Three things to keep in mind about Obamacare

It’s the existential crisis, stupid.

We’re getting off track here, people.

We all keep obediently discussing the new Revelation du Jour about the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad implementation of Obamacare.  And to some extent, that’s necessary.  People need to know the harm that could come from entering their personal information on the website.  They also need to stay abreast of actual news that might help them plan to get through the next few months.

But the more we talk about the mechanical failures of Obamacare, the more we’re behaving like a ship’s crew huddled on the bridge, pulling out manuals and fiddling intently with non-functioning navigation devices while the ship is sinking after a torpedo hit.  The problem with Obamacare isn’t that the website doesn’t work.

Herewith the three:

1.  The problem with Obamacare is that it fundamentally changes the relationship of government to the people.  The change is wholly malign.  There is no way to operate the Obamacare system and also force the government to respect the people’s rights.  Obamacare will, at every step, increase the risk at which government holds our rights.

We’re already seeing that with the roll-out, which has promptly violated the president’s best-known and most categorical promises – an indication of his complete lack of respect for us – as well as the people’s rights to decide what to do with their own property (in this case, their earnings), and to execute private contracts according to their own preferences.

What matters about Obamacare is that it has forced so many people to do so many things involuntarily.  It will continue to do so.  Obamacare is about government force, about limiting people’s options, and about constraining the people to do or not do certain things.  That’s what government is about, which is why it’s what Obamacare is about.  Government is incapable of being about anything else.

The public debate right now treats the Obamacare fiasco as if the central proposition is that taking over one-sixth of the economy is a technological challenge.  The reality that matters is that government taking over the network of human decisions involved in “health care” is a moral outrage.  Doing that is applying the model of regulatory force to a vast complex of human questions that have no universal, “right” answers.  We might as well let the government tell us what to eat, what to wear, where to live, and what God to believe in – and if Obamacare stands, our government will eventually do just that.

2.    The current public dialogue on Obamacare presumes that you are constrained by the rule of law, but that the president is not.  It also presumes that what Congress will do is guided by transient, electoral political considerations – and that in any case, what Congress does may not matter very much: it’s what the president and the Department of Health and Human Services do that will affect the rest of us.

Perhaps most important, it presumes that whatever things may be happening to you – your travails with economic and health-insurance setbacks – don’t matter.  Your frustrations may have electoral implications for Congress, but the fact that you may lose your job or find yourself unable to continue functioning economically because of Obamacare is significant only insofar as it affects the fortunes of Democrats or Republicans in politics.

Obamacare is thus the culmination of a malign trend in government, not the inauguration of such a trend.  We aren’t just starting down the road to serfdom.  We’ve been on it for a while.

On this road, government is not part of a social contract among moral equals; it is a form of administration wielded by moral superiors with privileges and status, over inferiors without them.  The people, on this road, are not flesh-and-blood humans with individual rights, but mere statistics: units of income, age, sex, health, political affiliation, etc.  The basic unit of human moral orientation is not the individual, and his standing before God, but the government.  Government is what human life is ultimately “about.”  What happens to individuals is just a big stack of anonymous incidents and statistics, much like what happens to cattle raised for beef; something to be recorded, planned, and shaped by regulators, but also something the individuals cannot be left with too much discretion over.

That we already operate on these assumptions is evident in the lack of any meaningful horror about Obama’s unilateral, imperialist approach to the law of the land, which he suspends or ignores at will.

It’s evident as well in the silly exercise of legislation as performance art:  houses of Congress rushing to pass this or that exceedingly specific law that everyone knows will not make the slightest difference to the reality in which the American people have to live, because the other house won’t pass it and the president won’t sign it.  To call this the epitome of constitutional checks and balances is to take a narrow, simplistic view; the larger and more basic truth is that it shows an utter disdain for the appropriate meaning and use of law.

