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The illusion of choice

Authoritarians who still have to face unruly voters at the ballot box find it very important to project the illusion of choice.  This is why statist programs like ObamaCare are always tarted up with capitalist language.  You were supposed to be happily “shopping” for the “best deal” on those electronic exchanges that don’t work.  Liberals love to portray government spending, and even taxation, as a form of “investment.”  The new theory of unlimited State power, memorably floated in Barack Obama’s infamous “you didn’t build that” speech, is that all other investment and entrepreneurship would be impossible without government-managed collective resources, so the State is the senior partner in every business, and has a limitless claim on as much of the profit as it can get away with seizing.

American individualism has declined in a steep and sickening manner over the past few decades, but it’s actually a relief that Obama still felt it necessary to deal in outrageous lies to get ObamaCare passed.  He had to convince people that nobody would lose their doctor or health insurance plan involuntarily.  In other words, you would have a choice about participating in ObamaCare.  This led people to assume his health care plan would come with all the other positive attributes of competitive enterprise.  The ObamaCare plans would be so awesome that we’d voluntarily give up our existing plans to get one of them!  (Presumably Obama was handing out all those waivers to keep his union buddies and political allies from gobbling up all the wonderful ObamaCare plans before the Little People could get a crack at them.)

But you don’t have a choice, and it’s no surprise to see people growing increasingly angry as the magnitude of Obama’s deception is revealed.  Your plans are going away, your doctors are going away, and there’s a solid chance your preferred hospital or care center will be gone, too.  Obama never once allowed that anything remotely like this would happen.  He didn’t drop some clever little Clinton phrases that could be interpreted one way or the other, at his convenience, leaving his hornswaggled marks to marvel at his verbal dexterity.  He said things like “no one will take away your plan, period.”  He did it with cameras pointed at him, over and over again.

This leads a frustrated Ron Fournier at National Journal to declare that Obama has been reduced to “lying about lying:”

It might not seem possible that President Obama could do more harm to his credibility and the public’s faith in government than misleading Americans about health insurance reform. But he can. The president is now misleading the public about his deception.

In a speech last night to his political team, Obama said: “Now, if you have or had one of these plans before the Affordable Care Act came into law and you really liked that plan, what we said was you can keep it if it hasn’t changed since the law passed.”

No, no, no, no, no — that’s not what the Obama administration said. What they said was:

“That means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.” – President Obama, speech to the American Medical Association, June 15, 2009, during the debate over health insurance reform.

“And if you like your insurance plan, you will keep it.  No one will be able to take that away from you.  It hasn’t happened yet.  It won’t happen in the future.” – Obama, remarks in Portland, April 1, 2010, after the bill was signed into law.
Not only was Obama attempting to (successfully) trick the Sainted Middle Class into thinking ObamaCare would pose no great burden up them – it would be the usual business of taxing faceless Evil Rich people to shower benefits upon the Deserving Poor – but he wanted them to believe the program would be voluntary.  He wanted them to think it was a form of State-managed capitalism, a deathless idea that haunts the minds of intellectuals despite a century of often bloody failure.
Look at the new excuse for Obama’s lies: the old health-care plans were crap anyway, you were foolish to think you liked them, and Obama’s more expensive policies will give you the superior coverage you were too dumb to realize you needed.  That’s pure nonsense – Obama’s plans come with tons of benefits people don’t need, and they’re more expensive, but they also feature sky-high deductibles that make their “benefits” largely theoretical, especially for young and healthy people.  You’re not going to cash a lot of benefits out of a plan with $10,000 a year in out-of-pocket expenses.  If you voluntarily chose such a plan before ObamaCare came crashing down, you paid a lot less for it.
But you were fooled into thinking you still had a choice.  Obama’s new plans would compete with what you already had, not blow them away and squat in their place, drooling elevated premiums and uncomfortable restrictions on your choice of provider.  And the individual mandate tax ensures that you lost the most important choice of all, the one our Founding Fathers said was crucial to all just governments: the right to withdraw your consent.  President Obama used to love comparing the ugly launch of his health-care scheme to an iPhone product rollout (in the early days, before such a comparison would have made him a laughingstock from coast to coast.)  The key difference between this offensive effort to dress socialism in capitalist drag is that you don’t have to buy an iPhone.  All of the other major differences descend from the fundamental reality that Apple cannot legislate your patronage, or hit you with a magical trans-Constitutional tax/penalty if you refuse.
A lot of the junk packed into ObamaCare’s thousands of pages serves little purpose beyond maintaining the illusion of choice.  There are thousands of new IRS agents, to be sure… but there are also thousands of cuddly “navigators” who are there to provide excellent “customer service” and help you “choose” the plan that “fits your needs.”  It’s a grotesque, and horrendously expensive, effort to make the barbed wire and chain-link fences of socialism look like a shopping mall.

And if you complain strenuously about this, well, you’ll be told there’s no going back now.  ObamaCare is the settled lie of the land.  It can never be repealed.  The country has been changed forever, and now that the political battle is over, the practical failure of the program – its effects on the lives of real people – count for very little.  The Left wasn’t honest with you about that either.  They never told you this was one man, one vote, one time.  They hid ObamaCare behind a mirage of flexibility and accountability, but those things are the exclusive province of corporations that can go out of business.

One way to go out of business is to be prosecuted for fraud.  It’s a healthy fear that keeps corporate endeavors more-or-less in line.  Take away that fear – remove the possibility that American consumers can choose, individually but with the terrible combined weight of informed capitalist choice, that the corporate itself should fail and perish – and you get the sad spectacle of a man gibbering that the words he said dozens of times on camera, over the span of years, didn’t really mean anything.  You were foolish not to read his mind and see all the fine print floating in the air between the simple words, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”

Obama knows that a private-sector executive would be run out of town on a rail for saying such things; he would want to lead the posse.  That’s because we understand fraud as the denial of choice.  A false choice made on lies is not a true exercise of free will; the person who unwittingly drinks a poisoned beverage did not choose to take poison.  True economic freedom – the truest kind of freedom there is – exists only when there are terrible consequences for fraud.  That’s why modern socialism spends such insane amounts of money pretending to be capitalism.

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