Deception Or Delusion? Did President Obama Believe All His False Promises About Obamacare?
The Case for Deception
It’s undoubtedly the case that candidate and then President Obama was surrounded by at least some advisors who had no qualms about pulling the wool over the eyes of the public. The videotapes of Jonathan Gruber are proof positive of a pretty contemptuous attitude about “the stupidity of the American voter” and the huge advantage that lack of transparency accorded the bill. Gruber ultimately confessed “Look, I wish Mark was right that we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.”
So deliberately making false claims about what the bill would or wouldn’t do certainly is consistent with this “whatever it takes” attitude towards ramming through what President Obama from the get-go hoped would be his signature domestic policy achievement.
The Case for Delusion
Universal Coverage. The universal coverage promise was short-lived and arguably a case of delusion rather than deliberate deception. Candidate Obama promised on June 23, 2007: “I will sign a universal health care bill into law by the end of my first term as president that will cover every American.” Recall that throughout the fierce debates with Hillary Clinton, he clung fast to his claim that his plan could achieve that goal without an individual mandate–something that no responsible health policy analyst on either side of the aisle claimed was possible. Bizarrely, Politifact.com views this as a campaign promise kept since President Obama signed into law a plan that included an individual mandate with few exemptions.
Yet the latest CBO projections show that when the law is fully implemented in 2020, there still will be 26 million uninsured representing 9 percent of the non-elderly population. Compare this to the 5.6 to 8.9 percent of the population that CBO estimated was uninsured back in 1978 (a problem judged so severe that it had led to calls by both President Nixon and President Carter for national health insurance!). So while Obamacare assuredly has reduced the number of uninsured–the exact amount being highly contested–no one could credibly claim the “uninsured problem” will be solved by the law in its present form.
No Increase in the Deficit. As best I can tell from the public record, this is one promise the president may well continue to believe, along with numerous defenders of the law. Once again, I have explained in great detail elsewhere just how bogus this claim is. Indeed less than four weeks before the law even passed, Paul Ryan had deftly exposed all the “gimmicks and smoke-and-mirrors” underlying this claim right to the president’s face. My own snap judgment from viewing that video repeatedly is that the president was present in the room during that epic takedown, but either couldn’t hear what was being said (due to anger or shock) or dismissed it out of hand as being nothing more than Republican obstructionism. That is, I’ve seen no evidence in the public record that the president has ever actually intellectually engaged the forceful argument being presented in the sense of being able to accurately recount the logic and details of the argument and offering an intellectually coherent rebuttal to it. Others may well have a different view, but my impression is that the president was confronted with a very inconvenient truth that for whatever reason (e.g., avoiding cognitive dissonance) he elected to ignore.
Where does that leave us? I think there’s a reasonably strong case that the president has time and again resorted to deliberate deception in trying to sell his health plan to the American public. But in fairness, one cannot rule out the possibility the president was simply delusional about some of the claims he made about his signature domestic policy achievement. Had the public bought these false promises hook, line and sinker, then there’s no way Obamacare would continue to be underwater in public opinion polls. The fact that more Americans continue to oppose this misguided law than support it strongly suggests that American voters are far less stupid than progressives like Jonathan Gruber think they are .