This pattern actually constitutes a misuse of law.  We think of it carelessly as a thing to strike attitudes with, no matter how ill-suited it may be as a tool for addressing a particular issue – and no matter what the consequences to us of writing down actual laws, as opposed to merely venting our feelings.   Law, like parental rebuke, should carry grave weight and be used sparingly.  Deciding to resort to it should be a deliberate process, one that envisions accountable outcomes and not just photo ops and catharsis.  Law is nobody’s fuzzy-bear friend; it’s the next-most dangerous thing in human hands, after theology and war.

Oddly enough, someone else alluded today to French General Pierre Bosquet, who said of the charge of the Light Brigade that it was magnificent, but it wasn’t war.  I would paraphrase General Bosquet this way:  the Obamacare drama is spectacular, but it isn’t law.

3.  The Obamacare moment is a remarkably, history-makingly important one, because it gives America a unique opportunity to see health-care-based collectivist brutality for what it is.  Many a pundit has pointed out in the last several years that the U.S. has chosen a most peculiar route to nationalized health care: one that keeps edging toward it, while trying to preserve a façade of market freedoms and the innate disciplines of the market.

The other advanced economies have, for the most part, simply gone straight to national health programs of one kind or another.  Many Europeans have joined Americans in recognizing that their political left has a collectivist, redistributionist vision in mind.  But that hasn’t routinely been made explicit in the appeals to European voters.  National health care, for Europeans, is about a utopian idea of humane government and what every citizen should expect from it.

Only the United States is trying to out-and-out “redistribute” the material outcomes of health care processes, while at the same time maintain the fiction that our health care industry, already regulated as intensively as it is anywhere on the planet, is functioning as a free-market enterprise.

As American voters understand it, the purpose of Obamacare is to “fix” problems of “unfairness” in people’s access to health insurance: a formulation in which insurance and “health care” are elided, as if they are one and the same.  This formulation allows the Obamacare campaign to focus on money, of which we all have unequal amounts, rather than on access to medical attention – the ability to show up and have your medical problem treated by doctors – for which we have unequal needs, and which no one inside the borders of the United States has actually lacked for many decades.

The Obamacare approach goes even further than that, however, being explicitly about getting young and healthy people to buy into the “insurance” system so that there will be plenty of funds to cover payouts for older and sicker people.  It’s also quite clear about subsidizing people up to certain income levels, and soaking the bejeebers out of others starting at very modest income levels; e.g., around $60,000 a year for couples.

This, of course, is what all collective health schemes are about, including national health care systems.  But in most places, that’s not the polite way to look at the problem.  Certainly it’s not the politic way to look at it: the subtle, persuasive, vote-getting way.

There’s something ingenuously hyperlogical – something sort of Roman – about the American debate, in which a naked appeal to invidious redistributionism is coupled with very plain talk about whom, exactly, the goods will be redistributed away from.

It’s almost funny, in fact, or it would be if it weren’t all coming home to roost right now, on our neighbors’ households and our own.  What America has, however, is a very unusual opportunity to see a socialist-collectivist proposal for precisely what it is, rather than through a soft-focus, rose-colored lens.  This opportunity is being paired, in the life story of our nation, with an episode of technological haplessness so prolonged and stunning as to defy reason.  Only the Almighty Himself, it seems, could cover us with such a dome of impossibly persistent protection.

I’m not sure any nation has ever had a chance like this one to ponder, in slow-motion, what it was about to do.  And it may be, in spite of his electoral victory in 2012, that Obama has actually misjudged the American people, or at least the quality of the political moment available to him, as FDR did in the aftermath of his second-term victory in 1936.

Quite frankly, I think the advice to Republicans to simply stand silent and “let Obamacare implode” is foolish.  There is no hope of Obamacare imploding.  It’s not a malformed bomb, governed by physical principles.  It’s a man-made political arrangement.  Its defenders will keep moving the goalposts and changing the rules to keep it on the field.  It will get all the overtime it needs.  The only way to defeat Obamacare is to actually counter it with a plan and a principled argument.

