Only Capitalism Can Fix Obama’s Socialist Website

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.


Health Overhaul FloridaEvery leader has his great challenge. FDR had WW2. JFK had a trip to the moon. Ronald Reagan had the Cold War. George W. Bush had 9/11. Barack Obama has a website.

ObamaCare loyalists are calling the bid to repair the broken site a “moonshot” and quoting lines from Apollo 13 as if trying to fix an overgrown government website is like surviving a return to earth with a damaged spacecraft. America has gone from challenges like building 75,000 combat aircraft in a single year during WW2 and beating the Soviet Union to the moon… to trying to make a website work.

Obama’s two victories were widely credited to his Internet savvy. But the digital Hope and Change campaign was really more of a bait and switch. When it came to getting elected and staying popular; he outsourced the work to private sector professionals.

Obama’s digital strategy campaign was handled by talent from successful companies like Facebook and Google; including a Facebook co-founder. His health care website was put together by the usual crony contractors who were adept at pulling the right political strings to win no-bid contracts despite their terrible track records.

The Obama campaign would never have turned over its political fate to a company whose only virtue was that a top executive had gone to college with Michelle Obama. But it had no objection to tuning over the health care and private information of millions of Americans to their tender digital mercies.

Obama put his political fortunes ahead of the health and welfare of Americans. It was only when the Healthcare.gov disaster dealt a severe blow to his poll numbers that he called in a “tech surge” of engineers from Google and other politically friendly companies who had made his campaign work.

He didn’t call them in because he cared whether Americans had access to health care. If he had; he would have called them in a lot sooner. Instead he did it to bring his poll numbers back up again.

Obama’s bait and switch promised private sector level sophistication for a giant Socialist boondoggle. The digital strategy that had made him seem tech savvy was worlds away from the grinding bureaucratic mess that made Healthcare.gov the disaster that, despite all the claims to the contrary, it still is today.

Healthcare.gov could never have actually run like Amazon or iTunes; no matter what Obama promised. That idea was as ridiculous as trying to graft a water buffalo onto a greyhound. The private sector and public sector are different species of technology workflow.

Government employees are not all incompetent idiots and private sector employees aren’t all geniuses. There are plenty of smart people who work for the government and plenty of stupid people who work in the private sector.

It’s the process that is fundamentally different.

The Standish Group states that 94 percent of large federal information technology projects undertaken during the past decade were unsuccessful. These staggering numbers made the Healthcare.gov disaster inevitable.

Google and Facebook exist because small groups of students pushed themselves to accomplish ridiculously ambitious goals. If CGI, the primary Healthcare.gov contractor, had received a government contract to create Facebook to government specifications and with government oversight; there would be no Facebook today.

The issue isn’t difficulty level. It’s culture.

After Khrushchev’s visit to the United States; he tried to reproduce the innovations in agriculture and construction that he had been shown. These efforts proved to be a miserable failure.

Khrushchev bought seed corn from the United States and unveiled a massive corn planting campaign. But the Soviet agricultural system treated corn the way that it had wheat with disastrous results. Corn planting techniques weren’t a great mystery; but the Soviet system was a rigid bureaucracy incapable of learning anything new or adapting its methods to the task. Instead, like all bureaucracies, it tried to adapt the task to its usual methods and its ideological armor made its ignorance into a virtue.

The same thing happened with Healthcare.gov. Instead of trying to adapt the methods to the task, the system treated the construction of a website like any other policy; with rigid guidelines emerging out of constant meetings setting up an inflexible process for getting it done without actually understanding what it was that was being done.

Like the Soviet bureaucrats planting corn where it wasn’t meant to go; their American counterparts relentlessly kept spending money on a website built around their guidelines without even seeing if it worked. Like their Communist brethren, they refused to report failure up the chain of command and instead treated success as a function of their procedures… rather than of the functional outcome.

