Magazine November 11, 2013, Issue

The Week

(Roman Genn)

‐ “You misheard us. We said we were going to cover tens of people.”

‐ The budget shutdown marked a turning point in intra-Republican politics. Heretofore the leaders in both rancor and self-regard tended to be incumbent old bulls (if the national helium reserve ever gets low, it can always tap John McCain). That is no longer the case. The strict defunders went in with no realistic plan and won nothing of substance (see editorial, p. 13). But their worst offense was to consign any Republican who disagreed with them to the surrender caucus. The spite goes on: Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is being primaried, as if he were Lowell Weicker. The fight to undo Obamacare is vital. Even more so were the issues that gave birth to the GOP: slavery, and slaveholders’ threats to secede. The infant party was even more rancorous, as former abolitionists, Whigs, and Democrats, hacks and purists, New Englanders and Missourians snarled and gouged one another’s eyes. The first Republican president won election and reelection by keeping all these bears together in one cage. All who aspire to sit where he sat will do so only by learning to do likewise.

‐ Chris Matthews has again compared Republicans to Confederates. This time, he said the government shutdown was “the third Battle of Bull Run — for them, it’s Manassas Creek.” If we’re playing that game, are the Democrats the party of the Mob? Of Tammany? Of Alger Hiss? Aaron Burr? Or are they the party of — let’s see, wasn’t its president a former Democratic senator from Mississippi — the Confederacy? Policy and politics aside, Barack Obama’s election was a symbolic consummation of what Lincoln called the “new birth of freedom.” What a shame that every step of his ascent has been marked by the efforts of hacks like Matthews to use his race for partisan advantage.

‐ The legal march of same-sex marriage through the courts has seen many novel arguments, all with the same conclusion: States must recognize same-sex unions as marriages whether or not they so wish. In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government had to recognize same-sex marriages in states that did — but stopped short of saying that states must recognize them. Now a New Jersey judge has ruled that her state has to recognize them anyway as a consequence of the Supreme Court decision. Her argument is that the state owes its same-sex couples the federal benefits that would come with recognition as marriages. Governor Chris Christie, to his credit, sought a stay of the decision while he appealed it. He then dropped the appeal when the stay was denied. Perhaps continued litigation in the face of agenda-driven judges would have been a waste of tax dollars — but if so, it highlights how little Christie has done to improve his state’s rotten judiciary.

‐ The White House’s next priority is so-called comprehensive immigration reform. Although the Gang of Eight bill is so battered on the right that its erstwhile promoter Marco Rubio talks about it only under duress, a version of it still has a chance. For supporters of the basic approach in the House, the game will be to get a piece of relatively innocuous legislation through and then move to a conference committee with the Senate, where a modified version of the Gang of Eight bill could emerge. At that point, the political pressure to hold a vote on the legislation in the House — where it could pass with the support of almost all Democrats and some Republicans — would be immense. It was widely believed (erroneously) that all House speaker John Boehner had to do to defund Obamacare was sit tight and do nothing. When it comes to immigration, though, it’s true that all Boehner has to do is nothing. It’s a course of inaction conservatives should demand.

‐ Hillary Clinton, addressing a meeting of the National Association of Convenience Stores in Atlanta, was asked about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. During her 25-minute answer she noted that she had supported the raid while Vice President Biden opposed it. Some caveats: No journalists were allowed at the NACS event, as per her request; the source for the story is a Republican state representative. On the other hand, her purported remarks could have been true, since Biden himself has said he thought the raid was too risky; and they would have had a purpose, since both she and Biden are running for president. Old Joe is a sharp-elbowed brawler, but if he gets in the way of the Clintons and their manifest destiny, he will feel as if he has been visited by SEAL Team Six. Sit back, and enjoy the fun.

‐ JPMorgan, the largest U.S. bank, has reached a tentative deal with the federal government to pay $13 billion to resolve civil disputes related to its mortgage-security business, a record sum that will leave the bank open to criminal prosecution. That enormous settlement results in large part from legal liabilities that the bank acquired along with the ruins of Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual in 2008. No one should weep for JPMorgan, but it’s important to note that the entanglement of the big banks and the federal government did not begin with the bailouts and did not end with their resolution: JPMorgan’s sin, according to the Justice Department, was misleading two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, about the quality of the mortgages backing securities they purchased. The GSEs did not exactly cover themselves with glory during the housing bubble: They invested some $26 billion in subprime mortgages from troubled lender Countrywide, with disastrous results. Fannie Mae’s executives in 2006 were hit with 101 civil charges for inflating earnings to maximize their bonuses, and a foreclosure specialist was recently charged in a criminal case involving kickbacks. JPMorgan may have to make an account of its actions in court, but the fundamental problem — the merger of the federal government with the mortgage market — remains unresolved.

