The Creeping Failure of Obamacare to Progressivism

January 8th, 2014

I have previously blogged that one of the biggest impacts of the botched rollout of Obamacare will be a decrease in the faith of people in the power of government to fix things. Even if the website is fixed entirely, the initial impression will last. That origin will taint Obamacare for some time to come, unless it suddenly becomes awesome and makes everyone happy (I’m doubtful).

A report in the New York Times about growing opposition to California’s high speed rail project is evidence of this creep.

Joe Nation, a professor of public policy at Stanford University and a critic of the plan, said Mr. Brown would have to grapple with this decline in support, which he argued reflected voters’ growing doubts about the basic competence of government.

“Obamacare has leached over into this,” Mr. Nation said. “You have people saying, ‘The federal government that can’t build a website — how can we expect them to build a multibillion-dollar train?’ ”

HuffPo even has to concede this point, though it minimizes the impact of Obamacare and blames Republicans instead:

Dearie me! We can’t build trains anymore, because of this one website? If that’s actually true, then why haven’t we simply cancelled the future entirely?

There is a point to be made here. The woes of the online federal health insurance exchange have served, of late, as a reliable political brickbat for Obamacare opponents to wield. But as more and more Americans turn to the web — and their mobile devices in particular — to assist them in the day-to-day task of solving problems, there will be a greater demand for the federal government to get in sync with the modern world.

I think this gets it wrong. This isn’t about conservatives using Obamacare as an argument against progressivism (though this is fair game). This is an argument that Obamacare proves the failures of progressivism.  If we can’t trust the government to build an operational website that three hundred million of Americans *need* on cost, on time, do we trust California to build a massively expensive railroad that very few people will use, on cost, and on time? I have no opinion on the underlying issue of rail in  California, but the lessons learned from Obamacare would, and should color  judgment on any future big government projects.

Losing faith in government may be one of Obamacare’s creeping legacies for progressivism. And that is not necessarily a bad thing.