Not having the votes right now to pass legislation is no excuse for failing to show leadership in that regard.  Of course the mainstream media won’t give Republicans a platform from which to articulate a better plan – but what’s stopping the GOP leadership in Congress from making a video and putting it online?  As of right now, the old-school right’s talking point on Obamacare boils down to “LOL.”  That’s not going to win the Senate in 2014.  It’s certainly not a purpose around which to rally Republicans and centrist Democrats, whom the GOP will need to do something decisive about Obamacare.

I’m not sure Republican leaders get it.  If the GOP isn’t leading the charge against Obamacare, then the party itself has no purpose.  Obamacare is an existential crisis for the republic, for the reasons outlined in the three points above.  In 2013, if you ain’t relevant to that existential crisis – you ain’t.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard online. She also writes for the new blog Liberty Unyielding.

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15 thoughts on “Three things to keep in mind about Obamacare”

  1. Hello again, J.E, this is the same party that just finished stepping over Ted Cruz, when he was holding the line, there is little that the Clique as some have dubbed them, are interested in articulating a wider critique of this behemoth, except for the Tea Party, and we see how they are treated,

  2. Article in the NYT that GOP has multi-pronged strategy to keep the cascading stories before the public. Obviously the challenge will be not finding some but trying to select from the many powerfully illustrative ones. Walter Russel Mead had a post yesterday saying something to the effect that Ocare may be the best thing development for the cause of limited, constitutional government since Reagan.

  3. You’re entirely correct J.E. in your perception that the ‘discussion’ is getting off track, bogging down in the implementation of ObamaCare. There is a reason for that however and that reason is that many Americans, perhaps a slim majority, are in agreement about ObamaCare’s purported aims. In principle, they agree with it’s purported purpose.

    “The current public dialogue on Obamacare presumes that you are constrained by the rule of law, but that the president is not. It also presumes that what Congress will do is guided by transient, electoral political considerations – “

    It presumes nothing, that is the political reality. Reality is that the democrat party is controlled and made up of people whose ideological loyalty is NOT to the US Constitution. Reality is that many of them are working subversively, some consciously and many unconsciously, to destroy that Constitution.

    As long as Congressional democrats protect the President, no legal redress of grievances is available. It matters not if the Supreme Court rules his actions unconstitutional, as long as Congress refuses to impeach and the Federal bureaucracy complies with his directives, no legal recourse exists to stop these illegal ursurpations of power.

    “I’m not sure Republican leaders get it. If the GOP isn’t leading the charge against Obamacare, then the party itself has no purpose. Obamacare is an existential crisis for the republic, for the reasons outlined in the three points above.”

    Of course they get it. They’re not stupid, their motivations are merely different. The GOP’s ‘purpose’ is to support the interests of their big donors, who value the continuance of the fiscal status quo and their political influence and, to personally get reelected, which they cannot do without those big donors. Other than lip service, the GOP does NOT support small government constitutional principles.

    Pray tell, how many times and ways does the GOP have to demonstrate that reality before the conservative base will see that, just as Obama ‘has no clothes’ neither does the GOP?

    Obamacare is indeed an existential crisis for the republic, just for the reasons you’ve outlined but while many American liberals are appalled at the ‘mechanical mess’ Obama has overseen, they remain loyal to the ideological indoctrination that the schools and mass media have inculcated in them.

    The greater crisis is that we have a nation divided and those divisions are NOT reconcilable. We are the Israeli’s and they the Palestinians and the collective left is just as totalitarian as Islam.

    Totalitarian ideologies do NOT tolerate dissent nor do they ‘co-exist’

    1. I wanted to wait and respond after i first digested this comment.

      Having given it a day to bounce around my mind I have come to the conclusion that the last three paragraphs are spot on – especially the last one, which most certainly applies to the progressive left and this administration.

      I don’t think a shooting war is the outcome of a civil war in an advanced country such as ours, but something is coming. And I doubt it will be very much fun for anybody.