#page#‐ Newark mayor and media darling Cory Booker won a special election to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Frank Lautenberg’s death. Booker beat Republican Steve Lonegan by ten points, but in deep-blue New Jersey, at a bad moment for the GOP, it could have been a lot worse: Last year, the ethically challenged Senator Robert Menendez thrashed his Republican opponent by over 19 points. Booker was hobbled by the odd October date (arranged by Governor Chris Christie, who did not want Booker bringing out Democratic voters during his own reelection contest next month). Booker was also hobbled by his relentless and, it turns out, unscrupulous self-promotion: NR’s Eliana Johnson showed that his friend and frequent political exemplar, the Newark drug dealer T-Bone, is imaginary. Can the lightweight Booker rise even higher? Bathed as he is in the media glow of nearby New York, anything is possible.

‐ John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio, lost public support by mishandling an attempt to reduce public-sector unions’ legal privileges. He is trying to make up for that lost ground by handing voters other states’ tax dollars. He wants the state to participate in the Medicaid expansion included in the Obamacare law. Almost all of the funds, at least for the first few years, would be supplied by the feds — which means the expansion, taken in isolation, redistributes money from the rest of the country to Ohio. (Unless, that is, the rest of the states play the same game.) The appeal of this policy is obvious. Kasich has added sanctimony and lawlessness to the equation. He says that when his state’s Republican legislators meet Saint Peter, they won’t have to explain what they did to shrink government but will have to say how they helped the poor. Kasich, apparently, plans to say that he saddled them with an insurance plan that results in health outcomes indistinguishable from no insurance at all. Republican legislators having balked, Kasich has gone to an unelected board to push through the policy. The Saint Peter he envisions either is not a stickler for the fine points of self-governance or has an unexpected solicitude about Kasich’s reelection prospects.

‐ State legislatures have passed 68 restrictions on abortion this year. Not California. The Golden State is bucking the national trend and expanding its access to abortion. On October 9, Governor Jerry Brown signed the Early Access to Abortion Bill into law, allowing non-doctors — nurses, midwives, and physicians’ assistants — to perform aspiration abortions (surgical procedures in which the unborn child is removed using a suction tube) during the first trimester. Planned Parenthood says that the legislation “reaffirms California’s leadership on women’s health issues.” The new pro-abortion litany is, Any abortion at any time — performed by almost anybody.

‐ A 17-year-old New Yorker, pulled aside by security guards in a Victoria’s Secret store on suspicion of shoplifting, was found to have a dead newborn in her shopping bag. She said she had suffered a miscarriage after six months, but the baby, a boy, weighed eight and a half pounds, and was nearly full-term. According to prevailing norms, was the young woman’s action against the law? This is what the district attorney is now considering: Did the infant die moments before, or after, birth? Or was her offense against aesthetics? Poor boy; poor mother. Poor us.

‐ In October, the Los Angeles Times announced that it would no longer publish any letters or op-eds in which the author “denies” that global warming is the fault of mankind. An editorial issued by the paper confirmed that letters “that say there’s no sign humans have caused climate change” will be immediately rejected. “I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page,” letters editor Paul Thornton argued, adding that denying anthropogenic climate change “is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.” Thornton can dress up the decision however he likes but, in truth, the move is part of an ongoing attempt to transmute what remains an active scientific dispute into the realm of unassailable doctrine and to set current consensus in aspic. Conceding that he had little knowledge of the subject himself, Thornton contended that he “must rely on the experts.” Only the ones that suit him, it seems.