Obama, like Khrushchev, was humiliated and caught by surprise when he realized that his grand project had fallen apart. Both Socialist leaders had thought that it was enough to order their subordinates to imitate a successful free market product without understanding that it’s the production process that makes the product. Trying to imitate the product without the production process is a recipe for disaster.

To a bureaucracy, success is not defined by how much corn you grow or how many users a website can handle; but whether every proper procedure was followed in the production of the corn or the website.

For his tech surge, Obama has been forced to go outside the government bureaucracy and its crony capitalist clingers to private sector engineers. Like Lenin’s New Economy Policy or the Soviet Union’s increasingly desperate attempts at enlisting American aid to fix its agriculture; Obama has implicitly acknowledged that the ideological government he runs is unfit for the task that he has set it to.

A temporary free market fix may eventually get Healthcare.gov working again but can’t address the roots of its failure which are not in mere code; but in the bureaucratic DNA of government. A few engineers will eventually get the website working; but they can’t fix the entire broken culture behind it.

The website doesn’t matter. Healthcare.gov isn’t Facebook or Google where the service is the product. It’s meant to serve as a distribution gateway for products that have come out of the same dysfunctional bureaucratic process. Fixing Healthcare.gov isn’t like fixing Google or Facebook. It’s like fixing Amazon’s website without fixing its corporate culture, its warehouse distribution, its advertising and its products.

No matter how many Facebook or Google vets hack the Obama campaign or Healthcare.gov; they can’t fix the underlying problem with their real product… which is government bureaucracy.

Margaret Thatcher famously said that the trouble with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money. That’s the economic trouble with Socialism. The functional trouble with Socialism is that you eventually run out of the free market talent to make its projects plod along without breaking down.

Obama’s solution to everything is more government. And how is the same government process that can’t make a health care website work, going to make a health care system work?

*

Don’t miss David Horowitz on The Glazov Gang discussing his new collection of conservative writings, The Black Book of the American Left, Volume I: My Life and Times:

Part I:

Part II:

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  • truebearing

    “America has gone from challenges like building 75,000 combat aircraft in a single year during WW2 and beating the Soviet Union to the moon… to trying to make a website work.”

    Ah…the stark truth about the precipitous fall of the greatest nation in history. The truth will set you free, but not before depressing you for awhile. Great piece Daniel, but thanks for not sharing that observation before Thanksgiving. It’s all too true.

    The difference between the private sector and government bureaucracies undertaking large challenges is stark. The private sector faces economic mortality when it fails. The government puts itself on taxpayer life support, blundering on indefinitely, and wastefully, with no serious consequences for those who fail. The only thing they lose is our money….or security…or freedom.

    The engine of Big Government runs on human lives. The Left sees people as sustainable fuel.

    • davarino

      True dat, true. I hope that something good can come from this God awful mess, and that is the set back of the left. That all of Obama’s hubris will show in stark contrast the difference between socialism and conservatism. I also hope that McCain and his ilk wont get in the way of the down fall of the left.

      • Fritz

        McCain has basically declared himself to be a lame duck, after this term he’s retiring, and good riddance.

    • RAM

      This is a test for low-something voters. Can any level of government-caused damage to their lives stop them from electing and re-electing our socialist type of ruling class?

  • nobody

    Please don’t let him know the secret to success. I hope his site continues to fail, all is repealed and Obama is squeezed out from office like the little zit he is.

  • http://fdnyretiree.com/ Ed FDNYRetiree

    WRONG! Nothing can fix it.

  • http://tinatrent.com/ Tina Trent

    So what we have is a Lysenkoist website that promises to transform my weak bourgeois private-sector health insurance into sturdy winter collectivist health insurance through the magic of Marxist/Leninist agronomy.

    Now everything makes sense.

    • Habbgun

      Are you sure ? I was discussing it with my artist friend and he agrees that it is an example of post-modern art. The website challenges our culturally conditioned ideas of what is and what isn’t a website. It places the programmer in the same position as the artist. If the artist expresses himself and is satisfied with the work who are you to say he is not an artist? Similarly if the programmer feels he has truly expressed how he feels about the process and the data who are you say he is not a programmer?