      1. Here’s more food for thought as to where we are headed and, I do literally pray that I’m wrong;

        Examination of the Obama administration’s actions in both the domestic and the foreign spheres reveal two inescapable consequences;

        firstly, domestically the eventual collapse of the West’s financial system. Every major western nation is actually bankrupt and the only thing preventing the declaration of Sovereign Bankruptcy is the disconnection of our fiat money supply from the reality of a physical reference point and the printing of ‘money’ out of thin air with the bankers and governments pretending that everything is just ‘peachy’. Eventually, they are going to ‘run out of road’ and the whole house of cards will collapse. Obama is on record indicating his awareness of this consequence and yet he’s spending money like a drunken sailor, so this is intentional. Collapse of the US financial system MUST result in the declaration of nationwide martial law, the resulting chaos and disorder will demand it.

        Secondly, the consequence of Iran gaining nuclear capability.

        No degree of ‘limited’ agreement is going to stop the Iranians from gaining nuclear weapons capability. The West has vacillated so long and to such a degree that the Iranians will never stop without military intervention by the US. So the choice is now war or capitulation to the Iranians. There are no other options. Any other touted ‘choice’ is subterfuge and political cover.

        Obama and Kerry KNOW what’s going to happen when Iran gets the bomb.

        “the region will be far less stable and far more threatened if Iran were to have a nuclear weapon. It will spur a nuclear arms race. It has risks for greater terrorism.
        It will be destabilizing.”

        Kerry said the threat extends beyond the possibility that Iran could actually use the weapon on its enemies, specifically Israel. Iran simply having a nuclear weapon
        would “spur a nuclear arms race” in the region and could be used to support terrorists groups like Hezbollah, he said. Interview with SecState John Kerry – March 5, 2013

        It’s morally inexcusable to betray an ally but the Obama administration is betraying America with treasonous intent.

        When Iran gets the bomb, just as Kerry states, an arms race in the region will start up and nuclear proliferation will spread into unstable third world regimes and jihadist States.

        Sooner or later, terrorist groups will get their hands on nukes.

        They will use them.

        The simplest and most secure means for attacking the US is to put nukes on board commercial container ships bound for US ports. 12 of the 20 largest US cities have port facilities.

        Why would the leftist Obama administration intentionally pursue these policies, knowing the inescapable consequences of them?

        Simple, Martial Law.

        In order to “fundamentally transform” America into ‘The United Socialist States of Amerika’, key provisions of the Constitution must be LEGALLY suspended. The only realistic chance of that happening is during a period of near permanent, nationwide martial law. And there is legal precedent, Lincoln suspended Habeas corpus during the civil war.

        Either a collapse into Sovereign Bankruptcy and/or a nuclear terrorist attack upon a major American city will provide a crisis sufficient to declare nationwide martial law.

        Among the constitutional provisions certain to be suspended for “the duration of the emergency for reasons of national security” will be; the right to appear in court, i.e. Habeas corpus, ‘severe modification’ of the 2nd amendments right to bear arms and the 22nd amendment’s limitation on term limits. Posse Comitatus’ proscription against US troops operating domestically will be suspended.

        Sedition laws will be passed with internment camps constructed for those ‘resistant’ to ‘needed changes’.

        Nationalization of key industries, censorship of the internet, seizure of private property and assets and the closing of private schools with the outlawing of home schooling are highly likely. It will ALL be about controlling people because the left is ALL about control.

        The extreme arming of the DHS and a myriad of other federal departments has a purpose, preparation for civil unrest. The forced ‘retirement’ of over 200 senior US military officers and the creation of an atmosphere hostile to Christian military personnel has a purpose; when all this goes down, the military will NOT stop it but will follow the commands of the “lawfully elected” federal government.

        As crazy as this undoubtedly appears, it is the ONLY explanation that fits the data and, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”.

  4. Harry Reid and the Senate Dems just changed the filibuster rules on a 52-48 vote. Wow. I hope with all my heart that Republicans take over the Senate in 2014 and just ram future conservative legislation and appointments right down the throat of the Dems in the Senate.

