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Susan Estrich
8 Oct 2014
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What Went Wrong?

Comment

Something has gone very wrong.

Was it just a year ago that Democrats assumed more control in Washington than the party has had in my lifetime? It was.

Was it just a year ago that President Obama promised a new era of change, bipartisanship and transparency? It was.

Just weeks into office, the president pushed through a major stimulus package to save the American economy, restore credit, build infrastructure and create jobs. Now, unable to get Republicans to support what was their idea — a bipartisan commission on the deficit — the president has appointed one of his own, complete with warnings about how the deficit will sink us in the future if we fail to act.

Republicans shouldn't be able to get away with opposing a bipartisan effort to reduce the deficit, but they can and they have, for one simple reason: The country has turned.

The president and the Democrats may have only lost one Senate seat (so far), but in terms of actual control, they have lost much more. Republicans can just say no as long as the country seems to agree with them. Do you want to guess what they'll be saying to television cameras next week at the "negotiating" session on health care?

So what went wrong? Every Democrat I talk to has a different answer or, rather, a different person to blame. It was Nancy Pelosi's fault or Harry Reid's or Rahm Emanuel's. Should have made a bigger show of reaching out to Republicans; shouldn't have cut those deals behind closed doors. It is, I am told every day, a communications problem.

Years ago, when I was working in politics, I had a meeting with our pollsters that I'll never forget. After a particularly detailed (and negative) survey, one of the guys who had been polling for years leaned over to me and said, "We have a very big problem. People just don't like our candidate." Not an ideological problem. Not a problem with his experience or positions. They just didn't like him.

Of course, you can't tell your candidate that the people don't like him. So we looked at each other and shook our heads. There is only one way to translate that result. Candidate, we said to him, the people don't know you.

The White House is trying to treat the problem with its health care proposal as a communications problem.

It's not that people don't want the plan; they just don't know how great it is. Our fault, says the president, for not communicating more effectively.

Not so fast.

Barack Obama is a great communicator. He's talked a lot about health care in the past year. And I've been listening. I know just as many horror stories as they do about what happens to people with pre-existing conditions, how you can't get insurance no matter what you're willing to pay, and if you have it, you can't afford to give it up, no matter how many arms and legs they charge you or how bad the coverage.

I'm all for letting people with pre-existing conditions buy affordable insurance. But letting a slew of older, sicker people into any pool will dramatically increase premiums for everyone in that pool. (What did they say about letting everyone into the pool with federal workers?) So you have to make the young, healthy people join, too, or the costs will be exorbitant.

So, hypothetically, now everyone has insurance — either they pay for it, or we do. Then what happens? Everybody gets more health care. Just exactly how does that save us money? Just exactly how do we pay for it?

Cost controls? In order to get refills for my arthritis medicine every month, I have to get pre-approval each time from the insurance company, which this week has taken most of the week. I always get the approval, of course, because this is medicine you don't stop taking after a month or two. If the insurance company saves money, it's only because making the pharmacist jump through more hoops sometimes means I miss a dose or two. This cannot be what they mean by cost control.

Get rid of unnecessary tests? I'm not really into unnecessary tests. It's getting the necessary tests approved that causes so much trouble.

Paying doctors and hospitals less to give us more? That's bound to work…

It's not a communications problem. What's gone wrong is that people see the country swimming in debt, see the jobs recovery lagging, see friends and neighbors who are not even hanging on, and they just don't know how this administration is planning to pay for a massive health care reform effort.