‐ Davion Only, a 15-year-old orphan in Florida, became a heartbreaking cause célèbre when he stood before a local church and made a plea for someone — anyone — to adopt him: “I’ll take anyone. Old or young, dad or mom, black, white, purple. I don’t care.” Unfortunately, the gatekeepers in the adoption world do care. Even though the law forbids them to discriminate against potential adoptive families on the basis of race, social workers remain corporately hostile to transracial adoption, a practice the National Association of Black Social Workers describes as “cultural genocide.” Families looking to adopt are disproportionately white, and children awaiting adoption are disproportionately nonwhite. Official hostility toward transracial adoption has resulted in tragic outcomes. For example, a family that already had adopted and raised special-needs children was denied the chance to adopt a young black girl because the community they lived in was too white for the taste of the authorities, who overlooked the fact that the child was so physically and mentally disabled that she probably would never know that there existed such a thing as racial difference. More than 10,000 families have called and written offering to adopt young Mr. Only, and the authorities say his placement in an adoptive home is all but assured. But there are many more Davion Onlys in the world, whose plight is not going to be chronicled on The View, and they remain at the mercy of a deeply flawed system.

#page#The Big Problem for Small Business

The jobs report for September suggests that the economy is still limping forward, creating jobs at an unusually low rate for an economy in recovery.

Slow job creation can likely be explained by many factors.

Those cognizant of the impact of taxes on hiring practices might remind the president that a large fraction of American business income is in the top individual-income-tax bracket, and has thus seen a large tax increase this year. Another factor has been the massive expansion of the regulatory state under President Obama. If you want to start a good fight at a dinner party attended by business executives, ask them what is the biggest drag on the economy — Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, or the Obama EPA.

While the president seems to think that all economic weakness is the fault of either George W. Bush or the Republican House, the expansion of the regulatory state on Obama’s watch has been extreme, and the explosion of straitjacket-wielding regulators is becoming visible in the data.

(Source: National Federation of Independent Business)

A key source of job creation is, of course, small business, and a key glimpse of the major concerns in this sector at any given moment comes when the National Federation of Independent Business releases its monthly poll of business owners. The nearby chart shows the most commonly cited answers in the poll since February 2008, the year before President Obama took office.

Those familiar with these polls can tell you that, for the most part, businesses tend to downplay the importance of Washington in their decision-making, and this is visible at the beginning of the chart. As the Great Recession kicked into high gear, poor sales were the biggest concern of about 33 percent of firms. But as the economy has slowly recovered, concerns about government have skyrocketed.

Most notably, the percentage of small businesses citing government regulation and red tape as their biggest concern has risen, over the course of the Obama presidency, from about 11 percent to 24 percent, the highest level this measure has reached since the period between 1994 and 1995, when it peaked at 27 percent. For almost a decade between 2000 and 2008, the level remained steady around 10 percent.

Taxes, the green line, have not skyrocketed as a major concern for firms, perhaps in part because small-business owners were in the crosshairs of this president even at the beginning. Their tax hikes were delayed until this year, but they surely were inevitable.

Perhaps the easiest way to put this extraordinary chart in perspective is to note that the percentage of firms that list either taxes or regulation as their No. 1 concern has risen to 42 percent. That Washington could be a bigger concern than this weak economy for so many businesses is quite an accomplishment. Congratulations, Mr. President.

#page#‐ In early October, Louisiana’s “EBT” system malfunctioned, causing spending limits on users’ food-stamp cards to be lifted for a couple of hours. In two parishes, some recipients noticed the error and set about buying as much as they could carry from local Walmarts. By the time proper limits were restored, Springhill’s chief of police remarked, the scene in his local store “was worse than anything we had ever seen in this town. There was no food left on any of the shelves, and no meat left. The grocery part of Walmart was totally decimated.” One man managed to walk out with $700 worth of food. Whatever the merits of the food-stamp program, we should remember that there is nothing magically different about stealing when the taxpayers — and not a private business — are the victims, and we should resist the temptation to let such behavior pass. Indigent or not, perpetrators of fraud should be labeled as any other citizen would be: thieves.

‐ Saudi Arabia has thrown a large stone into the stagnant pond that goes by the name of the United Nations. The Saudis had lobbied hard to obtain one of the short-term seats on the United Nations Security Council, only to turn it down when they had it in the bag. (Nobody seems to have told Samantha Power, the United States’ ambassador to the U.N., who was still congratulating them on the seat after they had renounced it.) Double standards, the Saudis say (and they cannot be denied), prevent the Security Council from properly shouldering its responsibilities toward world peace. Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran are contesting regional power by sponsoring their rival proxies in the civil war in Syria, and Russia and China exploit their permanent membership on the Security Council to tip the balance in favor of Iran. As loyal allies of the United States, the Saudis had further expected President Obama to back them and intervene in Syria, especially after the ruling regime resorted to chemical weapons. Politically secretive as a rule, the Saudis are angry and frightened enough for once to take a public stance.