    1. They broke the rules to change the rules. We now face a choice; let them cheat while we still fight by the Marquis of Queensbury rules or destroy the institution because that will be the unintended consequence of fighting on their terms. On the other hand, Harry Reid and the democrats just struck a mortal blow against one of this country’s formative institutions. It is a declaration of war.

  5. Correctamundo: The website failures — embarassing though they are — constitute a “glitch.” The real evils in Obamacare are structural. That’s why delay is not a good option. It assumes that you just need to fine tune it, when it is fundamentally and irreparably unsound.

    Meanwhile, the act of the Senate is an act of desperation. And the Democrats will use it to lard the bureaucracy and the courts with as many good liberal apparatchiks as possible.

  6. There’s a story tonight that Obama will announce shortly that he’s unilaterally changing the second year start date for enrolling for Obamacare from Oct. 15, 2014 to Nov. 15, 2014. The reason: push it til after the 2014 elections.

    We no longer have the rule of law. We have the arbitrary rule of a Chicago-style political hack tyrant.

    Be afraid. Be very afraid. This petty tyrant will stop at nothing.

    1. It may not be enough, 50-115 million health insurance cancellations will start arriving in the mail in October. In fact, it may make things worse for the democrats because its a transparent political attempt by Obama to avoid consequence.

      Obama could do none of this, if he weren’t backed by Congressional democrats who now place party ideology above their oath of office.

      Congressional democrats wouldn’t dare to back and protect Obama if they weren’t certain of support from liberals.

      Liberals wouldn’t support this degree of leftist radicalism, if they hadn’t been indoctrinated into leftist memes in our schools and if the MSM wasn’t the left’s propaganda organ.

      But the existential reality we face is that the nation is divided between those who love liberty and those who have swallowed the left’s ‘kool-aid’.

    2. He of course did so – but as GB notes – it won’t matter. Insurance companies and employers will be letting their employees and customers know in the september time frame – in just enough time to make everyone feel great as they start to vote.

  7. A respectful contrary view if I may.
    I start by listing Obama’s success as President:
    1. He won an award from some out of touch Nordic guys.
    2. Ah, well, er……..

    I will condense his failures merely to note: Foreign leaders (enemies and friends obviously consider him to be an incompetent, shallow, in-experienced joke.
    Domestic leaders Republican and Democrat consider him to be an incompetent, shallow, in-experienced joke.
    We have been and will continue to be in a pattern of weekly or monthly crises. The administration staggers from one poorly thought out and executed policy to the next.
    The Democrats are expected, on a regular basis, to explain and re-explain how the President “meant to do that.”
    No one will miss Obama less than the Democrats.
    ObamaCare will continue to disintegrate. The coming civil war will be very quiet, passive aggressive, and effective.
    The young and healthy will not participate in the exchanges period.
    Think of your local Highway Patrol. If dozens of people are speeding, the patrol has everything under control. If millions of people are driving a 100 MPH, what are they going to do about it?
    The Middle East was going up in flames no matter what our policy is or was. The United States is less relevant in that part of the world. That would have happened even if Reagan were President.
    The Obama Administration has merely found a way to inject stupidity, ignorance, incompetence, lying, and a lack of any semblance of historical understanding and vision to the toxic mix of that backward region.
    I can hardly wait for Obama’s ghost written book The Dreams of My Administrations Successes.

  8. Drilling, fracking, coal fired plants, nuclear – the other part of the Senate Nuclear option was executive appointments. Want to bet on regs destroying drilling and fracking even on private lands – and thus tanking what little economy we have left?

  9. My comment at

    See: North Korea.

    It was “Always Going To Fail” and implode upon itself. So far, it has survived through three generations of the Kim family. I see no reason that the starvation of many has had much effect on their continuation of things as they are.

    It is said that things will go on until they cannot.

    PPACA or Obamacare will continue to bumble along, destroying any sense of security, any belief in ‘beneficent’ government and keeping those elites happy with their self-generated smugness that they are ‘helping the poor’.
    It will take full and complete repeal for it to die.


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