The US media acts like a herd, moving as a group from one narrative to another, painting each situation in the most extreme colors, as if they are trying to stampede policymakers into taking rash actions, because nothing is more exciting to the media than rapid changes in policy and actions
During the government shut down and debt ceiling fiasco, the storyline was how the Republican party was destroying itself and would be routed at the next elections unless they changed course immediately.
Then as soon as that standoff ended, that storyline was promptly forgotten and shifted to a new one based on what had been going in the background and that was the problem with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act health exchanges. The new storyline became that the situation was so bad that president Obama and the Democratic party had been hopelessly damaged and that they could be routed at the next election unless they made dramatic changes to the ACA.
Of course, each narrative is overblown. It is unlikely that people in general follow insider politics with the same closeness, or see politics in terms of overarching narratives, the way that the media pundits do. And unlike the media, most people do not take the situation and views that exist right now and commit themselves to actions that are a year away. So what people feel right now because of any one particular issue may not be a good predictor of how they will vote in 2014.
Already the story about the healthcare rollout is shifting as the websites slowly start functioning better. As Michael Hiltzik writes, the whole ‘Obamacare collapse’ panic was always overblown and seemed designed to stampede panicky Democrats into taking stop gap measures that would only make things worse.
Attacks on the Affordable Care Act have stepped up over the last week or so. You’d think that the healthcare reform known as Obamacare is leading to the wholesale loss of affordable insurance by huge sectors of the American public, many of whom will be impoverished by being forced into low-quality health plans at exorbitant prices.
You’d think the entire reform is on “life support,” as the usually judicious National Journal put it today, speculating that Democrats may soon start calling for its repeal.
Don’t buy the hype. The numbers tell an entirely different story. What they also demonstrate is that the myth of Obamacare’s “failure” is a product of the same Republican noise machine that has been working to undermine this crucial reform since Day One. It’s assisted by news reporting about canceled health policies that typically ranges from woefully misinformed to spectacularly ignorant, and even at its best is incomplete.
Indeed, the spectacle of Democrats panicking over bad news on Obamacare resembles the herds of giraffes one sees on the Serengeti being stampeded by swarms of tsetse flies. Here’s a lesson the giraffes could teach the Dems: Stampeding leads only to injuries and death, and doesn’t solve the tsetse fly problem.
The fact is that Obamacare is here to stay. Its customer protections are worth real money to tens of millions of consumers, and it’s vastly expanding the insurance market. The politicians claiming that they’re only out to “fix” a broken program are playing you for suckers, and not for the first time.
I have been involved in educational reform efforts that have been quite major and so have seen what happens when you try to shift a system with massive inertia. Whenever one introduces a complicated change in a large system (like the ACA), there will be problems initially. That is inevitable. When that happens, there will always be people who will either demand that the changes be scrapped or demand that ad hoc changes be made to solve this or that problem. A wise leader will resist such changes and instead take a long view, trying to see if the problems are systemic, in which case they require systemic changes, or whether they are technical problems in implementation, in which case the best thing to do is to hold fast on the policy and address the technical issues
In the case of ACA, the systemic problem is the private health insurance system in the US and the systemic solution is a single-payer system, most easily implemented by opening up the Medicare system to everyone. That is not going to happen anytime soon.
Failing that, the ACA is here to stay, for a long time. Eventually, many millions of people will be enrolled and they are never going to be de-enrolled. The glitches in the system, however major, are still just technical problems and will be solved.
People need to chill out.