We pay our presidents for judgment, and President Obama committed a colossal error of judgment in making health-care “reform” a centerpiece of his first term. Ahead of the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — and regardless of how the court decides — it’s clear that Obama overreached. His attempt to achieve universal health insurance coverage is a massive feat of social engineering that, by its sweeping nature, weakens the economic recovery and antagonizes millions of Americans.
Let’s review why the ACA (“Obamacare”) is dreadful public policy:
(1) It increases uncertainty and decreases confidence when recovery from the Great Recession requires more confidence and less uncertainty.
2) The ACA discourages job creation by raising the price of hiring.
(3) Uncontrolled health spending is the U.S. system’s main problem — and the ACA makes it worse.
(4) Obama’s program also worsens the federal budget problem.
(5) The ACA discriminates against the young in favor of the old.
To all the ACA’s substantive defects is now added a looming political and constitutional firestorm. Whether the Supreme Court upholds the whole law, strikes it all down or discards only parts, anger and outrage will ensue. The court may be accused of usurping legislative powers or of cowering before White House intimidation. The ACA has become an instrument of the political polarization that the president regularly deplores.
When historians examine Obama’s first term, the irony will be plain. A president bent on burnishing his legacy acted in ways that did the opposite. It’s a case of bad judgment.