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“I’m For It. But What Is The Reality Of It?”

An Obama fan faces the reality of Obamacare. Her question is worth considering.


Professional and culture elites have long supported President Obama’s health care plan. But that was before thousands of New York writers, opera singers, photographers, doctors and lawyers found out they were having their health insurance plans canceled. The new plans cost more and have far fewer options. You can read all about it in the New York Times article, “With Affordable Care Act, Canceled Policies for New York Professionals.”

One of the subjects of the piece goes so far as to say that had she known what was in store for her, she would have voted for Mitt Romney. Another says:

“We are the Obama people,” said Camille Sweeney, a New York writer and member of the Authors Guild. Her insurance is being canceled, and she is dismayed that neither her pediatrician nor her general practitioner appears to be on the exchange plans. What to do has become a hot topic on Facebook and at dinner parties frequented by her fellow writers and artists.

“I’m for it,” she said. “But what is the reality of it?”

I’m for it. But what is the reality of it?

If you’re one of the many Americans who have opposed Obamacare all along, sentences like these might make you want to bash your head against the wall. Indeed, the entire piece is filled with data and anecdotes that will fill the average Obamacare opponent with rage or schadenfreude.

But could there be something in these lines that helps us bridge at least some of our divide?

In much of the media, the stereotype of liberals is that they have hearts that bleed with concern for the poor and oppressed. The stereotype of conservatives is that they don’t, to put it mildly. But another way to look at it is that Americans may share a great many goals but differ in how much emphasis they place on the feasibility of a plan.

  • Insurance for those without? Sounds nice. I’m for it.
  • More money for those with the least hourly compensation? Two thumbs up.
  • Doing something about the killing of innocent school children by crazed gunmen? Please!

For some people being “for” something is sufficient reason to support most government action proposed in its name. This works even better if the legislation expanding government has a good name, say “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” or “The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013,” or “The Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act.” Who could oppose affordability or fairness or the protection of the Bill of Rights? If the political powers that be assure us that a bill is good and must be passed, we might be inclined to trust them.

Other Americans may share the general goals of improving health insurance markets, the condition of the poor or fighting the scourge of violence but are more focused on Ms. Sweeney’s second sentence: “But what is the reality of it?”

We’re seeing just a tiny bit of the reality of the Affordable Care Act, which includes at least five million Americans losing their health insurance plans (and more to come), a government ill-suited to handle the technology demands of the act, more than 10,000 pages of supplemental regulations to the bill, rising health care costs, and onerous mandates on businesses and individuals. The negative consequences of the bill are mounting.

I’m for it. But what is the reality of it?

Or what about minimum wage increases? It’s not just that mandated increases in wages tend to be offset by lower employment or the jacking up of prices, though those are significant reasons to oppose increasing laws that are introduced in the name of helping low-wage workers. It’s also that, as the Wall Street Journal explained earlier this year:

Organized labor’s instantaneous support for President Obama’s recent proposal to hike the minimum wage doesn’t make much sense at first glance. The average private-sector union member—at least one who still has a job—earns $22 an hour according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s a far cry from the current $7.25 per hour federal minimum wage, or the $9 per hour the president has proposed. Altruistic solidarity with lower-paid workers isn’t the reason for organized labor’s cheerleading, either.

The real reason is that some unions and their members directly benefit from minimum wage increases—even when nary a union member actually makes the minimum wage.

The Center for Union Facts analyzed collective-bargaining agreements obtained from the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards. The data indicate that a number of unions in the service, retail and hospitality industries peg their base-line wages to the minimum wage.

I’m for it. But what is the reality of it?

When it comes to “doing something” about active shooters at schools, the possibilities are endless. They range from having journalists stop giving shooters the spotlight and helping family members of adults with mental illness to limiting access to video games and guns. Individuals may support none, one or all of these ideas, but the benefits and costs of legislation or government action must be considered in detail.

Maybe our fellow Americans disagree with every aspect of a piece of legislation, maybe they just disagree with a few particulars. But responsible adults must always ask about the consequences of legislative action. This may seem radical in an era of “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it,” but it’s really just a smart way for us all to come together to discuss reality before it’s too late.

So much of the increase in the size and scope of government happens because of Affordable Care Act approaches. As Rich Lowry put it, this involves “hiding and never acknowledging the costs of a given policy; giving legislation a warm and fuzzy name on the assumption that its results will live up to that label; and moralistic attacks on people who resist as fools and ogres.” Politicians and pundits are particularly good at refusing to acknowledge the tremendous downsides, unintended consequences and painful trade-offs of major government action.

But if Americans who are “for it” could work a bit more with the Americans who are asking “what is the reality of it?” we might be able to avoid some of the major mistakes we’ve made in recent years.