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It’s Just Contradiction

Jul 22, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 42 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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In just a few years, Washington Post wunderkind Ezra Klein has made himself the go-to journalist whenever the NPR-totebag set wants to understand a complicated policy issue. In particular, he’s established himself as arguably the leading health care pundit, thanks to his tireless efforts blogging and reporting. Far too many reporters, young and old, are lazy, and to Klein’s credit he works hard. Of course, if your job were to come up with explanations for why Obamacare is working, you too would end up busier than a beaver in a lake of espresso. 

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When we say Klein is “arguably the leading health care pundit,” that’s because at this point he’s constantly arguing with himself. He unconditionally supported every iteration of a terrible and unduly complicated piece of legislation, so with each of Obamacare’s numerous and ongoing failures, Klein is now renouncing positions he once held. Case in point: The Obama administration recently announced they were delaying the implementation of the “employer mandate”​—​that is, the part of the legislation that requires businesses with 50 or more full-time employees to offer health insurance that meets the Obamacare standard. Anyone with a lick of sense knew that this was a terrible idea, among other things because it would impede hiring. If a business has 49 employees, and hiring 1 more would mean a massive overnight increase in operating costs, small businesses aren’t exactly going to be eager to expand their workforces. 

After the Obama administration acknowledged the obvious (or at least tried not to kneecap Democrats in the midterm election next year), Klein reliably rushed in with a piece headlined, “Obamacare’s employer mandate shouldn’t be delayed. It should be repealed.” Lest you be tempted to congratulate Klein on his bout of sanity, bear in mind that this is the zeal of a convert. Back in 2009, when Obamacare was still being written, Klein wrote that “CBO [Congressional Budget Office] Gives Us the Key to Health-Care Reform: The Employer Mandate.” Klein was convinced the employer mandate would help insure millions, and he was writing about an early version of the Obamacare bill, in which the employer mandate was even more draconian:

But oh, what a difference a mandate makes: The new version of the HELP [Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions] bill includes an employer mandate for firms with more than 25 workers. .  .  . The June 15 [CBO] report estimated that 15 million Americans would lose their employer-based coverage under HELP’s bill. Today’s report estimates that a mere 150,000 will lose their coverage. That’s nothing. And it means that a lot more Americans end up insured and the government spends a lot less in subsidies.

I’ll have much more on other provisions of the bill later. But the overarching lesson of these CBO reports is simple: You can’t do health-care reform​—​at least not this kind of health-care reform​—​without an employer mandate.

Of course, the employer mandate was included in Obamacare in part because the penalties imposed on businesses who couldn’t comply with the mandate were considerable. This was a key part of the kabuki accounting Democrats were using to pretend that Obamacare was cost-effective, which they needed to do in order to gain enough support for it to pass. Once passed, the president could then just unilaterally ignore the law as written and strike the impractical and insincere sections of the law on a whim, even if it made the law much more expensive than promised. And best of all, media turnspits like Klein would applaud this disingenuous legislating coming and going. 

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