The appointment of a bipartisan commission on the deficit only underscores the problem and makes it seem that the administration has no answer for it except another new spending program. "Just say no" isn't the answer to the need for health care reform — but neither is another big spending program when we are being told our historic debt is a ticking time bomb for our children.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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Comments

13 Comments | Post Comment
If Congress would redesign and rename Health Care Reform to become Insurance Reform, all of America would be on board. Insurance companies control this country. That's where reform is needed! Leave our doctors alone! They sacrifice their youth for med school and residencies. They continue training and learning their entire careers to give us the best care on the planet. They deserve to make tons of money. Insurance companies, on the other hand, are a royal pain with too much power. They need to be dethroned!
Comment: #1
Posted by: Naomi Niederer
Fri Feb 19, 2010 4:34 AM
In one aspect I agree the average individual just doesn't get what healthcare is all about. Please walk a mile in my shoes. I faced reality when CONGRESS passed mandatory treatment of all patients in the emergency room. Ever since then the emergency room is the revolving door for individuals who would rather go there and get "free" healthcare instead of being responsible and take daily medications to prevent problems (ie diabetes). Why pay for any healthcare insurance when you can get it for free and every individual is entitled to healthcare by congress. Well let us examine who gives their time. The hospitals got their money (therefore the nurses and any employee of the hospital), the ambulance, etc. OOPS how about the doctor (maybe a surgeon needs to see the patient because of a spreading infection), or any other physician the it on mandatory call (mandated by the hospital). Before CONGRESS passed EMTALA it was a volunteer thing but now its mandatory and guess what you are doing it for free! It usually happens well you know after 5 PM or I don't have time to go to the doctors office even if the doctor can "fit" you into the office hours. Afterall CONGRESS said I am entitled to be treated even if I don't want to be responsible of taking care of my health needs. I like the "clinics" set up by corporations but they don't do it for free eventhough the client is told it is free. Yes, I guess I get it. WHY SHOULD I PAY FOR ANYTHING WHEN CONGRESS SAYS I AM ENTITLED TO RECEIVE FREE STUFF!
Comment: #2
Posted by: Barbara Fong
Fri Feb 19, 2010 7:00 AM
Why do grand theories that sound good on paper fail? In the end it's always about human actions and motivations. Keynes, and Plato can't account for it. And according to Hayek, no one can. It is only conceit that allows us to think that economic functions of a nation are simply a series of equations that can be managed by technocrats. "The curious task of economics is to show men how little they know about that they imagine they can design".

When we have a chance to vote for the government we want, we inherently channel our wishes. The idea of social conscience is an easy one and it is pervasive across all political spectrums. People who believe too much in free competition are labelled as heartless, cruel, and we tune out their message, even though we also understand that learning to fish strengthens us, while asking for free fish eventually will destroy us. We all want all men to be equal, not recognizing that equality in opportunity is the real strength of a nation, while equality in entitlements as a road to eventual ruin is not even conceivable to many.

Friedrich Hayek gave us a convincing argument that regardless of how noble our intentions are, interventions by central planning always leads to tyranny, yet we choose to igonore it. The 60s and 70s saw the beginnings of high unemployment along with high unemployment, yet at the first sign of trouble, we unquestioningly agreed that the very Keynesian antidote that brought about stagflation is what was needed.

Through all of this, no economist stepped back to gently ask the powers to look at the debt picture before we embark on this large spending binge. In hindsight, it's all so clear, but anyone who can add and divide numbers should have seen this even before it started.

What really went wrong? It's simple, we all assumed that with all that bailouts and stimulus in 2008 and then 2009, almost $2T in extra stimulus and bailout spendings, we believed it would be enough to stem the tide. What we underestimated is that the efficiency of government spendings is much much lower than we we could imagine even in our most pessimistic nightmare scenarios. $2T is about $2M for every million unemployed. Surely that would slow unemployment in a country that has a median household income of $50,000?

Some of the unexpected aspects of the stimulus spendings is that we all forget that the government really has no real money to spend. For the government to run $3T in deficits in '09 and '10, it either borrows or increases taxes, or it could allow higher inflation. But higher inflation at a time of high unemployment --- we all remember the 70s and what happened, that leaves only borrowing or more tax revenue.

We all mock Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain as countries with governments who spend without a plan to pay them off. Again with hindsight, anyone can see that it's so obvious : you cannot have a debt that is many times of what you take in and continue to increase that debt. You cannot have debt/GDP of over 100% or you deserve to be a pariah state who has to beg other countries for the right to exist.

