Let’s say you’re launching a big new project, and on the first day you find out the website for the project, through which people are supposed to sign up, is fucked. Which of these would you do? 1.) Start fixing the website ASAP. 2.) Abandon the project.
Most people would pick 1., and maybe rightbloggers would too if the website were for anything but Obamacare. As it happened, the healthcare.gov clusterfuck became their latest and perhaps best opportunity to tell America that the Kenyan Pretender’s so-called “health care reform,” like a broken website, cannot possibly be made to work.
It was apparent even during the last days of the Congressional shutdown that the healthcare.gov website serving as the portal that Americans in 36 states have to use to sign up for insurance via healthcare exchanges was fucked up. Users got outrageous delays or kicked off the system, and insurers weren’t getting clear transmittals to complete the transactions.
Clearly something has to be done. Obama put in a new tech team with a new guy in charge and promised the website would be working by the end of November.
For weeks Congressional Republicans and the rightbloggers who follow them like hippies used to follow the Grateful Dead were too busy riding the shutdown train into a lake of fire to make much of this. But once they got that off their plate, they got busy telling America that the fucked-up website meant Obamacare was finished.
While admitting that “the 14 states that chose to construct their own exchanges have been modestly more competent” — that is, their websites work — The Weekly Standard’s James C. Capretta said that “there is no prospect that these enrollment systems will be fixed anytime soon,” even though Obama had called in tech help to fix them. Capretta didn’t say how he knew this, nor what “soon” meant in this context. But he added that while “it remains possible that the administration could pull these systems together into a minimally functioning whole by late November or early December… that wouldn’t be the end of Obamacare’s woes… millions of Americans are going to be pushed into these exchanges against their wishes, and they aren’t going to like what they see… It is evident that the law is failing.”
Most of the column similarly rehearsed the usual conservative arguments. We wondered why at first, then realized how Capretta must have seen it: He and his comrades have been saying this stuff for years, but since the Obamacare website wasn’t working, maybe someone else might pay attention.
Thus, “Obamacare’s woes” were described as “pronounced and intractable,” which “voters can see for themselves” because “enrollment in Obamacare is a completely unreasonable proposition at this stage.” Capretta bade the Republicans hurry and “come to [the People’s] rescue with legislation allowing insurers to continue to offer the same plans they are offering today. Some insurers may choose not to reopen plans they have already decided to close, but others will likely resurrect their closed plans.”
That sounds like a stretch, but what sounds more likely — that the insurance industry will pull out of their biggest payday in history at the urging of the historically unpopular Republicans, or that the website will ever get fixed?
Practically every rightblogger picked up the storyline.
“Hey, media, time to stop spinning Obamacare disaster as a ‘glitch’?” asked Twitchy. “…apparently media lapdogs have gotten the memo. It’s all about a ‘glitchy’ website, baby!… [NBC’s Mark Murray] absurdly wondered what will happen to the GOP once the website is fixed. Just glitches, people!” The website mess clearly wasn’t about the website, said Twitchy; it was about… how Obamacare is bad. “Talk about the rate shock everyone was told wouldn’t happen,” pleaded one of their Twitter sources.
“if the technological issues don’t get cleared up in the next month (looking less likely),” said Philip Klein at the Washington Examiner, “or if new problems arise once applicants get further along in the process (more likely), Obamacare could turn out to be a bigger disaster than even its most ardent critics predicted.” And we thought that was impossible!
“The failures of Obamacare couldn’t be worse,” claimed J. Christian Adams at PJ Media. “Obamacare has become a punch line, a joke, a catastrophic catastrophe, squared.” Bryan Preston at the PJ Tatler said “Obamacare’s Disaster Is Worse than the Sinking of the Titanic.” One of Preston’s proof points: “The Titanic was arrogantly promoted as ‘unsinkable.’ It sunk on its maiden voyage.” Just as you can’t get the Titanic up from the bottom of the ocean, you can’t fix a broken website; it’s just common sense. Preston closed: “Many Americans will die in Obamacare’s chaos, and that number will far exceed Titanic’s tragic toll.”
Some Congressional Democrats started saying that, given the situation, the Administration ought to extend the enrollment deadline, causing some rightbloggers to declare themselves the retroactive winners of the shutdown, because delaying the sign-up six weeks is very close to delaying it for a year or just throwing it out.
“Republicans repeatedly have made proposals to protect the public from the Obamacare disaster,” said William A. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection. “…Now an increasing number of Democrats, particularly those up for re-election in 2014, are calling for similar delays… Perhaps Republicans should take a ‘what goes around, comes around’ attitude, and do nothing to help Democrats out of the bind they are now in.”
“By Wednesday night,” wrote the Wall Street Journal‘s Kimberley Strassel, “five Senate Democrats were on board, pushing for… what’s that dirty GOP word? Oh, right. ‘Delay.'” It’s ironic, right? “Democrats spent their first post-shutdown week caving in every way, shape and form.” (Also: broken website = “unrivaled disaster that is the president’s health-care law.”)
“Most of those enrollments aren’t in private insurance, CBS’ Jan Crawford reports, but in Medicaid,” alarumed Ed Morrissey of Hot Air. “The lack of sales in private insurance may mean a collapse of the entire reform program…” Morrissey told the troops that Obama would suffer from “this disaster that will drive up health care costs dramatically for all Americans, making everyone poorer in the process in terms of disposable income.” Except the poor people, but, you know, fuck them.
