Obamacare is a nightmare because today’s progressives have forgotten what FDR learned Jan 27, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 19 • By ARTHUR HERMAN and JOHN YOO
Obamacare has quickly become a train wreck. Its troubled website, higher premiums, and inevitable shortages and rationing, married to President Barack Obama’s political refusals to enforce parts of the law, guarantee that the program will go down as one of
the great public policy debacles in American history.
Unless the White House fixes the problems, the Obama legacy will be a government-controlled health care system that’s long on bureaucracy and short on doctors, with less treatment at higher cost. It is difficult to think of another domestic policy that failed so fast, for so many, at such expense. But one example from American history—Franklin Roosevelt’s rearmament program during World War II—provides both a warning and a guide. For while, as initially conceived, the national mobilization shared many of the fatal defects of Obamacare, changes were made in time to avert disaster, and the United States was transformed into the famous “arsenal of democracy.” Obamacare requires a similar course correction. Unlike the pragmatic FDR, however, today’s left so far refuses to reconsider and embrace market principles, preferring to sacrifice results on the altar of progressive ideology.
Committed to the belief that government is the solution to the nation’s most pressing problems, the Obama White House has not recognized that the real solution to the nation’s health care woes lies in less government, not more. The secret is to increase the supply side of the equation, instead of micromanaging the demand side, controlling what kind and how much coverage patients should receive, and eventually even how much treatment.
It is that lesson that Americans learned the last time Washington tried to take over large sections of the economy for its own purposes. In trying to get the United States ready for modern war—the U.S. Army was slightly bigger than Holland’s—Roosevelt was under intense pressure to direct the entire effort from the White House, placing the crash program under the control of a single all-powerful figure whose word would have the force of law. Harry Hopkins wrote in a secret memo that America had to “exceed the Nazis” in commandeering the economy. And in some areas, such as rationing and wage and price controls, the New Dealers got their top-down way, plunging the country into the kind of bureaucratic nightmare we see unfolding with Obamacare.
But in the all-important matter of converting a civilian economy to wartime production, Roosevelt had the sense to realize the job was too huge to be orchestrated by politicians and bureaucrats. Instead, he brought in top executives from industry to work out the timetable and means, using skills and experience developed in the marketplace. The result was the greatest industrial miracle of modern times.
Even so, when Roosevelt recruited business leaders like General Motors president Bill Knudsen, AT&T’s Bill Harrison, and U.S. Steel chairman Edward Stettinius to help him arm the country in the summer of 1940, they soon learned that his New Deal beliefs made their assignment harder, not easier. One was a deep suspicion of the profit motive. Roosevelt and his advisers instinctively assumed that letting companies make good money producing the warplanes and tanks and landing craft the nation needed was war profiteering. Knudsen and his colleagues in the Office of Production Management had to explain that the profit motive would actually incentivize America’s best businesses to commit time and energy and creativity to their task. “The more people we get” volunteering to go into wartime production, Knudsen told the president, “the more brains we can get into it, [and] the better chance it will succeed.” Obamacare’s rules are designed to do the opposite: to limit the number of insurance providers and types of policies on the market, and to discourage newcomers from getting into the field.
FDR’s second assumption was that certain strategic materials like rubber, steel, and aluminum were too vital to the war effort to be left to uncertain market forces and instead needed to be allocated by government in order to avoid shortages at critical points. But the opposite is true. Price controls and rationing plans, no matter how expertly designed, produce allocation distortions of their own—as the architects of Obamacare are about to find out.
Bring the ‘clerkship’ back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Nov 11, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 09 • By JAY COST
At the start of last month’s government shutdown, a mostly overlooked message emanated from the Twitter account of Michelle Obama, informing her followers: “Due to Congress’s failure to pass legislation to fund the government, updates to this account will be limited.” The conventions of American governance typically exclude the first lady from the rough-and-tumble of politics, yet it does raise an important question: Why is America paying a staffer good money to publish Tweets under Michelle Obama’s name?
11:32 PM, Sep 10, 2013 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Near the end of his speech to the nation on Syria, President Obama quoted Franklin Roosevelt: “Our national determination to keep free of foreign wars and foreign entanglements cannot prevent us from feeling deep concern when ideas and principles that we have cherished are challenged.”
Jul 22, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 42 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
A Historian, burrowing in the National Archives, recently found a short reel of film which seems not only to have remained hidden since it was shot nearly 70 years ago, but has proved to be one of a kind. It shows President Franklin D. Roosevelt on board the USS Baltimore at Pearl Harbor in July 1944, meeting his Pacific war commanders, Adm. Chester Nimitz and Gen. Douglas MacArthur.
2:16 PM, Jul 10, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
The Associated Press reports, "An Indiana college professor has found rare film footage showing President Franklin Delano Roosevelt being pushed in a wheelchair, depicting a secret not revealed to the public until after his death."
May 14, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 33 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
No whining. No nagging. No teeth-gnashing. These are our springtime resolutions here at The Weekly Standard, at the beginning of the six-month general election campaign to select the next president of the United States.
Happy times aren’t here again.Jul 25, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 42 • By JAMES PIERESON
The disappointing employment report made public on July 8 provided fresh evidence that economic growth is slowing and the state of the economy will be the central issue in next year’s presidential election. As if in anticipation of the jobs report, David Plouffe, senior political adviser to President Obama, said shortly before the bad news was released, “The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers.
What ever happened to “bold, persistent experimentation”? 12:00 AM, Aug 5, 2010 • By FRED BARNES
The economic recovery, to the extent there’s been one, has stalled. Unemployment remains stubbornly above 9 percent and may go higher. The housing crisis endures. What is President Obama’s remedy? More jobless benefits, more money for governors to pay Medicaid bills, more funds for teachers and state and local government jobs. In other words, more of the same.
What Obama thinks is good for America is bad for business. Aug 9, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 44 • By JOHN CHETTLE
In dealing with our current economic crisis, we might remember that a recession is not a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Although economists differ on just what constitutes a recession, there have been some 47 in the United States since 1790. There have been 11 since 1945, and they have averaged 10 months in length.
Allies in War, in Peace Friends.12:30 AM, Jul 4, 2010 • By JOSEPH LOCONTE
The celebration of American Independence has a way of illuminating the Anglo-American relationship, especially during times of war. Although July 4, 1776 marked the date when the American people dissolved "the political bands which have connected them" with Great Britain, July 4, 1940 signified just the opposite: the moment when the two great democracies solidified their “special relationship.” Seventy years ago, British prime minister Winston Churchill delivered a speech before the House of Commons that masterfully rebuked the United States for sitting on the sidelines while Britain stood alone to defend freedom against totalitarianism. Churchill’s insights are worth recalling during our own season of war, when the historic ties between the two nations seem frayed and in doubt.
Obama’s whining is puerile11:35 AM, May 26, 2010 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Barack Obama, at an exclusive fundraiser last night in San Francisco for Senator Barbara Boxer:
Let's face it this has been the toughest year and a half since any year and a half since the 1930s.