The Paternalism of ObamaCare Supporters

Americans just don't know what's good for them.

The paternalistic style in American politics loses its causes but never its condescension.

Frustrated utopian Robert Owen lamented how men overlook their “true interests.” American Marxists decried the “false consciousness” of workers who stood athwart the ideas of their hirsute guru. Noam Chomsky disregarded public opinion that conflicted with his own as “manufactured consent.” Thomas Frank wrote a whole book pondering the “self-denying votes” of Americans.

The New York Times similarly finds opposition to ObamaCare rooted in bad public relations rather than bad public policy. Americans apparently just don’t know what’s best for them.

“Erika Losse is precisely the kind of person President Obama’s signature health care law is intended to help,” begins a Thursday piece in the New York Times. But the Times reporter discovers that she opposes the law. Losse’s opposition stems from the law’s decree that Americans purchase health insurance. The reporter retorts, “Never mind that Ms. Losse, who makes less than $35,000 a year, would probably qualify for subsidized insurance under the law.” The article, titled online “Distaste for Health Care Law Reflects Spending on Ads,” blames ObamaCare’s woes on money and manipulation.

The reporting reads as a running rebuttal of ObamaCare’s critics, who, the paper discovered earlier this month, wildly outnumber its advocates. A New York Times/CBS poll found 68 percent of Americans hoping that the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the law in whole (41 percent) or in part by eliminating the individual mandate (27 percent). Just 24 percent of respondents want the court to retain the law. The paper strangely buried the damning numbers for ObamaCare in paragraph 16 of an article highlighting the decline in popularity of the same body that judges the unpopular law’s constitutionality any day now.

The paper can’t criticize its pollsters. So it has gone after those polled.

With the nine justices handing down their ruling on the systemic health-care overhaul in just days, the law’s backers have gone into premature excuse-mode on why the embattled law has so few backers.

Academics Theda Skocpol and Lawrence R. Jacobs of the Scholars Strategy Network took to the pages of the Los Angeles Times to insist, “The mandate brouhaha is truly much ado about almost nothing.” The professors claim that the opposition hasn’t so much as persuaded the public as it has petrified them. They write, “Enemies of reform have demonized the mandate to scare the public.”

“So now, a few days before that announcement is due, Obama officials are trying to sell the positive parts of the law,” Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi wrote on Thursday. “Good luck to them. Much of the public already thinks of health care reform as the end of America as they know it, because that’s the way opponents relentlessly portrayed it.”

Get it? People don’t oppose ObamaCare because of what it is. They oppose it because of how it is depicted.

The paternalistic pre-postmortem of ObamaCare by its supporters is entirely consistent with the paternalistic nature of the legislation itself. At every step, the crafters of the legislation have behaved as though the people covered by the law were too stupid to have their own opinions on it.

From drafting the legislation behind closed doors to the bill’s impossibly opaque verbiage to the late-night votes on it to Nancy Pelosi’s “Are you serious?” answer to a question on whether the bill passes Constitutional muster, the process of ObamaCare proved offensively arrogant. Of course, this says nothing of the bill itself, which tells individuals they must pay insurance companies for coverage, dictates to insurance companies who and what they must cover, pressures doctors to deny certain costly procedures, and so on. Kathleen Sebelius knows best.

Perhaps most patronizing of all is the law’s Orwellian name, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  By unnaturally ratcheting up the supply of insurance customers through the mandate, empowering the federal government to control prices (and thus create shortages and drive up prices), and taxing everything from medical devices to top-tier health plans, the act will necessarily make care less affordable. By creating boards and bureaucracies to make decisions better left to doctors and patients, the bill preys on rather than protects patients.

Instead of falling for the packaging most Americans see through it. A law presented as containing costs turns out to be a welfare entitlement exploding them. The underestimated masses are smart enough not to judge a bill by its title. The people who dismissed everyone else as stupid have ultimately demonstrated their own stupidity.

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