The Magazine

Comprehensive Failure

Obama needs to think small.

Feb 22, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 22 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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Well, it’s not true that they haven’t changed at all. Let’s just take—we’re sitting in the White House here. Every single person who comes into the White House now is posted on a website, so you know every visitor to the White House. That’s never happened in the history of the Republic.

Seriously? To be fair, he went on from there, but that was his first response. The “change we can believe in” is that the names of White House visitors are now listed online.

The comprehensive approach to problem-solving is at best ineffective and at worst dangerous. When was the last time you heard President Obama talk about local or state solutions? When was the last time you heard him talk about the federal government solving problems by scaling back its role?

The president would stand a better chance of success if he could bring himself to consider sensible, targeted solutions designed to achieve incremental but tangible gains. Take the “one-page” alternative for health care reform that has appeared in these pages (“The Small Bill,” February 8, 2010). At least three of its seven proposals—ending runaway malpractice lawsuits, allowing Americans to buy insurance across state lines, and allowing companies to offer lower premiums for healthier lifestyles—could be implemented independently, with or without the rest of the bill. All three involve having the government or the legal system get out of the way, thereby enabling health care costs to decline. 

Two of the other small-bill proposals could be implemented in tandem. We could finally end the unfair tax on the uninsured (and self-insured), giving them a tax-break similar to the one already available to those with employer-provided insurance. And we could pay for this by reallocating some of the federally administered funds that help cover the costs of treating the uninsured, and converting the rest into block-grants to the states.

The small-bill approach shows that governing this country need not invite the constant frustrations of crafting “academically approved,” federal-government-centered, comprehensive solutions to nearly every imaginable human problem, and then having to face the dispiriting struggle of getting these “elegant” solutions through our “unfortunately” democratic institutions—especially when the people, for some reason, don’t want them.

Jeffrey H. Anderson, a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute, is director of the Benjamin Rush Society.


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