Several of the brethren learned a new phrase to apply to the alleged death of Obamacare from too many poor people: Death Spiral.
“Most persistent will be those with health problems and no insurance. Insurance for a pool comprised chiefly of the sick and indigent would be prohibitively expensive. That’s the ‘death spiral,'” wrote Jack Kelly at Real Clear Politics.
“AN INSURANCE DEATH SPIRAL?” headlined Jack Mirengoff at Power Line. “Is Obamacare in a Death Spiral?” dittoed Megan McArdle. “Death Spiral,” more forthrightly headlined Ed Driscoll. The term became more fungible over time; AJ Strata, referring to a poll that had “nearly half [of respondents] saying [the launch is] not going well and nearly four in 10 saying they can’t evaluate the signup process at HealthCare.gov,” interpreted it as “Survey Says! Healthcare.gov To Launch ObamaCare Death Spiral.”
Followers of the conservative niche brand known as libertarianism were, as you would expect, hard on the case. When the state of Ohio accepted the Obamacare Medicaid arrangement made optional by the Supreme Court — as many states, including some extremely Republican ones, have also done, presumably with an eye toward their self-interest — Reason‘s Nick Gillespie announced that Ohio had made an “unfortunate and expensive mistake.” Sure they were getting billions from the feds, but Medicaid “is expensive,” said Gillespie, so they’ll actually have to spend that money on taking care of poor people, instead of redistributing it to the wealthy through tax breaks as Ayn Rand intended.
In case that wasn’t convincing, Gillespie added that Medicaid treatment sucks. In support of this assertion he threw up a couple of academic studies popular with less closeted conservatives. If you wonder why this major libertarian thinker didn’t instead offer market-based evidence that Medicaid sucks by pointing to the number of U.S. states that voted with their feet and refused to participate in Medicaid, it is probably because the number is zero. The marketplace never fails the people, but sometimes the people fail the marketplace.
When Obama announced that the website would have to be fixed, and agreed to align the enrollment penalty date with the enrollment end-date of March 15, rightbloggers took it up a notch lest anyone get the idea this was a reasonable response to a broken website.
Commentary‘s Peter Wehner went on Fox News to tell the seniors that Obama “really was detached from reality. It was very odd saying it was a really good program. It’s an exceptional program. It’s not.” Doesn’t Obama watch Fox News?
“President Obama is facing the abyss,” said Fred Barnes at The Weekly Standard. “It’s that moment when a president’s plans are overwhelmed by his problems, and he’s relegated to playing defense for the rest of his White House term… His speeches are full of alibis and accusations… More likely than not, Obamacare will be the dominant issue in the final three-plus years of his presidency. From that, there’s no recovery. Years on defense–impotent years…”
Barnes also said the broken website meant “the collapse of Obamacare on its launching pad,” and one of the reasons was that, as more people got health care, “patients will be forced to endure longer waits as a result of a doctor shortage.” Left alone, doctors would embrace the free market solution of not treating paupers. How far we’ve strayed from conservative principles!
Some of the brethren focused on smaller, healthcare.gov-related controversies. For instance, it was revealed that an executive at one of the site’s tech companies went to Princeton at the same time as Michelle Obama. “Michelle Obama’s Princeton classmate is executive at company that built Obamacare website,” said The Daily Caller. No word about whether the two women even hung out together, but The Caller did have this important intelligence: “Townes-Whitley and her Princeton classmate Michelle Obama are both members of the Association of Black Princeton Alumni.” “Toni McCall Townes-Whitley, who was in Michelle Obama’s class at princeton, is a Senior VP at CGI. From the Association of Black Princeton Alumni,” boldfaced Citizen Wells. God, do we have to spell it out for you? OK: O-o-g-a-space-b-o-o-g-a.
It worked on Scared Monkeys: “ARE YOU KIDDING ME: More Obama lack of transparency and in this case an outright conflict of interest, cronyism and quid pro quo, oh but its just a coincidence… Yup. no quid pro quo or cronyism here, EH?” “C’mon, I’m sure the no-bid contract was just a coincidence. No cronyism there,” wrote Doug Brady at Conservatives 4 Palin. “White House Cronyism?” asked Vicki McClure Davidson at Frugal Cafe, before answering herself, “There are no coincidences in politics. But, there is cronyism… The tip of the iceberg is just now revealing itself.”
We can fit the Toni McCall Townes-Whitley hearings in between the Benghazi hearings and the ones about Obama making the Marines wear girly hats.
When the website gets fixed, there’ll be something else to yell about. But let’s be fair: Some of the brethren may take the opportunity to advance positive solutions for an Obamacare replacement. At American Thinker, after denouncing “the nightmare of ObamaCare,” which is “apparent now to even the left’s most slavish toadies, like Big Labor,” etc., Bruce Walker announced his “alternative free-market health care reform.” How does it work? It “lowers costs by allowing interstate health insurance competition,” said Walker, “allows any drug which has been in use in other modern industrial nations to be cleared for use in America, and taxes 95% of all medical malpractice legal fees above $500,000.” That’s bound to work, right? Well, at least it’s not as crazy as trying to fix a website.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 27, 2013