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The October 1 Brigade
Obamacare proponents ardently claimed it would be flawless — a minor event, even.

Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius and President Barack Obama

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That “small group,” as the president went on to admit, is “still 30 million Americans” — equivalent to the population of Malaysia. Thirty million, it seems, is a number that can be big or small depending on the needs of the speaker. When the president is trying desperately to justify his health-care overhaul, 30 million people — all of whom do not have health insurance but apparently want it — is such a vast and unconscionable number that the entire nation and its constitutional norms need to be upended to address it. But when he’s trying to push back against fears that his health-care overhaul won’t work, 30 million is just a “small group of people” and reform should therefore be a doddle.

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The conceit that there couldn’t possibly be any substantive problems with the enterprise has led in recent days to the emergence of a new meme: Obamacare’s exchanges are not seriously flawed, they are just “glitchy.” One wonders in what world those who disseminate this view live. Asked by CBS to comment on the mess that is the Healthcare.gov website, Luke Chung, a database programmer and professed Obama supporter, admitted that “it wasn’t designed well, it wasn’t implemented well, and it looks like nobody tested it.” Chung confirmed that this had nothing to do with demand or to first-day bugs. “It’s not even close,” he suggested. “It’s not even ready for beta testing for my book. I would be ashamed and embarrassed if my organization delivered something like that.” A similarly brutal piece, from Reuters, features a web-design expert explaining that the site is a structural mess, designed so badly that the data flow between the user and the server looks “as if the system was attacking itself.”

Back in June, when it was easy to write glib and zeitgeisty pieces about the project without fear that it would be imminently tested, The Atlantic’s Alex Howard wrote a glib and zeitgeisty piece about the hip team that was working on the exchanges. In it, he quoted Bryan Sivak, Health and Human Services’ chief technology officer. “The work that they’re doing is amazing,” Sivak says, “like how they organize their sprints and code. It’s incredible what can happen when you give a team of talented developers and managers and let them go.”

There are few sentences that better sum up the progressive worldview than that one, echoing as it does the Wilsonian conviction that if one can just find the “few who are wise” and trust them to “open for the public a bureau of skilled, economical administration,” government will finally work efficiently and fairly. As the results have shown once again, this is a worldview that is not to be trusted. Indeed, thus far at least, Max Baucus’s famous warning that the law was destined to be a “trainwreck” is looking remarkably prescient. Under pressure from critics, Baucus tried to wipe his words from the record. Would that America could do the same with the turbulent, worthless, ugly little law that he wrote in the first place.

— Charles C. W. Cooke is a staff writer at National Review.



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