Monday, November 3, 2014

Obamacare, WW II and how hubris undermines citizen confidence in government

I recently heard a broadcast minute from Neal Boortz. He said the following:
During the 3 1/2 years of U.S. involvement (in WW II), here’s what we manufactured: 8 battleships, 22 aircraft carriers, 48 cruisers, 349 destroyers, 420 destroyer escorts, 203 submarines, 4 million tons of merchant ships, 100,000 fighters, 98,000 bombers, 24,000 transport aircraft, 58,000 training aircraft, 93,000 tanks, 257,000 artillery pieces, 105,000 mortars, 3,000,000 machine guns, 2.5 mil military trucks, 16.1 million men in uniform, and we developed the atomic bomb. Simply astounding.

“During this same period of time, three and a half years, it should be noted that Obama couldn’t put together a functioning website,”
That contrast is simply amazing. The difference between then and today is much greater than the stark numbers might suggest however. Not only did the government of the early 1940s figure out how to harness the productivity of the American economy to build an unprecedented war machine in record time, but at the same time it was able to employ those resources to defeat enemies entrenched on three different continents, each thousands of miles away from home.

As anyone who has even a minor sense of history knows, it takes more than hubris to actually accomplish anything of consequence. In the case of the Roosevelt administration, in terms of domestic policy they were very much full of hubris. It most clearly showed itself in FDR’s legion of domestic programs which not only didn’t end the depression, but prolonged it and kept unemployment in double digits for years.

On the war front however, it was a different story. Not only was there no hubris, there was a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty as to what the prospects were for success. Nonetheless, while partisan divisions persisted – FDR’s Democrats lost 47 Congressional seats in 1942 – the nation was united in its pursuit of victory. Everyone understood that it was all in. As a result, through a combination of government direction, private sector ingenuity and productivity, individual courage and effort, the United States was not only able to develop everything Boortz talks about, but to employ those materials effectively enough to defeat the combined efforts of Hitler and Tojo.

While not perfect, FDR’s execution of its war strategy was successful for a number of reasons. First, the government was operating in an area where it had a unique skillset, one where it had an unambiguous Constitutional role to play, and one where it could focus the resources the energy of the nation on a common goal. Second, there was a finite clear measure of success everyone understood and agreed upon: the defeat of the Germans and the Japanese.

The competence of the various role players and clarity of the objectives allowed the government to lead the country to achieve what some might call its greatest moment. Such triumphs are rare with government action, and it’s no surprise Obamacare is not among them. Obamacare is the polar opposite of WW II in every way, from start to finish… although in Obamacare’s case it’s never finished. Obamacare did not have a Pearl Harbor to unify a nation… it had dubious statistics manipulated by duplicitous politicians seeking to extend government power. Unlike in WW II, with Obamacare the government had no Constitutional foundation for its actions. And finally, there is hubris. At the beginning of WWII nobody, from FDR down to the greenest private in the Army knew how they were going to defeat the Axis powers, and they knew they didn’t know. But they were confident they would find a way. With Obamacare you had exactly the opposite. You had lying, manipulating politicians, power hungry regulators and their legions of ivory tower lackeys telling the country that they knew exactly how the healthcare market worked, exactly what to do to fix it and precisely what the results would be for the American people. They were extraordinarily wrong on all three, and spectacularly so. As Boortz notes, there was the years in the making website debacle. But then there were the promises of “You can keep your doctor” and a $2,500 reduction in healthcare costs that turned out to be actual lies. And perhaps most ominously, the geniuses in the Obama administration so badly misunderstood how markets work that today, fully a quarter of the country’s doctors have opted out of participating in Obamacare exchanges, and more are opting out every day.

And so it goes with hubris and arrogance, emboldened by police power, the government inflicts the consequences of both on the country’s citizens. From Obamacare to green energy debacles to immigration to the disaster of the VA to… pretty much everything else this administration has tackled has been a textbook demonstration as to why government should not reach beyond its powers laid out in the Constitution. If the citizenry’s view on the Constitutionality of a law is murky, perhaps one should tread lightly and not jam it down their throats. If half of the population is viscerally and vociferously opposed to a law, it might be prudent to move slowly rather than rush through a 2,000 page law no one can read. Finally, if there is no endgame, if there is no clear, objective measure by which government action can be determined to be successful or not, then it might be time to go back to the drawing board and reexamine the goals of the law in the first place. Without such clarity laws are either too broadly written or too ambiguously written and either way adds up to too much power in the hands of bureaucrats and not enough in the hands of citizens. And that's how hubris leads to a collapse of citizen confidence in government...

No comments:

Post a Comment