Free Markets, Free People

Previewing the Speech

As expected, bits and pieces of the contents of the speech President Obama will give tonight before a joint session of Congress are beginning to leak out (naturally they begin to do so right after I posted my thoughts on what he must do tonight). And, it appears, he’s going to go with his base on this one:

President Barack Obama, in a high-stakes speech Wednesday to Congress and the nation, will press for a government-run insurance option in a proposed overhaul of the U.S. health-care system that has divided lawmakers and voters for months.

White House officials say the president will detail what he wants in the health-care overhaul, as well as say he is open to better ideas on a government plan if lawmakers have them.

Democratic plans call for requiring most Americans to carry health insurance. Failure to comply could cost families as much as $3,800 a year, according to a new Senate proposal.

The president is likely to say that a government-run insurance plan, known as the “public option,” will not provide a level of subsidies that give it an unfair advantage over private insurers, according to aides familiar with the speech preparations.

Of course no one is going to believe the claim about the subsidies at all – they’ve seen promises such as that made and broken for decades. Any subsidy is certain to be raised at the whim of Congress at some time in the future. And if you recall, when originally discussed, the claim was there would be no subsidy, but instead an insurance plan paid for strictly by premiums. Any subsidy makes the playing field anything but level and won’t provide “competition” but an unfair advantage to the government plan.

The use of the term “subsidy” in conjunction with a “public plan” will be interpreted by the public as an attempt to do exactly what the public says it doesn’t want – subsidized government run health care.

David Frum sees the danger in this approach:

By early accounts, the President will today deliver a big speech urging an only very slightly slimmed down version of the big health bill before the House of Representatives. Once again it seems that Barack Obama’s idea of “post-partisanship” amounts to: “Let’s everybody do what I say!”

Worse, it’s not even what he says. It’s what the liberal wing of his party in the House says – and what he does not dare to contradict.

Frum notes that the public option is “poison” to the moderate Democrats and Republicans. So tonight’s speech will likely make no attempt at a bi-partisan appeal and instead do what I think will lead to an epic failure – repackage unpopular Democratic ideas and attempt to ram them down the nation’s throat.

That’s not leadership. That just the exercise of power. But Obama has never demonstrated any leadership to this point. So it would come as no surprise if he opted to exercise the power Democrats have accrued while believing he was acting as a “leader”.

Why so stubborn?

Here’s why: What moderate Democrats most want from him is cost control – some assurance that a huge new expansion in government-guaranteed healthcare will not explode costs and burden the country with crippling deficits off to the wild blue yonder. Trouble is that while the Democratic plans contain promises of cost control, they contain scant mechanisms for cost control. Or rather – they contain only one mechanism, a public healthcare provider that can ultimately use the power of government to forbid price increases.

Conservatives warn that controlling prices does not work. They lead only to shortages – rationing – because the government-imposed price does not pay the cost of delivering the service. Instead, sellers and providers substitute a worse and cheaper service for the unaffordable former item.

But while the public option is a bad solution to the cost problem, it is the only solution the president has got. There are no other ideas for intensifying competition to find efficiencies and savings on the table. So… he is clinging bitterly to the religion of state control and betting everything on it.

Heh … I love the final sentence, but there’s certainly a lot of truth in Fthe ability to claim they didn’t participate.

It appears, Obama is going to rely on his rhetorical ability to make the unpalatable palatable again. If so, it’s an unseemly level of hubris which drives someone with an outsized ego to double down on failure instead of seeking a better path. Doing so isn’t leadership. It is, as Frum notes, plain old vanilla stubbornness.

It isn’t clear whether he will endorse mandatory enrollment and fines if people avoid doing so. Obviously if he does endorse it, he would be a direct contradiction of his stand during his campaign. He won’t be allowed to forget that.

If what the WSJ and David Frum are saying is true, Obama is headed for trou

rum’s description. The point, of course, is despite rhetoric in the speech claiming he wants ideas from the opposition (and despite the fact that the opposition has answered), there is no real desire whatsoever to include them. He only wants ble. As many on the left like to point out as they claim they’re going to “win” on this issue of health care reform, polls show the majority of people do indeed want health care reform.

