Health care indeed threatens to become our frisky administration's banana peel -- its first and central crisis; the one, possibly, that destroys public faith in the administration's ability to do anything constructive. Not that the Democrats can't pass a bill of some sort. It's that they can't pass one we can pay for, now or at any time in the future. The kind of bill that would provide uniformly excellent medical care to all Americans -- at a time when Medicare, the last gargantuan entitlement program, nears impoverishment -- is an ideal that doesn't correspond to reality. Unless, to be sure, with true reforming zeal, we redefine. In that case, it's enough to imagine that we can pay by taxing "the rich" or the policies that business now offers employees; or cutting medical costs (which already outstrip all other costs) by some magical means.
Some of it, in the technical sense, Congress can do -- like raise taxes. What Congress can't do is make Americans like the outcome when taxes rise and health care gets harder and costlier to procure.
Unassailable belief in the unassailable competence of government is the Obama administration's signature tune. You hear it whenever the teleprompter powers up. Yes, we can! "Can" what? "Can" everything.
It is a remarkable moment we inhabit, but it can't last. A coterie of -- it would seem -- cool Olympian deities has taken upon itself the remaking of America: failing to appreciate the built-in limits of competence and exertion.
The gods always were mythological. They just didn't know it.