Yet, the US national debt is at almost 6x of total tax revenue, and debt /GDP is almost 87%. Feel pity for Greece? How about looking at ourselves in the mirror?

Now that we see how inefficient government spendings really are, how can we agree to allow the government to create new channels to spend new money? The answer is simple. We can't. Obama and the left wing of his party doesn't understand. Bayh does. The GOP IS the party of NO, and the electorate in NJ, Virgina, Massachusetts (for god's sake, massachusetts of all places) cheered them on. So that they can continue to say No. What does this mean?

Wise men when faced with a sequence of setbacks may choose to be more introspective, listen to what people really want, and reconsider a different road, others will choose to assume the people are childish and simply continue to speak slower using simpler language hoping eventually everyone will understand how enlightened and noble these grand plans are.

Guess who always gets the last word?
Comment: #3
Posted by: john tk
Sun Feb 21, 2010 2:40 PM
What went wrong? Reality struck. The campaign was flowery rhetoric, channeling Santa Claus and promising real live ponies under the tree. When realists asked, "And exactly how will you put that pony under the tree?" the questioner was waved off or called a "racists" or simply dismissed.

Now EVERYONE sees how the pony gets under the tree. The men who own the mares that foaled the ponies were told they had to give the foal to Santa--to make dreams come true, you see. Then, when they tried to breed for another foal Santa informed them that breeding the mares is inhumane.

Meanwhile, the feed stores were forced to hand over the oats to feed the ponies--we can't have Moms and Dads having to buy all that feed, can we? And the farmers had to give out hay.

And then the vets and farriers were told they had to make house calls to maintain the ponies, since we can't have Christmas ponies with splayed hooves and worms and West Nile, can we?

So the breeders, the feed shops, the farmers, the vets and the farriers are revolting. Only the kiddies who actually wanted the ponies, and rode their real live ponies a week before dropping them for the X-Box are happy with the arrangement.
Comment: #4
Posted by: MarieE
Sun Feb 21, 2010 3:59 PM
Susan-The Republicans aren't the problem in DC-Obama and his cohorts on the hill could ram through anything they want-they haven't because they are spineless, and because at the end of the day, even members of Obama's own party don't agree with his Maoist agenda.

Lets stop blaming things on the Republicans Susan. Obama's entire ideology is flawed. The congress, and their crony litigators(your crony litigators, and obama's crony litigators give too much money to politicians for them to be able to do the 2 things that would fix the system-Tort Reform and inter-state insurance selling. There is no competition from state to state-only government built monopolies granted to the insurance companies by the congressmen/women and senators who's seats they bought. Make competition and stop allowing trial lawyers make 100's of millions on broken arms, and the system would be fixed instantly.

You and the rest of your colleagues have been covering for the Bar and for the Congress for too long. Crony capitalism is the rule of law in DC-nothing else needs fixing. End crony capitalism and you fix most of our problems-don't need tax attorneys if the tax code isn't 50,000 pages. Don't need malpractice lawyers by the thousands of you don't let them sue doctors for sneezing on patients!

Stop the madness. We all know you are a democrat, so you don't have to toe the party line to us. How about actually suggesting real fixes for the problems. So a few of your scumbag trial attorney buddies won't talk to you any more-they only do when they want something anyway!

Grow up-to you and the rest of the political protectors of the criminal element inside the beltway. You embarrass yourself when you spew nonsense like blaming Republicans because no Democrat has a spine! And you make yourself look like a total dingbat when you don't talk about the true problems with the system, like the fact that the federal government and the states don't pay their medicare medicaid bills on time, so the doctors have to commit fraud if they are going to take those two insurance policies, breaking down the state barriers for health insurance, and stopping the trial lobby, which is a cabal of a bunch of thieves!

