I wrote yesterday about the president’s extremely minor concession in the area of tort reform. He acknowledged the existence of a problem, minimized the impact of fixing the problem, and then suggested a small administrative effort to address the issue.
Kim Strassel has an excellent piece on this in today’s Wall Street Journal. She points out that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was director of the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association for almost two decades, from 1978 to 1996. This is an important point because the success of administrative reforms like the one President Obama mentioned depends on the willingness of the bureaucracy to pursue them. They need to know that the political leadership is committed to the ideas in question and that they will be around for a while, otherwise career officials are disinclined to pursue reforms that could get overturned by a subsequent administration. This is why administrative reforms become harder to accomplish late in a term, for example. The reform in question would need to be pursued vigorously by the political leadership at HHS in order to have much of an impact. Secretary Sebelius’s long-standing association with the Kansas trial lawyers does not bode well for this particular effort.