How did Barack Obama — easily the most gifted politician we’ve seen in a long time — screw up so badly when it came to healthcare?
One obvious mistake, as we noted this morning, is that he let his opponents define healthcare reform, using words like “rationing,” and “death panels,” and “socialism,” and he’s spent lots of time trying to counter them.
But the real problem is that he oversold the plan, when he should have been underselling it.
Ironically, his mistake has been to talk about how good the public option would be, rather than how bad it would be.
You see, if the public option is really awesome and there isn’t much bureacracy, and people like the care they get, then it really is reasonable to assume that we’ll kill private insurers and be left with a single-payer system like they have in Europe, which, for whatever its merits, isn’t a popular proposition here. It just isn’t.
The Democrats could have made much more progress if they’d undersold it, basically saying “Yeah, it’s government run, so it’s not ideal, but it’s much better than nothing and an important safety net for people who fall through the cracks.”
That would have done it. It would have made the scheme look un-ambitious, and nobody would have feared that it would kill the market-based system, since it wouldn’t sound particularly robust. Obama has compared the system to the US Postal Service, which many derided him for, but in reality he should have gone further down this line. It’s not ideal and it doesn’t do everything, especially for power shippers. But at least it’s there for you for basic stuff, oh and yes there are going to be long lines.
If your choice is no insurance, and USPS-like insurance, you’d take it. But if your choice is USPS like insurance and insurance from FedEx, you’ll probably take FedEx.
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