Government by anecdote
President Obama sallied forth yesterday to give the sort of “remarks” that would get a Republican chief executive torn to shreds by the media for being “out of touch.” In essence, he pretended none of the ObamaCare disasters from October 1 until today have happened. All is well, everything’s working fine, a few bumps during launch were to be expected… it was a campaign speech from 2008, and a rather jarring contrast from the panicked President who, just weeks ago, was giving alibis to explain why he was totally in the dark about the Healthcare.gov launch disaster, because nobody tells him anything.
He’s the expert now, and rest assured, this baby is firing on all cylinders! The President threw out all sorts of dubious statistics for all the people who will supposedly be helped by his broken health care system. For those keeping score, he’s back up to claiming there are 41 million uninsured, which means he’s including illegal aliens again. It’ll be fun if someone in the increasingly weary media calls him on that, and he’s suddenly back down to 15 or 20 million during his next “all is well” speech.
As always, the President flat-out lied about the dearth of alternatives to his scheme. That’s objectively untrue – there are plenty of proposals for replacing ObamaCare with something that would work, and there have been such proposals for years. But of course, rather than debating them, Obama simply pretends they don’t exist. I don’t suppose the media will ever let Republicans get away with that little tactic.
Despite his rhapsodic claims about the wonder and glory of ObamaCare, Barack Obama himself refuses to enroll in it, and his spokespeople won’t even dignify questions about his refusal with a response any more. Think how much good the President could have done for his cause by whipping out a tablet computer and signing up for ObamaCare live, on camera, yesterday! Boy, that sure would have taught the nay-sayers a lesson, wouldn’t it? But for some reason, he won’t do that. And we just learned another big ObamaCare mastermind, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, made sure his personal staff won’t have to enroll, either. ObamaCare for thee, but not for me!
There were curious claims from the President that seemed like freeze-dried rhetoric from the happier days when the American public didn’t know how unaffordable the Affordable Care Act would turn out to be. Most curiously, in an economy roiled by uncertainty and flat-out terror over the unpredictable effects of a non-law the imperial President has illegally modified on the fly several times, he claimed average folks are swooning with relief over the “security” of knowing they don’t have to worry about paying for medicine any more:
If you don’t like this law so, if despite all the millions of people who are benefiting from it, you still think this law is a bad idea then you’ve got to tell us specifically what you’d do differently to cut costs, cover more people, make insurance more secure. You can’t just say that the system was working with 41 million people without health insurance. You can’t just say that the system is working when you’ve got a whole bunch of folks who thought they had decent insurance and then when they got sick, it turned out it wasn’t there for them or they were left with tens of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs that were impossible for them to pay.
Wait’ll those folks get a load of what Barack Obama has done to them! The distinguishing features of Affordable Care Act policies are severely limited doctor choice, sky-high premiums partially offset by welfare subsidies… and even higher deductibles that aren’t. Surely there are some people acquiring this minimal coverage, with a lot of help from taxpayers, who didn’t have any sort of coverage before… but a far larger number of people are paying more for plans with higher deductibles, despite Obama’s Big Lie that they would be able to keep their plans.
The President didn’t have a single word to say to those people. He completely ignored the five and a half million people, and counting, who lost their insurance despite his repeated vows to the contrary. I’m old enough to remember when the press corps went nuts over how “out of touch” the first President Bush was, because was allegedly unfamiliar with the operation of supermarket barcode scanners – an anecdote that was a falsified media creation to begin with. But here’s Obama pretending those millions of Affordable Care Act victims don’t exist at all. When do we see the avalanche of coverage about how “out of touch” he is?
The bulk of the President’s appearance was consumed with the latest volley in a war of anecdotes. Republicans have finally learned to play that game too, but they don’t invest anything like the amount of effort in their stage productions that Obama does. He lined up a bunch of human props who have ostensibly benefited from the Affordable Care Act, as if this handful of people somehow outweighs the chaos unleashed in the lives of millions, or the billions of dollars wasted on the ObamaCare boondoggle – money which, if it had to be spent at all, could have been spend on providing actual health care to sick or impoverished people who actually needed it.
