David R. Henderson  

Obama: Government Doesn't Work

Why Do Incorrect Stories Stick... Mike Lee's Anti-Supply-Side Ta...
You know, one of the lessons--learned from this whole process on the website [healthcare.gov]--is that probably the biggest gap between the private sector and the federal government is when it comes to I.T. [Information Technology] ...

Well, the reason [that his campaign web site worked so much better than healthcare.gov] is is [sic] that when it comes to my campaign, I'm not constrained by a bunch of federal procurement rules, right?

This is from Chuck Todd's interview with Barack Obama, as transcribed by Ann Althouse.

Wow! I mean: Wow! Read on.

And how we write--specifications and--and how the--the whole things gets built out. So part of what I'm gonna be looking at is how do we across the board, across the federal government, leap into the 21st century.

OK, Mr. President: how are you going to do it? Remember, you're the one who wanted ObamaCare. You're the one who, knowing how messed up federal procurement rules are--wanted to use those rules to reorganize a large part of the economy. And now you're going to leap?

Wait. There's more:

When we buy I.T. services generally, it is so bureaucratic and so cumbersome that a whole bunch of it doesn't work or it ends up being way over cost.

Exactly. As Ann Althouse points out:
This should have made him sympathetic to the way government burdens private enterprise, but he's focused on liberating government to take over more of what has been done privately. And yet there's no plan, no idea about what would suddenly enable government to displace private businesses competing to offer a product people want to buy.

Read Ann Althouse's whole piece.

HT to Instapundit.

COMMENTS (18 to date)

Along this line, I'm now reading Arthur Herman's Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II.

It's filled with stories about how the New Dealers were completely clueless about how anything actually got manufactured. Bill Knudsen, former head of Chevrolet, has to explain to FDR and his cabinet what amortization of investment is, and how the sixteen year write-off period of then current tax law is hindering him from getting American industry to switch to producing tanks and machine guns from consumer products.

Of course, jealous New Dealers get him fired just as WWII begins. However, he's completed the two year task of preparing the machine tools and assembly lines already, so the Arsenal of Democracy--which term Knudsen coined to get it through the thick heads of the likes of Harry Hopkins, what he was doing--goes into all out mass production after Pearl Harbor.

GM writes:

The president has stumbled upon some truth and wisdom. I doubt that he truly understands how difficult it is to correct mistakes in the public sector.

MG writes:

Constrained? In the implementation of the law, it has been argued (and lawsuit after lawsuits have suggested) that the Administration has not been too constrained by a strict following of the law -- a law written by a Dem Congress. They have issued waiver after waiver, taken exception after exeception, used discretion after discretion...

As for Obama's claim that he's just protecting us from 'subpar insurance', this is a pretty effective rejoinder.

Krishnan writes:

Obama said Government does not work - just as he said "If you have your insurance and you like it, you will be able to keep it - Period"

Sorry, nothing has changed with Obama. All he is trying to do is buy time for the monstrosity to metastasize and kill the private insurance market for all - ...

Let we forget, the assault is not just on this "small" (i.e. 5% or 10 million people) market - but on the self-insured market also - and by stealth on the employer insurance model.


The Republicans are unable or unwilling to offer real alternatives that the country has been looking for. The timing is perfect for that to happen - but all the ruling class Republicans want is to get into power so they can then do what the ruling class does - enrich themselves at the public trough.

Milton Recht writes:

In one word, the answer is "Privatization!"

Himanshu Sanguri writes:

I can very well relate it to the essay by Bastiat on "Legal Plunder by the Government".

babar writes:

a very large percentage of large scale IT projects in the private sector completely fail or are delivered late or over budget. (he may not know this.)

MingoV writes:

Acquiring good information technology systems fails because the government almost always decides that building from scratch is superior to customizing a third-party system. I know about two healthcare IT projects: The Navy built its own healthcare information system at a cost of $500,000,000. It failed. The VA built its own healthcare finance system for $480,000,000. It failed.

I know of only one third-party IT system purchased by the federal government since 2000. It is a laboratory information system (LIS) from Cerner that was bought by the VA. But, instead of customizing the LIS, the first thing the VA IT staff did was deactivate many of the features of the Cerner LIS. So, even when the feds do something right, they immediately negate that by doing something wrong.

Andrew_FL writes:

Amusing, but I personally doubt he is quite cognizant of the implications of what he is saying. The President is a man who believes, apparently sincerely, in the ability of the government to do a great many things. There is no indication that he has ever been or will ever be disabused of this view. I think if he could be, he would have been by now.

That being said, it is certainly worth noting when anyone who believes in the power of the government to organize society concedes any difficulty with doing so.

john goodman writes:

Obama privatized his election campaign, but he nationalized health reform. The result: privatization worked like a charm, but nationalization has been a disaster. See my post:

John Thacker writes:

The problem is that all those government procurement rules were adopted for real reasons, to avoid corruption. Now, I'm very sympathetic to the idea that the rules end up costing us more than the extra corruption they'd allow would (see the various analyses of Tammany Hall suggesting that it did some good).

Corruption in corporations in competitive industries. (which happens), ultimately hurts shareholders and customers, and then eventually causes the downfall of the companies. Governments, which can command taxes and impose their will, don't have those constraints.

Does the President understand why the federal government has those rules? To want to change something, you need to understand why it came about.

Brad writes:

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David R. Henderson writes:

@John Thacker,
Very good point.

ThomasH writes:

I guess this will convince even "Conservatives" that "Obama is a Socialist" was an -- ahem -- exaggeration (not a "lie" of course). :)

Nevertheless, until real politicians propose a real alternative method for getting health insurance to the people who didn't have it, we can't reject the hypothesis that ACA, with all the know flaws of government involvement in economic decision-making, is the best that could be done. No such thing as a free lunch, after all.

Aaron Zierman writes:

I would guess that the way that the President looks at it is that the government is simply too constrained by all these laws, rules, and regulations. Once again, the problem (as he sees it) is not too much government, it's too little government freedom and power to act.

Jay writes:


Judging by the demand or lack thereof of the non-Medicaid enrollments, I would argue that it was a solution looking for a problem. Most of the people w/o insurance either didn't want it or were too sick but too high-income for medicaid. Given this, if you wanted to help the 2nd group a simple expansion of Medicaid would have sufficed with a tax increase but this would have never passed so we ended up with this.

BTW, the R's have proposed numerous bills as alternatives, just because you don't agree with them doesn't mean alternatives haven't been made.

John Thacker writes:


Until there are more people signed up in the exchanges than have had their health insurance canceled, we can't reject the null hypothesis that doing nothing would have been more effective.

Indeed, unless the cost of the subsidies for premiums is significantly less than the reduced cost of uncompensated care (and high risk pools), we can't reject the null hypothesis that doing nothing would have been more effective at getting people health care (as opposed to insurance).

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