That may be true. But “health care reform” covers as broad a spectrum of approaches to the problem as one could imagine. What polls have shown as well is the public isn’t at all happy with this narrow approach the Democrats are offering and calling reform. To ignore that and plow ahead with what the public has plainly made clear it doesn’t want is indeed stubborn, as David Frum points out.

It is also potentially suicidal, politically speaking.



8 Responses to Previewing the Speech

  • My response to Obama touting the public option? Bring it.

    I don’t think the staffers who spend their time in the DC bubble have a clue just what the state of play is for this legislation. I believe the opposition among Democrats who fear for their next election is a lot higher than is being reported. Consider: If you’re in that boat, are you going to admit it? Or just keep your head down and avoid attracting attention?

    As someone pointed out in another comment yesterday, those Democrats who understand the price they will pay for supporting Obama’s worst impulses are in a no-win situation. The hard-left Democratic leadership is trying to whip them in one direction, while they are getting clear messages from their districts that they need to go the other direction.

    As McQ says, and as I said in my six-month evaluation of Obama, it’s quite possible that something labeled “healthcare reform” will pass. I don’t think it will look much like what Obama will be proposing tonight, if these leaks have it right. And it Obama veers too far out there, he may forfeit the opportunity to get anything at all.

  • A majority of people would tell you that they are in support of pollution reduction. How many would be in support of having their cars taken from them?

    What? How can they possibly object? They’re in favor of pollution reduction, aren’t they?

  • “It is also potentially suicidal, politically speaking.”

    And to think we were talking about whether Obama had survived August. If the leaks be true then Obama may well be slitting his belly tonight. So he may have survived August by only 9 days.

  • I’ve heard this speech described in many quarters as a “hail mary pass”. I don’t think anybody knew just how apt that expression is: it is a desperate, go-for-broke gambit. If it works, TAO gets everything he wants. If it doesn’t work, he’ll sink himself and most of his party.

    The cynic in me says that it’s got a good chance of success. Who wants to bet that the coverage from MiniTru will eclipse anything we’ve seen from them so far, and indeed anything since the propaganda of the Soviet era? Who wants to bet that the unions, Hollywood, and the usual lefty suspects will be out in full force, plumping for this plan? Who wants to bet that Soros and the usual deep-pocketted lefty donors will be breaking into their piggy banks to come up with however much money it takes to create a wall-to-wall ad campaign? And who wants to bet that a crucial few so-called Republicans (like those dimwits from Maine; how did the state that gave birth to Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain give us Snowe and Collins???) will be induced to go along with it?

    Be prepared to be called racists, nazis, thugs, shills, and everything else in the book if you don’t fall in line and support the crap he’s apparently planning to try to push.

    Who would ever have thought our country would come to this???

  • “Who would ever have thought our country would come to this???”

    Having grown up staring the communist menace in the eye we could recognize him, he wore a funny looking hat, he lived in Moscow, his name was Ivan, maybe Boris.

    We weren’t expecting him to come from Chicago.

    This is Reagan’s fault for causing the fall of the Soviet Union. Had the Reds still been around to keep us on edge this little socialist piece of trash would never have been elected. (It’s probably Bush’s fault too, somehow, it always is)

  • I have zero interest in the speech.

    I don’t care what Obama has to say, about anything, and never will. He is a grotesque narcissistic gigantism.

    There is a not so fine line between a typical presidency, with all its various concocted positions and focus group tested phrases, where a wide net is thrown out over a pluralistic society with many competing interests, and this bad faith presidency, which crossed the line into serial premeditated deceptions as a candidacy and then before and after it took office.

    This is a statist siege of America and no matter what is said tonight what you can expect is the exercise of raw power to aquire even more power for the governing class. This thing is accelerating, not slowing down. There is too much momentum with it.

    Obama’s approval could be driven down to 10% and it won’t change.

  • I disagree that this has any chance of working – from what I’ve seen, this is a total nothingburger of a speech. If he throws in something like tort reform, then maybe. But so far all I see are the same old platitudes.