So no, this is not a good project undone by Republican “sabotage,” as I saw suggested on Twitter this morning. It’s a potentially good IT project undone by system design and deadlines chosen for political reasons, rather than feasibility. What we’ve been through in the last week, I’d argue, is the inevitable result.
This is a fair recitation of Patrick’s Iron Law of Politics #1: What is done by politicians is done for political reasons to achieve a political end. Judging anything politicians do on any standard other than political expediency – moral rectitude, or economic success – is an exercise in folly. It doesn’t surprise me to see McArdle, who’s an astute observer, discover this truth.
The speed with which she loses it, on the other hand…
That does not mean that it will never work. We shouldn’t rule that out — there are nightmare stories of databases in Britain’s National Health Service and Canada’s criminal justice system, which had to be junked after going wildly over budget. But while I assume that’s possible in this case, I don’t think it’s very likely. This system is the linchpin of President Barack Obama’s biggest legislative achievement. The administration is going to try very hard to make it work over the next few months, and I assume that at some point — in a few weeks, or a few months — it will succeed.
Her premise, that Obama will definitely get super-serious on this health-care thing now, seems reasonable, because one can argue an actual political need for it. But there isn’t. Fixing ObamaCare might have some political dividends, but it’s far from the expedient thing to do. The expedient thing to do is what the White House is currently doing, through its surrogates in the palace-guard media: blaming Republicans. An IT project may succeed or fail: getting compliant journalists to bleat denunciations of the wreckers and saboteurs who failed to support the New Order pays out pretty regularly. Government programs don’t need success to survive; they only need a scapegoat:
A Ph.D. economist, Sowell describes the moral narcissism at the root of the liberal worldview — they support bad policies because doing so makes them feel good about themselves. Do these policies actually help the people they’re supposed to help? It doesn’t matter, Sowell explains in Chapter 4, “The Irrelevance of Evidence.”
What matters to liberals is the sense of virtue by proxy they derive by espousing the cause of helpless victims allegedly oppressed by evil greedy Republicans. What matters to liberals is their feeling that they’re “doing something” to advance their own good intentions.
I would have thought that, given how much of McArdle’s piece is devoted to refuting the meme that Republicans sabotaged Obamacare (by not setting up the state exchanges, et al.), that she would have understood that the lackadaisical rollout of Obamacare was going to be followed by an equally lackadaisical repair effort. The longer this mess goes on, the more Obama can grandstand against the GOP for fighting it. The question of whether the mess should have been enacted into law in the fist place?