‐ A Somali girl was smuggled into the U.K. for the purpose of harvesting her organs, a report from the British government has revealed. The unnamed girl likely represents an untold number of children suffering a similar fate. Worldwide, only 1 percent of the 2.4 million persons, most of them girls and women, who are enslaved at any given time are ever rescued, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. It estimates that 80 percent of victims are sold into sexual slavery. Harvesting their organs is an obvious next step in the effort to extract profit from their bodies: A kidney goes for as much as $150,000 on the black market, where First World patients in desperate need of an organ transplant go shopping. The demand for human organs exceeds the supply, leading to the argument that legalizing and regulating the commercial trade in them — it’s illegal everywhere except Iran — would go far toward driving this form of human trafficking out of business. But to legitimate an industry in which people in poverty could sell parts of their bodies before human traffickers got their hands on them would be to accommodate the gruesome practice, not defeat it. Investigation and prosecution of organ harvesting is complicated by the global scope of the crime. The U.S. and other nations that are committed to stopping it have to be clear, direct, and tenacious in applying pressure on governments that look the other way.

‐ The Bank of England is planning a new series of paper currency, and the image on the five-pound note will be Winston Churchill’s. An obvious choice, one might think, and unlikely to offend anyone other than Barack Obama; but in fact the decision was (in the words of the Duke of Wellington, the first non-royal to appear on a fiver) “a damned near-run thing.” The reason for the bank’s hesitancy: It didn’t want to offend the Germans. Mervyn King, the bank’s governor, praised Churchill in a memo for his “broad name recognition” but cautioned that “the recentness of World War II is a living memory for many here and on the Continent.” He wrote more about not being beastly to the Germans, but it was redacted. Fortunately, stouter hearts prevailed, and now the nation that withstood the Blitz will not shrink in fear when faced with a few jeers from the Jerries. After all, we put Washington on the dollar bill, and the British deal with it somehow.

‐ The Obamacare rollout was handled so poorly that even Azerbaijan has outdone us. The autocratic Central Asian state held a presidential election in October, and the smartphone app they developed to disseminate the returns worked so well that it displayed complete final results a day before the voting took place. You can’t beat that for efficiency; in fact, we hear that David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel are hiring Azerbaijani consultants to design software for Chicago’s next election.

‐ A group of highly compensated education consultants has managed to convince the managers of the government schools in Portland, Ore., that the common peanut-butter sandwich is a potential tool of racism. Principal Verenice Gutierrez recently argued that using the humble PB&J as an example in the classroom threatened to exclude Somali and Hispanic students — “who might not eat sandwiches.” Beyond the racist PB&J — which often is, after all, clothed in white sheets of bread — the Pacific Education Group, which has provided a half-million dollars in diversity services to the Portland schools, has warned educators to be on the lookout for such markers of exclusively white culture as an emphasis on “self-reliance,” the belief that “hard work is the key to success,” “rational, linear thinking,” the primacy of the nuclear family, monotheism, “adherence to rigid time schedules,” the belief that one should place “work before play,” and more. Which is to say, official Portland in 2013 thinks more or less the same thing of nonwhites as rural Mississippi did in 1830, a paradoxical time capsule brought to you by people who call themselves “progressive.”

#page#‐ In a welcome instance of sanity in academia, Middlebury College has suspended for a year the student who, with four outsiders, removed nearly 3,000 American flags that had been planted to commemorate the victims of 9/11. At the time, she said they had uprooted the symbols of “conquest and colonialism” on behalf of the Abenaki Indians, on whose burial ground the college supposedly rests — thus managing to surpass in pointlessness both Marlon Brando’s refusal of an Oscar after Wounded Knee and the current push to rename the Washington Redskins. The Abenaki let it be known that they needn’t have bothered. The suspended student — a veteran of Occupy Wall Street, the anti-fracking movement, and similar causes — has explained that “my intention was not to cause pain but to visibilize [sic] the necessity of honoring all human life.” Fair enough; and we assume this means that, if Middlebury’s conservatives (there must be a few) put up a memorial to unborn children, she will leave it standing.

‐ Emily Yoffe, who writes a regular advice column for Slate, made the obvious observation that young women on college campuses who binge-drink to the point of incapacitation put themselves at heightened risk of becoming the victims of sexual assault. “A misplaced fear of blaming the victim has made it somehow unacceptable to warn inexperienced young women” of this fact, she said. As if to illustrate her point, denunciations from all the usual Internet quarters immediately poured forth: She had written “a rape denialism manifesto” (in the words of one feminist website) promoting “rape culture.” “What about teaching men not to rape?” asked a writer on The Atlantic’s website. “I’ve told my daughter that it’s her responsibility to take steps to protect herself,” wrote Yoffe. We suspect some of her critics tell their daughters the same thing.

