Crafting Talking Points vs. Implementing Policy

by William Schuth in ,

I'm not generally a fan of Matt Yglesias, but his point regarding President Obama's implementation of the Affordable Care Act is provocative: 

 The problem is that although Obama’s plan really did cost less than $900 billion over “the next 10 years,” it hit that number because for several of those 10 years, the plan would be barely in place. It’s not until next year that many more low-income Americans will become eligible for Medicaid coverage. It’s not until next year that many currently uninsured working-class Americans will be eligible for subsidized private health care plans. If you add up the costs of the first 10 years after those initiatives, it comes out to considerably more than $900 billion.


The desire to reduce the headline cost inside the 10-year scoring window isn’t the only source of delay—it was never going to be logistically possible to do immediate implementation—but it is an important one. 

Yglesias' assertion regarding the ACA's potential economic stimulus being dissipated by a gradual implementation is also sound. His takeaway:

Of course hindsight is 20/20. But there’s a lesson here for the future. Talking points and Congressional Budget Office scores matter much less than people inside the Washington bubble think. It’s naïve to think that good policy is always the best politics, but it’s a mistake to put tactics ahead of the basic merits of your ideas. There’s clever, and then there’s too clever by half. Delaying the rollout of a massive spending program to try to make it look a little less massive was dumb, and part of what’s happening today is that Democrats are paying the price for it.

Not just the Democrats in Washington. Not even by half. Poor and working-class families are the ones paying for Obama's botched implementation of the Affordable Care Act. People with chronic illnesses who are out of work and paying for COBRA insurance are paying for it. Veterans are paying for it. Children are paying for it.