Wicksell Weeps: Matthew Yglesias, still basking in the glow of his 2011 prediction of the “magnificent” economic boom of 2012 (“Happy days … will be here again”), declares (according to Slate‘s headline) that Fox News reporter Ed Henry is “so deep in the bubble” that he asked “the world’s dumbest ‘gotcha’ question” of White House press secretary Jay Carney yesterday.
What Henry asked, regarding the Affordable Care Act rollout, was
“Will Jay Carney enroll in this? Will White House staff enroll in Obamacare?”
Yglesias thinks Henry is asking whether, if the choice is either no insurance at all or Obamacare, Carney would choose Obamacare–which would indeed be an uninterestingly obvious decision. But that’s not what Henry said, and it seems clear he was asking something else–one of two things, actually:
1) Would Carney give up whatever insurance he has now to sign up for Obamacare on an exchange?
2) If Carney were uninsured, would he sign up for an Obamacare plan or obtain insurance some other way, given that he could probably afford an alternative (if there is one)? This is analagous to asking public officials if they’d send their kids to public schools.
Not the most brilliant question ever–Carney was able to duck it by basically answering “no” for # 1 and “absolutely” for #2 (and who’s going to check?). But it’s not the dumbest either–and at least version #2 isn’t the “no brainer” Yglesias assumes, since Obamacare’s choices may have limitations on access to doctors up with no affluent D.C. yuppie like Carney will not put. …
Basically, Henry is trying to raise the argument that what Obamacare offers to the uninsured poor isn’t a product that the top 40% are likely to purchase themselves--like providing free public education so mediocre the affluent jump through hoops to get out of it.** You may not care about that, if you are willing to abandon any notions of solidarity or social equality or class-mixing in order to get the poor some kind of insurance as cheaply as possible. Yglesias may not care about it (he seems like a take-care-of-the-poor, let-me-have-my-brie snob). But it’s not dumb to care about it.
P.S.: Some would suggest that Slate‘s cheesy sneering hype of a weak item itself reflects
the increasing desperation of trying to grab hits from Buzzfeed readers on a partisan cocooned Internet the highly competitive Web environment in which we find ourselves. I prefer to think Yglesias, like Paul Krugman, is working on a fabulous book project and only has a few precious seconds to devote to his column these days. …
**–Is Henry’s implicit claim accurate? Is that what will happen? We don’t know. Only one way to find out for sure, which is to let the Obamacare exchanges get started and see what happens. That’s one of the strongest reasons for not blocking Obamacare now, via threat of shutdown or default, even if you don’t like it.