Barack Obama Has a Plan (But Not Much of One)

Watching Obama's big health-care speech tonight, I was reminded of the recent remake of Battlestar Galactica: For a long time, the show opened with a foreboding note about the series' robotic villains, the Cylons: "They have a plan." But when their mysterious plan finally materialized, it was underwhelming, and not terribly consequential to the larger arc of the series. So my basic reaction to the speech tonight was the same as my reaction to the non-plan explained by Cylons: This is it?

Despite what Jon Cohn says, there just wasn't much news. As expected, Obama waffled on the public plan in the exact same way he's been waffling for months: Expressing clear support, and refusing to say it's a deal-breaker one way or the other. And as expected, he cleverly avoided explaining why some people might end up shifted off their current health-care plans.

If there was any real news tonight, it's that Obama expects his proposal will cost about $900 billion over ten years. But who knows how the CBO, whose judgment will be a key factor in the ongoing debate, will actually score the plan? After all, Obama also claimed that preventive care saves money. But the CBO (like the New England Journal of Medicine) says otherwise. Indeed, if Obama really wanted to incentivize prevention and save money, he might take a much closer look at consumer-driven health-care plans, which strong evidence suggests bring down costs and result in greater use of preventive care services than traditional insurance plans. Meanwhile, he argued that a public plan would save money by avoiding some of the "overhead" of private insurance. But Medicare doesn't really avoid overhead costs; it hides them. And what administrative activity it does cut out results in massive waste, fraud, and abuse.

A quick scan of the blogosphere and the cable chatter suggests reform advocates are reasonably happy with the speech, but I'm skeptical that it will prove significant. Sure, the final section, after Obama finished listing out the policy details, was surprisingly elegant, but it was also strangely disconnected from what came before it. This wasn't a great speech; it was a policy paper hog-tied to a Jon Favreau jam session.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I just don't think it will be enough. At this point, I'm not sure reform has much going for it: At least when they Cylons disappointed, they looked like this.

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  • Tricky Prickears||

    I disagree. I think it's already been decided. All the big players are on board, the AMA, Pharma, trial lawyers, AARP, and yes, the insurance companies, are all on board. But of course, the only thing the bill will amount to is big subsidies for the each of them. You could tell by watching that lame republican response. Look for an across he board payroll tax or a national sales tax shortly thereafter.

  • dillwheed||

    I'm almost @ the point where I'm willing to let it go if the guy just agrees to shut up for a while. I got the appeal what, two years ago, but its the same hollow schtick and folks still lap it up.

  • MJ||

    The cost estimate actually means they expect it in ten years to cost $900 billion a year.

  • ||

    The cost estimate actually means they expect it in ten years to cost $900 billion a year.



    No, not in the CBO estimates, but there is a subtle math issue. The bill doesn't start spending until about year 4, and then ramps up. So it costs $900 billion over the first ten years, but it's really almost nothing the first 4 years, and then closer to $200 billion in year 10.

  • ||

    OK, so who's Joe Wilson in the BSG analogy?

  • Joe M||

    I'm convinced. I love National Dad.

  • hmm||

    This is like tag team Obama play by play.

  • Jordan||

    The cost estimate actually means they expect it in ten years to cost $900 billion a year.



    What a load of crap. In 1966, Congress estimated that Medicare would cost $12 billion by 1990. They were only off by a factor of 9 (actual cost: ($107 billion). Meanwhile, Massachusetts bullshit healthcare scheme is several hundred million overbudget.

    I'll be generous and estimate that the true cost of Obamacare will be at least $3 trillion.

  • hmm||

    For a long time, the show opened with a foreboding note about the series' robotic villains, the Cylons: "They have a plan."



    Cylons have a thing on our real robots. We are so fucked.

    I guess I can read all the Obama play by play now.

  • Brian Sorgatz||

    I might be tempted to complain about the Battlestar Galactica spoiler, but it's probably my fault for procrastinating on that series.

  • ||

    Did he talk about whether or not augmenting gelatinous orbs to see in x-ray would be covered?

    That could avoid a lot of trouble down the road.

  • ||

    OK, so who's Joe Wilson in the BSG analogy?

    Mr. Gaeta? If he gets executed in the airlock, the analogy will be complete.

  • ||

    Dude. It was a launch tube! Duh!

    [insert nerd sound]

  • ||

    OK, so who's Joe Wilson in the BSG analogy?

    Too easy. Gaius Baltar.

  • Not another Birther||

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/09/gop-picks-birther-to-rebu_n_279952.html

  • Elemenope||

    [insert nerd sound]

    What is the "nerd sound"?

  • ||

    Dude. It was a launch tube! Duh!

    [insert nerd sound]


    You sicken me.

  • ||

    What is the "nerd sound"?

    The sound of poor nasal cavity construction and poor public hygene. Think sleeve across nose with a rapid intake of breath through the nose.