Get real Susan, and maybe you will have an ounce more credibility than the moron your party put in the WH!
Comment: #5
Posted by: Matt P
Mon Feb 22, 2010 9:06 PM
Obama intent to cover every one for every aliment is not possible. The average doctors visit is for the flu, a straight throat, a manor cut, and the like. These manors medical interventions do not call for the huge increase in insurance rate or taxes increase.
The health care bill should cover major illness: cancer, heart disease, mental disease etc. These diseases are those that require long treatments that are expensives for the average American.
The minor illnesses should be handled through deductable or special coverage available but not part of the health care federal coverage.
The idea that the health care coverage will be for all illnesses and with full coverage at no cost to the individual is utopia.
Comment: #6
Posted by: ousaou
Tue Feb 23, 2010 3:23 AM
I was once told that the only thing we are given in life is an opportunity. What we do with it is up to us. I was led to believe that if we achieved and prospered we were rewarded. If we didn't recognize opportunity and take advantage of it we failed. Somehow the equation has been reversed. If we prosper we're punished, if we fail we're rewarded. Am I missing something?
Comment: #7
Posted by: W J A
Tue Feb 23, 2010 7:03 AM
WHAT WENT WRONG? P R E S I D E N T O B A M A IS WHAT IS WRONG..HE IS STUBBORN, A LIAR, A SOCIALIST , AND WANTS TO GET HIS HANDS OF EVERY CENT AND SPEND IT AND TO DESTROY WHAT AMERICANS BELIEVE IN...WHY IS HE SO SET? IF THE PEOPLE DON'T WANT THIS HUGH GOVERNMENT, WHY IS HE SO ADAMANT? BECAUSE APPARENTLY HE IS "DESTROYING" AMERICA..... HE HAS SPENT US SO FAR INTO DEBT AND IT WAS "NOT" AND I REAPEAT, "NOT" ALL BUSH....IN FACT I BELIEVE OBAMA HAS SPENT AT LEAST 3000% MORE THAN BUSH AT LEAST! AND WHY IS HE INCLUDING ILLEGALS IN OUR HEALTH CARE WHEN THEY HAVE SPENT THE MONEY THE AGED THOUGHT WAS SET BACK FOR THEM , ALL THE WHILE THE GOV'T HAS BEEN SPENDING, NO STEALING IT AND NOT PUTTING IT BACK WITH INTEREST OR WE WOULD ALL BE FINE IN HEALTH CARE!
ILLEGALS SHOULD NOT BE INCLUDED!!! WHY DO YOU THINK CA. HAS GONE BROKE? WELL THAT IS ONLY A PART.
I AM TIRED OF THIS PRESIDENT AND SO MANY PEOPLE SEEM TO BE SO NON CHALANT ABOUT THIS....IT IS OUR VERY LIFE'S BLOOD HERE AND OBAMA OUGHT TO BE SMART ENOUGH TO KNOW THAT ANDI DON'T BELEIVE HE HAS ANY OF HIS HUGE WORKERS HE HAS CHOSEN THAT HAVE ANY BRAINS IN ACCOUNTING...THEIR FIGURES ARE WRONG ALL THE TIME AND OBAMA, WELL WHO CAN BELIEVE HIM ANYMORE? HE HAS LIED SO MUCH.... HE HAS TRICKLED DOWN MONEY TO A LOT OF PEOPLE AND I HOPE HE GETS INVESTIGATED....AND NOW CHANGING ACORN TO ANOTHER NAME AND HE HAS LIED ABOUT THEM TOO....YES, WHAT WENT WRONG IS LETTING OBAMA IN (BARAK HUSSIEN OBAMA????))
HE IS BIG TROUBLE AND WILL BE FOR AS LONG AS HE IS IN OFFICE!
Comment: #8
Posted by: Marge
Tue Feb 23, 2010 7:13 AM
Socialiam, Facism, Communism. None of these work to the advantage of the people. We have a democratic republic with idividual freedoms and let's keep it that way. It's given the USA the best health care system in the world, however flawed, with the finest medical facilities, personnel and research. Let's keep it that way. We're also the most charitable prople on earth and don't like to see people suffer even those outside our country. Let's keep it that way!
Comment: #9
Posted by: Early
Tue Feb 23, 2010 7:16 AM
There is no getting rich in the health insurance business. Sure people make money and some good money but it's no different than a car company, bank, food distributor or a thousand other businesses. This is called a market system and it works well. If true competition were allowed to be used it would work better but legislators....not insurance companies...have made those restrictions. Lift them and let people buy insurance from mulitiple sources. In Mississippi there are only 2 insurers. There is a lot of complaining about how much insurance companies back but the fact of the matter is they make only about 2 to 3 % profit. That is slime. Hershery chocolate makes more than twice that. Most companies of that size make more than that. The government likes to divide and conquer and they do this by blaming the insurres and pitting sured against them. In fact, it is governments intervention that makes insurance costly.
