Regrettable if it turns out to be “a parody of leadership”.
We usually associate presidential leadership with the
pursuit of goals that, though initially unpopular, serve America’s
long-term interests. Obama has reversed this. He’s championing
increasingly unpopular legislation that threatens the country’s
long-term interests. “This isn’t about me,” he likes to say, “I have
great health insurance.” But of course, it is about him: about the
legacy he covets as the president who achieved “universal” health
insurance. He’ll be disappointed.
Even if Congress passes legislation — a good bet — the finished
product will fall far short of Obama’s extravagant promises. It will
not cover everyone. It will not control costs. It will worsen the
budget outlook. It will lead to higher taxes. It will disrupt how, or
whether, companies provide insurance for their workers. As the
real-life (as opposed to rhetorical) consequences unfold, they will
rebut Obama’s claim that he has “solved” the health care problem.
But he will make the claim nonetheless. And fewer of the people will
be fooled less of the time. It’s already obvious how bad this
legislation is. And suspicious in how rushed it was.
So Obama’s plan amounts to this: partial coverage of the
uninsured; modest improvements (possibly) in their health; sizable
budgetary costs worsening a bleak outlook; significant, unpredictable
changes in insurance markets; weak spending control. This is a bad
bargain. Benefits are overstated, costs understated. This legislation
is a monstrosity; the country would be worse for its passage. What it’s
become is an exercise in political symbolism: Obama’s self-indulgent
crusade to seize the liberal holy grail of “universal coverage.” What
it’s not is leadership.