Good Enough For Government Work

Having failed to avert the catastrophic Obamacare train wreck, the Obama administration has lately been working hard to convince the public it likes the health care reform law anyway. This is a difficult chore requiring all sorts of silly arguments, but we were especially struck by the administration’s boast that the program is operating with “private sector velocity and efficiency.”
The claim is laughably untrue, of course, but at this point no one expects candor from the administration. What’s striking abut the statement, rather, is its admission that the private sector sets a standard of effectiveness which the public sector aspires to meet.
Some significant amount of the administration’s pride had to be swallowed in order to make such a confession. A white-hot hatred of those evil top-hatted, moustache-twirling businessmen and a warm fondness for the selfless virtues of government employees was the basic rationale of Obamacare, and of modern liberalism in general, so it must be embarrassing to the high-minded bureaucrats of the Obama administration to be reduced to bragging that they can get things done just as well as those profit-motivated private sector folks. The fact that the boast is not even close to true, and that this is now objectively apparent to even the most gullible observers, can only compound the embarrassment.
Our extensive experience of private sector workers tells us that they are, on the whole, as ethical and intelligent as their public sector counterparts, and we offer due respect for the good works they occasionally accomplish. Their consistent inability to match the performance of the average small business or large corporation is all a matter of incentives. Even the best of us respond to incentives, and it is inherent in the nature of the public sector that it offers all the wrong ones. The public sector offers incentives to give a major computer programming project to a firm with a poor business record but rich political connections, overpay for its services with money that the Federal Reserve is printing up as fast as the presses can roll, and never worry that anyone will be fired when it all goes spectacularly bad. Meanwhile, over at the private sector, where money has to be earned rather than printed, there is an overriding incentive to get things done right, on time, and in the least expensive way.
Back when Obamacare was still being debated its proponents made much of the obscene 3.3 percent profit margin that the insurance companies were making, which ranked a shocking 88th place among the nation’s industries, and the implication was that the altruistic bureaucrats would put all that filthy lucre to better use by healing the sick and exetnding the lives of old folks. By now it is clear that bureacratic inefficiencies will eat up at least that small slice of the nation’s health care costs, and spend at least a similar amount on advertising campaigns intended to convince the public otherwise, and the rationale for Obamacare is harder to defend.

— Bud Norman


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