Comment: #10
Posted by: Adam
Tue Feb 23, 2010 8:47 AM
Well said Adam. If everyone will do a little checking they would see that health care was not so expensive until LBJ gave us Medicare. Once the govt tinkered with the market it was forever twisted into something else. In case it is unknown to the reader, BC&BS of all states is a state run insurance company that is supposed to be not for profit, that's not a joke, it really is. Almost every one of the Blues have had some kink of corruption issues and what else can we expect, its government employees on the take. It's laughable how politicians and govt employees like to point their finger at the private sector and say there is greed! Government workers are constantly getting busted for embezzlement or some other corruption offense. We dont want the greedy government getting their hands on Our health care. If you think the Insurance Companies are greedy and heartless, just let the government take over. Have you been to your local Health Department lately?
Comment: #11
Posted by: Aaron
Tue Feb 23, 2010 3:50 PM
Susan,
I hope you don't mind my calling you that, you seem so familiar to me, having seen you frequently "punditifying" on TV and all. While I agree with some of your criticisms of Obama and the Dems, I feel I must correct you on your lead-in "facts". I know from perusing a bio for you that you are 3 years older than I am (sorry, one should never bring up a woman's age, but...), and since I was in my third year of undergrad when Carter took office, You had to be at some stage of your Harvard Law studies. So you, being a political pundit, should be aware that he had an even larger majority than Obama started with. I certainly remember it (and remember being dismayed by it). Going even further back, we can find that JFK and LBJ also enjoyed rather comfortable majorities in both Houses (although probably neither you or I were much aware of politics back then, at least until the latter part of LBJ's full term).
It just looks bad and denies credibility to your entire argument when you start off with such a blatant disregard for the truth (perhaps for dramatic appeal?). The problem is, that I agree wholeheartedly with the rest of your essay, so it is rather irksome to see you begin it with something so easily researched (heard of Google?) and debunked.
Comment: #12
Posted by: Montie
Sat Feb 27, 2010 8:26 PM
Susan,
I hope you don't mind my calling you that, you seem so familiar to me, having seen you frequently "punditifying" on TV and all. While I agree with some of your criticisms of Obama and the Dems, I feel I must correct you on your lead-in "facts". I know from perusing a bio for you that you are 3 years older than I am (sorry, one should never bring up a woman's age, but...), and since I was in my third year of undergrad when Carter took office, You had to be at some stage of your Harvard Law studies. So you, being a political pundit, should be aware that he had an even larger majority than Obama started with. I certainly remember it (and remember being dismayed by it). Going even further back, we can find that JFK and LBJ also enjoyed rather comfortable majorities in both Houses (although probably neither you or I were much aware of politics back then, at least until the latter part of LBJ's full term).
It just looks bad and denies credibility to your entire argument when you start off with such a blatant disregard for the truth (perhaps for dramatic appeal?). The problem is, that I agree wholeheartedly with the rest of your essay, so it is rather irksome to see you begin it with something so easily researched (heard of Google?) and debunked.
Comment: #13
Posted by: Montie
Sat Feb 27, 2010 8:28 PM
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