‐ “Our Chekhov,” Cynthia Ozick once said about Alice Munro. It is a famous and justified description. Munro, a Canadian writer now in her early 80s, has won the Nobel Prize in Literature. The committee called her a “master of the contemporary short story.” That she is. The word “contemporary” in that phrase, however, is probably unnecessary. And Munro probably wouldn’t have written it. She is a superb writer, economical and graceful. Rarely has prose been so easy, or looked so easy. She can think, too. Her stories arise from Huron County, Ontario, her native territory. She has not been a political figure. She has simply been a master of stories. She has given Stockholm her regrets, saying she will not be able to attend the ceremony: ill health. She has apparently given up writing as well. A writer has to be alone a lot, she notes, and, “at the wrong end of life,” she is becoming “very sociable.” Alice Munro has earned her company, and the Nobel Prize.

‐ From the annals of superfluity: An organization called the Genesis Prize Foundation has established a new prize, promoted as the “Jewish Nobel,” that comes with a $1 million award. Its first recipient is New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. It is difficult to say which is more splendidly redundant: Giving $1 million to a billionaire who will add the sum to the millions he already has given away through his philanthropic endeavors, or establishing a prize honoring the intellectual and cultural achievements of Jews. From chemistry to medicine to physics to literature to economics, about 20 percent of Nobel Prizes have gone to Jews, who compose 0.2 percent of the world’s population. In an important sense, the Jewish Nobel Prize is the Nobel Prize.

‐ In February 1962, Scott Carpenter became the fourth American in space, the second to orbit the earth. He was then a 36-year-old Navy test pilot. After three orbits, his capsule overshot the Atlantic Ocean landing site by more than 250 miles and could not be located for 40 minutes. When he was found, in his life raft, he insouciantly offered his rescuers space rations. Of the original seven Mercury astronauts, only John Glenn is now left. The Sixties seem in so many ways like the Dark Ages — landlines, electric typewriters, computers running on punch cards. But we put men in space and on the Moon. How is the microverse doing, tech-heads? Dead at 88. R.I.P.

‐ Oscar Hijuelos was the first Hispanic to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The book for which he was awarded the prize — 1989’s The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love — won not just a critical but also a commercial success, and was adapted into both a movie and a musical. He wrote of the experience of Cuban immigrants to America, but he reportedly did not like to be considered an “ethnic” writer; he needn’t have worried about this, because his work certainly resonated with too broad a public for him to be susceptible to such easy pigeonholing. He was a Cuban American, and he was an American writer who belongs to all of us. Dead at 62. R.I.P.


System Failure

The rolling fiasco that is the launch of the health-insurance “exchanges” — the government-run online marketplaces at the heart of the Affordable Care Act — is something the Obama administration is attempting to explain away as a “glitch,” but it now threatens to throw an entire AutoZone worth of wrenches into the Rube Goldberg machine that is Obamacare. Health and Human Services managers close to the project privately say that hitting early-enrollment goals will be all but impossible. The White House has called the situation “unacceptable” (yet it is accepted); insurance companies attempting to use the system are in a state of panic; only a handful of states have their own working exchanges; and the federal exchange is snarled up in Washington’s usual managerial incompetence. Nobody knows how long it will take to fix the problems, or whether they even can be fixed. The president has said that there is “no excuse” for this mess, but there is no one taking responsibility either, nor any credible timetable for getting it sorted out.

In retrospect, those Republicans who sought a delay of Obamacare’s implementation would have been doing the Obama administration — to say nothing of the country — a favor had they been successful.

The problem is not only crash-prone servers that make signing up for the exchanges a Sisyphean task. A larger failure is that the system is running on faulty data. The exchanges are there to facilitate transactions involving consumers, the federal government, and insurance companies, but information is not reliably transmitted among the three. For example, faulty programming has led to miscalculations of subsidies that consumers are to receive under the program, which means that a great many of them will get premium bills that are far different from what they expect. (Far higher or far lower? Bet on the former.) Insurers are not receiving enough accurate information to process applications from consumers. As of October 19, not one person in New York State had been able to complete a purchase through that state’s exchange. Consumers are not getting accurate information about the plans that are available to them.

