The Great Destroyer

ObamaCare wreaks havoc on health care, the economy, American freedom and Obama's presidency.

Commentary by Pete du Pont

Polls show an increasing majority of Americans dislike President Obama's health-care law and disapprove of the job the president is doing. Perhaps more disconcerting for Mr. Obama is a recent Quinnipiac University poll that finds, for the first time in his presidency, a majority (54%) of registered voters feel he is not honest and trustworthy.

In response, the administration rolls out ObamaCare delays or stopgap fixes just a month after Republicans were labeled extremists for proposing delays and fixes. The White House tries shifting blame for the embarrassing rollout to others—information technology contractors, insurance companies and of course, Republicans. The administration is even working to discourage use of the word "ObamaCare," which the president had proudly embraced before the law encountered reality.

Most interestingly, the administration and congressional Democrats seem genuinely surprised that their prized legislation, which was to be the crown jewel of the president's legacy and the culmination of decades of liberal ambition, simply doesn't work. Did these folks ever study history, economics or sociology? If they had, they would have known there was little chance of success for their attempt to snatch one-sixth of our economy and thrust it under a complex set of bureaucratic regulations, market disincentives, higher costs and new taxes.

Large government interventions in the market almost always fall short of their backers' dreams (although not usually this rapidly). Such programs suffer from a common set of flaws, all of which are found in ObamaCare. First, and perhaps foremost, is the hubris inherent in the assumption that bureaucrats in Washington (or Moscow, Beijing or Pyongyang) know better than families, individuals and businesses do what is best for them.

We also often find a certain "looseness" with the facts. There is overpromising at the beginning. Mr. Obama actually promised to provide better health care to more people while spending less money. While some of us saw that was obviously absurd, many are just now coming to this realization. We were told we could keep our existing plan if we liked it, "period." But it turns out that means "only as long as the government, in its wisdom, decides it's right for you." The posturing and spinning continues as the administration tries to inflate the pathetically low enrollment figures. The left's mindset is that such obfuscation (to be generous) is fine as long as it is deployed in the furtherance of the greater good, which they see as coming only from their policies.

ObamaCare embodies the usual hypocrisy of large liberal programs, as the administration bestows benefits and exemptions on favored constituencies and the politically connected. We see waivers for big labor, relief from inconvenient mandates for congressional staff, and decisions timed to minimize harm to Democrats in the next election. Conversely, those who don't have politically correct views are ignored or mocked. We see lip service given to conscientious objections to abortion and birth control, but ObamaCare policies that run roughshod over these objections.

Perhaps most disappointing, we can observe in the administration's handling of ObamaCare a now all too familiar subversion of the rule of law, a fundamental precept of our nation's founding and of democracies everywhere. George Will notes that the administration has apparently decided it can adopt legislation by press conference as Mr. Obama simply announces changes to the law or that he will not enforce certain provisions. His administration then proceeds to strong-arm businesses and demonize critics.

There is the usual governmental failure to anticipate how people respond to economic incentives. Why would the administration expect the required large numbers of healthy, young people to enroll in ObamaCare in response to higher premiums? Why would the administration expect businesses to refrain from adjusting their staffing decisions based on the additional cost of ObamaCare?

Finally, we see the familiar curse of unintended consequences as the fantasy of better, more affordable insurance with more options runs into the reality of higher costs and fewer options. The failed exchange and the cancelled plans were just the beginning, followed by sticker shock at the cost of the government-mandated coverage and doctors being dropped from networks or opting out.

We don't yet know every way in which ObamaCare will damage our health-care system, our economy and our freedom, but we can be sure more pain is coming.