Obama administration say in response? Why are people whose plans were canceled more deserving of help than people who couldn't afford a plan in the first place?”

Arnold Kling put it more pithily: “Obama Repeals Obamacare.”

I’d ask this: What do you do for an encore? Will the administration force these folks to buy insurance next year? Or will they keep allowing special exceptions rather than take the political heat for changing health insurance that people liked?

I’m not sure the administration is thinking that far ahead. The White House is focused on winning the news cycle, day by day, not the kind of detached technocratic policymaking that they, and the law’s other supporters, hoped this law would embody. Does your fix create problems later, cause costs to spiral or people to drop out of the insurance market, or lead to political pressure to expand the fixes in ways that critically undermine the law? Well, that’s preferable to sudden death right now.

However incoherent these fixes may seem, they send two messages, loud and clear. The first is that although liberal pundits may think that the law is a done deal, impossible to repeal, the administration does not believe that. The willingness to take large risks with the program’s stability indicates that the administration thinks it has a huge amount to lose -- that the White House is in a battle for the program’s very existence, not a few marginal House and Senate seats.

We keep talking about that in the podcast, the obvious observation that Obama is reacting day-by-day, thinking only of the Almighty Newscycle and the next 2-3 days, and not a couple of months or even a couple of weeks ahead.

We're in the very best of hands.


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posted by Ace at 07:10 PM

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