The deeper problem for Obamacare is that in order for the new ACA-compliant insurance plans to succeed, a very large number of healthy young people need to enroll — paying much higher premiums than they would have paid before Obamacare — in order to offset the costs incurred by extending subsidies and coverage to the old and the sick. If the insurance plans offered under Obamacare attract too many old and sick people and too few young and healthy people, they will not be financially viable. But young and healthy people do not have much incentive to comply with the ACA in the first place, and the catastrophically dysfunctional enrollment process has given them a very strong incentive to wait it out.

Uninsured Americans subject to Obamacare’s individual mandate are required by law to sign up for new policies by February 15 or face a fine. Those seeking new policies beginning in January of the coming year must sign up by December 15. It is unlikely that the defects in the system will be repaired by December or by February.

And those are just the computer-system problems. The deeper problems with the bill will not be repaired by December or February or by two summers hence, because the administration is not interested in repairing them. Obamacare will leave many Americans paying premiums that are twice as high as those they paid before — or higher — and facing penalties if they do not buy those more expensive plans. This is being done in the name of improving the market for insurance, while in fact converting insurance from a hedge against disaster into a universal system of prepaid health care at a substantially higher cost than the old one.

One of the reasons for that higher cost is that the new program is just a front for the old program: Medicaid, an expensive and dysfunctional mess of an entitlement. In Oregon, the 56,000 people who enrolled in health-care coverage under the new law in the first two weeks of October went exclusively into Medicaid — not one person was enrolled in a private insurance plan. Illinois has sent more than 100,000 into Medicaid under the program. Medicaid’s perverse incentive structure has ensured explosive growth in its spending over the years, while, more perverse still, its attempts to reduce costs by restricting providers’ payments to below-market levels means that fewer doctors are willing to see Medicaid patients.

Republicans may have failed thus far in their efforts to repeal Obamacare, but the administration is in the midst of a much more significant failure: a failure to execute its own vision with a minimum degree of competence. The president can blame software developers and vendors all he likes, but this is his mess, and if he can’t clean it up — and he can’t — then it is up to Congress to do it for him. Repealing and replacing Obamacare remains a live issue, and Republicans would do well to pursue it.


The Shutdown Republicans

House Republicans are consoling themselves in defeat by saying that they fought the good fight. What a good many of them actually did was throw themselves halfheartedly behind a strategy that they knew very well was highly unlikely to succeed. That strategy has now yielded its predictable, and predicted, results. Public support for Republicans has dropped substantially, they are more divided, and they have won no concessions from the Democrats.

Some House Republicans claim that they were on the verge of winning the shutdown fight when Senate Republicans undercut them by agreeing to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling for nothing. Again, the truth is otherwise. The Democrats gave no indication that they were going to buckle, and the polls did not give them much reason to feel any pressure to do so. A unified party would not have been sufficient to force Democrats to defund Obamacare, and that unity could never have been achieved, since many Republicans grasped the point. 

Another consolatory myth, that the shutdown at least brought the defects of Obamacare to public attention, should also be abandoned. Obamacare itself has been bringing its defects to public attention, but has been obscured — momentarily, we trust — by the drama of the shutdown. Some of the conservatives who launched this campaign say as well that it has indelibly associated Republicans with opposition to Obamacare in the public mind. That had already been accomplished, of course; and to the extent some people do not make that association, it is because these very conservatives have attacked those Republicans who question the wisdom of their tactics as insincere opponents of the law.

As critical as we have been of the shutdown strategy, we have also said that the people behind it have been clearer on the threat that Obamacare poses to the country than have many Republican leaders. Sounding the alarm, halting the law if possible, and eventually repealing it were and are worthy goals. The fact that the public has consistently registered opposition to the law suggests that these goals may be attainable. But the public does not hate and fear the law with the intensity that we conservatives do. It also wants answers to important questions — how can health insurance be made more affordable? how can people with pre-existing conditions get coverage? — that Republicans have not convincingly offered.

Decades of misguided government policies have created many of the dysfunctions in our health-care system that frustrate Americans, and Obamacare makes those dysfunctions worse. We can do better, and we should have confidence that if we make that case with conviction and intelligence we can bring the public to our side and prevail. Throwing ourselves on the tracks, on the other hand, as we have seen, will certainly fail.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

In This Issue


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Books, Arts & Manners

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The Week

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System Failure

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