    That or a nerdy guffaw.

    I mean, c'mon. Keep up with the shorthand.

  • ||

    You sicken me.

    Score!

  • Ben||

    In fairness to BSG's creators, I could have sworn that I had heard somewhere that they were forced to add that line about the Cylons having a plan by the producers.

  • ||

    What is the "nerd sound"?

    I think it's some variation on Professor Frink's "glayven!"

    Too easy. Gaius Baltar.

    Maybe. But Obama's the slickster with his own cult followers.

  • ||

    "A quick scan of the blogosphere and the cable chatter suggests reform advocates are reasonably happy with the speech"

    I'm not sure if that's the best barometer. They would be happy if Obama pulled his dick out and waved it in front of the camera for 15 minutes. (Actually some of them would probably be really happy).

  • ||

    Maybe. But Obama's the slickster with his own cult followers.

    Good point, but he needs the harem of Canadian actresses. I mean, who doesn't?

    Lampkin. Maybe. But yeah, Gaeda is the strong favortie. Or Giada. Whichever.

  • ||

    The Cylons had universal, single-payer health care, you know. Since it allowed them to be resurrected--the ultimate health benefit--it's time we joined the galactic community and introduced the public plan here in the US.

    Fry: What do we care? We live in the United States.

    Leela: The United States is part of the world.

    Fry: Wow, I have been gone a long time.

  • ||

    Sorry Epi, but it says right here:

    Sec 3. ¶4. As previously defined in §1, ¶5, downloading is not a reimbursable expense.

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  • alan||

    Why do dye jobs look great on Asian babes no matter what the color scheme?

  • hmm||

    Why do dye jobs look great on Asian babes no matter what the color scheme?

  • Kunal||

    Come on Suderman, you really could have done better with the alt-text.

  • alan||

    But I have seen honey sweet Caucasoids, Latin Mommas*, and Mocha Delights who look great fuck it all up with a lousy dye job. I have never seen an Asian girl with that problem.

    *all the ones in my family look like dykes even the few who aren't -- maybe that is why I hate the movie Aliens, created an action movie staple that was all too fuckin' real for me.

  • ||

    So, I thought that there was going to be some cylon super intelligence that really did have a plan.

    I was hoping for that right up until we got the back story for the final 5.

    It was very disappointing.

  • qwerty||

    If I can get free massages from Grace Park as part of the Obama plan, I'll support it.

  • Masturbatin\' Pete||

    "A quick scan of the blogosphere and the cable chatter suggests reform advocates are reasonably happy with the speech"

    No surprise there. Obama's fanboys do what fanboys do. The question is, was anyone capable of being persuaded watching? I'll be interested to see the ratings. I don't think Obama has quite reached the "can this guy not be on my TV for one day?" stage with most people, but I do imagine that most people have gotten to the "another speech? Okay, I'll read about it in the morning" stage.

    So I doubt it will directly make a difference. But the MSM (and the left) now have am opportunity to control the message for the next couple of news cycles. The CW to come out of this speech will be something like "Obama lays out specifics, gets mojo back." I don't see a bump in the polls, but maybe he'll stop falling, and maybe this will stop the defection of Congressional Democrats.

  • MJ||

    John Thacker,

    I was half joking. I understand about how the costs would ramp up. I also understand from previous experience that the CBO is likely underestimating the true costs by several multiples. If in 10 years the CBO is saying $200 billion per year, then I think an actual cost of $900 billion in the tenth year is closer to the truth than I find comfortable.

  • MJ||

    "The Cylons had universal, single-payer health care, you know."

    And the Simons gave free lobotamies to any models which got too uppity.

  • MJ||

    The Cylons also were clueless about how their resurrection technology actually worked.

    Kinda like Liberals and health care economics, or any kind of economics for that matter.

  • ||

    "The Cylons also were clueless about how their resurrection technology actually worked

    well the disappointing thing was that they were clueless about how any of their technology worked.

    This is why I was hoping for some entity with intelligence, some entity that actually designed everything and remembered how it was designed to "have a plan"

    You know, someone was able to make a human that was better than a human.

    Someone was able to make a spaceship out of meat, that could think.

    Someone was able to give robots a prophesy and a belief system. Someone CREATED God (or created themselves as God).

    This was the intelligent entity that I was hoping had the plan.

    I hoped for too much. 5 people had the technology and totally forgot it. That was kind of lame.

  • Tony||

    I think the upcoming TV movie "The Plan" is supposed to be where "the plan" is revealed.

  • ||

    "MJ | September 10, 2009, 12:33am | #

    "The Cylons had universal, single-payer health care, you know."

    And the Simons gave free lobotamies to any models which got too uppity."



    Since I saw the BSGish graphic above I could not for the life of me remember the name of the Black cylon model.


    Simon, simon.

  • TallDave||

    I assume in this analogy, the taxpayers are either being nuked or raped.

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