      The error messages. The surreal experiences all point to a heavy Dada influence. The only reason people hate it is because its not what the establishment wants.Stupid racist establishment.

      • ricpic

        The dirty little secret is that what makes an artist an artist is erasure of his precious little self, not its expression.

      • Daniel Greenfield

        Genius

  • ricpic

    Greenfield nails it. The bureaucratic mind loves rules, not results. Ergo the coming public sector health care implementation disaster.

    • BS77

      Just remember the unspoken rules common to the hacks and shills of the Nanny State bureaucracies and leftist elites: No one is responsible for anything. No one gets fired for incompetence because of rule one. The more money that is wasted, the better. Failure is a temporary inconvenience. All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.

      • BS77

        Also….the website is not the problem…..it’s the disaster the website presumes to access and sell. The website is like a glamorous entry way to an empty lot….and the price of admission is high.

  • krinks

    We wouldn’t be having this discussion had it not been for “capitalists” in the Health Insurance marketplace. More than one whistleblower has stated the way to get ahead as a Health Insurance Executive is to come up with more and more creative reasons to deny treatment. More than one person has died for treatment that was denied because a Health Insurance company was trying to protect its bottom line.

    • Daniel Greenfield

      That’s one thing that can’t happen when the government runs healthcare (Cough) Liverpool care pathway (Cough)

      The government would never kill people to save money. Just look at all the ObamaCare advocates writing about how expensive the last few months of life are and how we need to start reducing tests.

      • krinks

        Can’t happen? Read all about the Death Panels in the Netherlands. People that fail the Death Panels get euthanized without their consent.

      • Barbara

        Re private enterprise: In general I agree with you. But I’ve heard that Oracle has really failed with the State of Washington’s Obamacare website. Do you know anything about this?

        • Barbara

          P.S. Actually, It think it was Oregon’s website. In any case, according to an NPR broadcast (I force myself to listen occasionally) the site is dysfunctional and Oracle has missed deadline after deadline. Curious.

    • Fritz

      Well people dying while cuing up for treatment on a waiting list, or being denied treatment, is an everyday fact of life in Canada, with it’s Soviet Style healthcare system. At least if there is some private health care, and you can somehow come up with the money, you can be treated, with a state run monopoly system it’s the only game in town.

  • RAM

    Improving the website by whatever method only hastens the direct contact between the lousy new medical plans and the forced consumers. Sooner or later, all get to see the damage the plans and their administrators will do to them.

  • Fritz

    McCain has basically declared himself to be a lame duck, after this term he’s retiring, and good riddance.

  • Fritz

    Well people dying while cuing up for treatment on a waiting list, or being denied treatment, is an everyday fact of life in Canada, with it’s Soviet Style healthcare system. At least if there is some private health care, and you can somehow come up with the money, you can be treated, with a state run monopoly system it’s the only game in town.

  • krinks

    Fair enough.

  • sendtheclunkerbacktochicago

    How come no one is checking into the folks who were awarded the NO BID contract to create the website and are now attempting to fix the damn thing? I would be willing to bet that they have friends at 1600 Penn Ave perhaps Valerie Jarrett and Michelle Obama (the beard).

  • Mila

    What a brilliant analysis…. Growing up and living in the USSR for half of my life,
    I constantly was comparing Obama’s methods and intentions with the Soviet system, but I never read or heard this from anybody else. I thought people are
    totally incapable or unwilling to see these similarities. Mr. Greenfield sees them clearer, than many people, who came from these socialist countries. I think this parallel between the Soviet system and Obama’s utopian America needs to be
    explored and underlined much more so Americans finally start to understand what they are dealing with until it is too late.

  • Lance

    They’re COMMUNIST, not Socialist, Dan.