Mona Charen
Now the other shoes begin to drop. Voters knew in November that many of the promises Obama made in 2008 had been broken. The economy had not revived as he had promised it would ("or we'll be talking about a one-term proposition"). He has not "changed the tone in Washington" -- except for the worse. He didn't prevent lobbyists from holding positions in his administration. He didn't cut the deficit in half; he increased it radically. But voters apparently decided that the president deserved credit for good intentions.

How long will that indulgence last? The next four years, whatever else they may bring, will tally the results of Obama's first term policies. Some of those will not be felt until 2014, when Obamacare comes fully online. Others will be subtle, like the depressing effect of Dodd/Frank on lending. Still others will be obvious -- Obama's "chickens coming home to roost."

One of these deserves close attention because it so perfectly captures what's wrong with the president's (and the Democratic Party's) approach to government.

Remember Mr. Obama's pet project to improve American medical care by moving to digital medical records? Candidate Obama talked it up in 2008, and the newly-elected president inserted it into the stimulus bill in 2009. Switching from paper to digital medical records, Obama said, would reduce the cost and improve the quality of care. It would "cut waste, eliminate red tape and reduce the need to repeat expensive medical tests." Digital records would also reduce "deadly but preventable medical errors that pervade our health care system."

Because Obama thought it would be a good idea, because it seemed like common sense to him, U.S. taxpayers spent $19 billion to transition doctors' offices and hospitals to electronic systems. Doctors and hospitals that adopt digital systems are eligible for payments from Uncle Sam. Those who fail to comply will be punished with declining Medicare reimbursements starting in 2015. It's a coercive, top-down, big government "solution" in search of a problem.

It might be a good idea to adopt digital medical records. But the "common sense" way to do it would be through an organic, grassroots system in which doctors and other health professionals tested systems and selected those that worked best for the money expended. Only doctors themselves are in a position to judge whether switching to an electronic system makes them more or less efficient. Doctors would not spend the money unless they were confident that such technology would be worth the price.

If the government is paying for it, such calculations fly out the window. In fact, with the government coercing adoption, bad decisions are inevitable.


Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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