An ambitious young President is sworn into office, supported by the best and brightest his party has to offer. Beloved by the nation's youth and with the winds of change at his back, he proposes the most sweeping domestic policy reform in a generation. As Social Security and welfare were the legacies of his liberal predecessors, so too would a new social program define his presidency and his place in history. With great fanfare, he announces his plan: a single-payer healthcare system designed to provide cheap, affordable medical coverage for all. But then the trouble starts. The President, having already spent much of his political capital, finds himself losing the public's favor. The cost of the plan becomes apparent. People begin to question the wisdom of allowing the government to intrude upon such a personal matter. Others wonder whether or not the plan would lead to medical rationing or stall medical developments. Party centrists, fearing potential repercussions in the upcoming midterm elections, begin to discuss alternative plans with Republicans. The President responds by waging a media campaign against his opponents, but most Americans, having already become disenchanted with the scheme, aren't listening anymore. Finally, the costly, intrusive plan is abandoned, and the President's credibility is dealt a blow.
This was the arc of President Clinton's attempt to implement a single-payer system in the early 1990s. History now seems to be repeating itself, as President Obama's own efforts are meeting with strong resistance, much to the dismay of liberals, the joy of conservatives, and the good of all Americans. With multiple polls showing a full 50% of the public now opposed to the plan, and his personal numbers looking worse by the week compared to other post-WWII presidents, Obama has gone into panic mode. He has begun to make outlandish claims about the feasibility of his plan, the newest of which is that it will not add to the deficit. The Congressional Budget Office has already refuted that one, calculating that Obama's scheme will increase our national debt by more than $200 billion. It's entirely possible that having already spent trillions of dollars "fixing" the economy, $200 billion looks like nothing to the President, but it's still quite a bit of money to we plebeians.
Worse for Obama, major medical organizations are turning on him as well. Today it was the Mayo Clinic. Tomorrow, who knows? And even Congressional Democrats are starting to bail on the plan, fearing that its passage would damage their own reelection prospects. Many first-term Democratic Representatives were elected in traditionally Republican districts, and if they participate in the socialization of American healthcare, their own constituents may throw them out in favor of a more conservative candidate. Rightly fearing for their own political lives, they've moderated in an attempt to find another way.
Nevertheless, Obama charges onward, hoping to cement his legacy a mere six months into his presidency. Rumor has it that he wants to push the plan through Congress by the end of August. It isn't yet clear why this has become his top priority, what with the economy still tanking and the vaunted stimulus package having failed so dramatically that Ministry of Truth that is the President's press team has declared that it was never intended to stimulate in the first place. (Actually, this last bit may be true - any economist could see from the beginning that there was no chance of the stimulus stimulating anything but bureaucracy.) No less an authority than Congressman Steny Hoyer has said that it is time to go back to the drawing board on this one, but the President refuses. Why? Why try to jam a bill no one likes through Congress instead of having a reasoned debate to solve the real problems in our healthcare system?
Because, ladies and gentlemen, Obama's priority is not to solve the "health crisis." If it were, he would be willing to take the time to do it right. Obama's real priority is to drive our country further left while he still has time to do it, and that means setting up a mechanism to enable the redistribution of wealth. It is the same motivator behind his cap-and-trade bill and his Secretary of Commerce's recent assertion that America needs to pay for China's carbon emissions. But the tide is beginning to turn and people are beginning to see through the President's glow. In a few months, there will be no chance of this terrible piece of legislation passing. Obama knows this, and he desperately hopes to get it through now, driving up the cost of running our government until we have no choice but to raise taxes across the board. That means more of our money in the hands of the government. It means giving them more power over our individual lives. And that is the ultimate goal of the Obama Administration.
Barack Obama genuinely believes that he knows what is best for the American people and that he should have the power to make people live in accordance with his beliefs. But such power is dangerous, and should not be surrendered under any circumstances.
So far, Obama's attempt to reform healthcare has followed Clinton's arc almost to the letter. Let's hope that it continues to do so, because only if it ends in failure will the American people be safe from the oppressive hand of the nanny state.
UPDATE: Rich Lowry's take on the topic.