23LH 12/6/13

Re Bob Woodward Obama is ill equipped to handle the Byzantine ways of Washington. In America we regularly burden our politicians by requiring a government built for limited purposes to tackle an endless array of modern demands. Our government’s chromic failure to meet our expectation is the price we pay. The reality is that the terrible defects of the president’s health care bill are the sorts of excesses you would expect to see under our system as it has evolved.
Our government was never meant to accomplish the grand, bold tasks that both sides today believe it should. Congress and the courts have had to expand the meaning of the interstate commerce clause almost to the point of absurdity. This is the only way around what was intended to be, and was sold to skeptical citizens at the time as, a limited grant of power. And the institutional structure of the government—a president, the courts, two chambers of congress, all connected via checks and balances-was designed to manage only those limited powers. What we the people have done over and over since ratifying the constitution is expand the power of the federal government without revising its structure. In 1790, Hamilton read the constitution as granting congress the power to charter a band, but it was voted down, instead of overhauling the structure we have merely tinkered at the margins, modifying the Electoral College, instituting direct election of senators, limiting presidents terms and so on.
Under Madisonian pluralism, power is distributed so that all factions have a seat at the table of government, and the likelihood of abuse by an aggressive majority is curbed.
Uncle Sam is somehow supposed to cut through parochial interest and advance the interest of the country. That is unreasonable.
In reality, bold federal endeavors require costly deals with well-positioned factions, which must be bought off, regardless of whether their position are good for the country or their exacting ransom is bad for the country. Our system gives them a veto, leverage to exact a fee from Uncle Sam. That is the real price of politics. These make programs cost more than they otherwise would. Sometimes they undermine the original goals of an imitative. They harm innocent citizens who should be the beneficiaries of public policy.
From an electoral perspective, not a single member of congress is responsible for the good of the nation, through many are happy to indulge groups that dominate their states or districts. Only the president is accountable to everyone, and his formal powers are limited by the constitution. A government, however, that is expected to generate economic growth, build highways and bridges, support farmers, food on the table, health care, scientific research, drugs, product safety, help kids afford college and armed forces—invites special treatment for well-positioned interest groups. In a word, it breeds corruption.
The more authority the government claims for itself, the more parts of society it affects. This rouses otherwise dormant factions to defend their interest. More federal power means more interest groups and therefore still more side deals. Want to know why the population of metropolitan Washington has skyrocketed in numbers and wealth over a generation, this is the answer. The government has drawn more and more interest groups to the capital to make sure they get their cut of the federal pie.
Vigorous debates whether government should be responsible for everyone’s health care, Obama and congressional dems had to buy off a motley crew of factions. Indeed this was one of their principal concerns: luring on board the “stakeholders who had stymied reforms before”. The results are a socially indefensible law. Obamacare distributional effects are perverse. An unstated rule of politics is that policy should leave middles-class families better off, or a least no worse off. OBC tramples on this principle, sticking it to families who buy insurance on the private market. Americans are seeing their insurance rates go up while their coverage networks shrink.
These people had the misfortune of being unorganized politically at the time the bill was passed: most of those receiving cancellation letters had no idea they would suffer this way. Well-organized interests—doctors, hospital, drug mfg., providers, the AARP, labor unions—all were cutting deals so they could walk a way winners.
A straightforward tax on the American people to pay for expanding health coverage was avoided for fear that people would organize in opposition. Dems shifted the burden’s of the bill onto an unorganized group in the hard-to-detect manger. Political brilliance perhaps, but social perversity.
Medicare still leaves gaps in health coverage for seniors while straining the resources of doctors and hospitals. Yet it remains essentially unreformed, because altering it would offend too many entrenched groups. Besides who notices its gross inefficiencies? Those who champion the tax code as a tool promoting economic development or social improvement must answer for its chromic wastefulness. You have to purchase well-purchased groups by burying hard to find payoffs in the tax code. The government collects less revenue than it would otherwise, but nobody personally feels a loss. The tax code, however becomes so weighed down with special deals that it must be reformed once a generation. Founders especially Madison suggests that they were deeply concerned about the danger of corruption. Their system carefully balanced structures and powers to prevent that. Subsequent leaders had less regard for balance and blithely expanded government’s powers without revisiting the structure. The results? A government so riddled with corruption that its people no longer trust it—and are right to doubt it al every turn.
OBC is the bitter fruit of our civic recklessness. It rewards or punishes factrions in society according to their political prominence.

Sources—weekly standard, jay cost


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s