First, they write, policymakers should take advantage of disagreements.
“Bad ideas generally become reality when they aren’t exposed to external criticism, when they emerge from the echo chamber of a small group of like-minded advocates.” Sound familiar? This bill passed with no conservative support, and forced lawmakers to ignore their own constituents, who’d spent the summer screaming for tort reform instead of “comprehensive health reform.”
Second, the authors encourage federal lawmakers to draw on ideas that have already worked. “For example, welfare reform [in 1996] succeeded in part because Congress had the luxury of learning from innovative approaches in Wisconsin, Oregon and elsewhere,” Eggers and O’Leary write. This bill, of course, goes in the opposite direction.
Instead of encouraging states to experiment (federalism) it creates a national mandate to purchase federally-approved insurance coverage. Small wonder 14 state attorneys general have already filed suits against the law.
Third, the authors encourage policymakers to “embrace the public debate.” As if. President Obama gave hundreds of speeches, held news conferences and convened a joint session of Congress to stump for his reform, and public approval kept plunging. He promises to keep at it, though.
For their part, many lawmakers dismissed tea party protests as “astroturfing.” They didn’t want to hear any opposing views, so they ignored them. “The absence of real discussion can raise public suspicions that politicians have something to hide,” Eggers and O’Leary note. Of course, they won’t be able to hide come November.
Fourth, Eggers and O’Leary encourage leaders to “take failure seriously.” Any big, sweeping reform is bound to come with a massive price tag and to generate unforeseen repercussions. “Considering only the best-case scenario produces unrealistic budgets and impossible timelines,” the authors warn. That’s advice Blue Dog Democrats should have kept in mind, instead of relying on wildly inaccurate Congressional Budget Office forecasts.
Finally, they argue that politicians need to listen to bureaucrats. “Today, the costs of major public initiatives are routinely low-balled,” Eggers and O’Leary write. “No wonder the public is so skeptical of the cost estimates for health-care reform.” Of course, with this law, the key reason that the figures from the CBO (bureaucrats) are so unbelievable is because those numbers are based on Congress (politicians) promising to do things it will never do.
To make the forecasts work, lawmakers would have to trim hundreds of billions out of Medicare while also slapping a tax on the expensive health insurance plans that powerful unions have negotiated for their members. People know neither of those things will happen. That is why the public is skeptical.
The United States can still do great things. Abroad, we’re winning wars and maintaining global stability. Here at home, we can overturn ObamaCare and draft better health care solutions, ones that would provide more coverage without breaking the bank.
We’d do well to start over, and this time follow the formula Eggers and O’Leary sketch out.