Who were these human props? Other than the young woman who introduced the President, you’re not allowed to know. The last few human props deployed by the President have turned into ObamaCare critics as the full failure of the program became clear to them, so Obama learned his lesson, and this time he’s keeping the identities of the purportedly happy campers secret, so nobody can follow up with them. Byron York from the Washington Examiner did some digging into the people Obama presented as success stories in his remarks:
There were 18 other people standing with Weeks and the president on stage. Obama began his remarks by saying, “Thanks to Monica, thanks to everybody standing behind me.” A little later, criticizing Republicans who have pronounced Obamacare a failure, the president said, “I would advise them to check with the people who are here today and the people that they represent all across the country whose lives have been changed for the better by the Affordable Care Act.”
But Obama never said who those people were, and, unlike other events, the White House did not release their names or biographies. A spokesman later said the White House would not provide the information. A pool report called the group “19 individuals whom the White House said benefited from health care reform.” Beyond that, their connection to Obamacare remains unknown.
Obama’s speech mentioned three specific people he said have been helped by various provisions of Obamacare: a California woman undergoing treatment for leukemia and lymphoma who no longer worries about exceeding the lifetime cap on insurance benefits; a North Carolina doctor who said more of his patients will take advantage of preventive care under Obamacare; and an Ohio woman whose 23-year-old daughter has cancer requiring highly expensive drug treatments that are covered by her parents’ health plan because of Obamacare. “That’s what this law means to millions of Americans,” Obama said.
If any of those people were with Obama on stage, the president didn’t say. It’s also worth noting that of the four examples cited during the event, two were young people whose medical treatment was covered by the up-til-age-26 provision of Obamacare, one was a woman who benefited from the abolition of lifetime caps, and one was a doctor who advocates more preventive care. None had purchased affordable coverage through healthcare.gov.
So zero percent of his “success stories” were actually satisfied ObamaCare customers! That’s so quintessentially Obama. I’d also note that his remarks included the standard-issue conflation of Affordable Care Act enrollments with Medicaid beneficiaries:
But what we also know is that after just the first month, despite all the problems in the rollout, about half a million people across the country are poised to gain health care coverage through marketplaces and Medicaid beginning on January 1st — some for the very first time. We know that – half a million people.
We don’t “know” any such thing, because this utterly opaque and deceptive Administration hides all the actual data. They just make claims, then cite each others’ unsubstantiated claims as if they were “facts,” until someone eventually sues them and pries the numbers from their white-knuckled grip… weeks after their old talking points have been forgotten. As a matter of fact, Judicial Watch just announced a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to obtain the actual ObamaCare enrollment records from the Department of Health and Human Services.
So, take the absurdly inflated “incomplete shopping cart data counts as enrollment!” number cooked up by the Administration, throw in the vastly larger sea of new Medicaid beneficiaries, and you get a half-million number we’re supposed to take on faith from the man who told one of the biggest lies in White House history. Sorry, Mr. President, but nobody who remembers “if you like your health plan, you can keep it, period” is ever going to take your word for anything again. You’ll need hard data to get our attention, and thus far, it has taken subpoenas and court rulings to get it. At least Obama acknowledged that he’s counting Medicaid recipients in his total this time, without mentioning their relative proportions – that’s a big step forward in honesty, by the standards of this Administration.
What we’re left with is the exchange of anecdotes: I’ll see your 26-year-old who got covered under Mom’s plan, and raise you a cancer patient who can’t afford ObamaCare insurance or see his old doctor any more. This is ludicrous, because neither the pro or con cases can logically be made with anecdotal evidence, or even with heavily massaged aggregate numbers. Why is even one law-abiding person suddenly hit with thousands of dollars in pumped-up premiums – essentially a hidden tax – acceptable? Why should we settle for a government program that spends billions but merely reshuffles the uninsured, instead of greatly reducing the total number? If a law makes ten thousand people happy but hurts the rest of America, are we supposed to be impressed by the grand spectacle of marching the happy ten thousand through D.C. in a parade?
This is emotional manipulation, not reasoned argument. Worse, it sets us up to accept the premise that overbearing government has an inherent right to decide who the winners and losers will be, rather than protecting everyone’s rights equally and giving us control over our destinies. A statist program should not be judged tolerable if the beneficiaries are extremely pleased, but a far larger number of taxpayers can be intimidated into keeping their dissatisfaction quiet. A program is not automatically acceptable if the number of “winners” is roughly equal to the number of “losers,” and it’s not a huge success just because there are more winners. That’s exactly the kind of thinking our Founders rejected. Government by anecdote is an instrument of the tyranny of the majority, the rule of a mob eager to vote itself benefits at the expense of the politically outgunned.