NPR is looking quite desperate in its promotion of Obamacare. This was an actual headline at the NPR website: "Despite Glitches, HealthCare.gov Could've Been Worse." Jonah Goldberg told me "I thought you made up that headline!" He cracked on Twitter: "For instance, logging on could have permanently blinded you!"
On Tuesday night's All Things Considered, anchor Melissa Block borrowed this oddly optimistic concept inside the liberal bubble from Rusty Foster of The New Yorker magazine. He said "I'm sort of amazed at how well it does work, actually, which is, you know, where it kind of -- it could've been worse." They needed more time, he protested:
FOSTER: I think my sense is that they tried to do too much in too short a time. The project was managed the way that sort of government software projects have been managed. That's kind of what I talked about a lot in my blog post, was I went back to the FBI's rollout of their computer upgrade, which took more than 10 years and cost $1 billion, and there was one entire failed project involved. And this kind of went much the same way. So if anything, you know, the title "It Could Be Worse" means it took, you know, only a couple of years, and there is a site that exists.
Foster laughed at the idea that the federal government lined up 55 different contractors for this project:
Once you hear sort of the details of how this was intended to be done and rolled out, everybody just kind of nods their head and goes, yeah, that's not going to work. You have a human services agency managing 55 different government contractors, trying to produce one complex piece of software. Like, that's crazy.
That's why he was "amazed" at how well it works. Will a "tech surge" with new bodies help? Foster said no:
Not really. The conventional wisdom kind of comes from Brooks' - it's called Brooks' law, usually stated as adding programmers to a late software project makes it later. Because on the one hand, new programmers have to get up to speed on the system and some things, especially like this, is probably very complicated. And then at the same time, the people who are already working on the project have to sort of stop and train the new people in what they were doing. So there's a big slowdown across the board as soon as you try to add people to a project.
This is an ongoing NPR campaign. They also unleashed this Julie Rovner piece on Tuesday's Morning Edition: "How Politics Set the Stage for the Obamacare Website Meltdown." The website said "It's not just techies who are to blame for the rocky launch of the health insurance exchanges."
That means "Obama people blame conservatives."
ROVNER: But while many of the what-went-wrong fingers have been pointing at software developers, some say there's more to it than that. Jay Angoff is a lawyer in Washington, D.C. who used to run the health exchange program for the administration.
JAY ANGOFF: It is a mess, and there's no sugarcoating that. People shouldn't sugarcoat that. On the other hand, people should remember that those who are in charge of the money HHS needs to implement the federal exchange are dedicated to the destruction of the federal exchange and the destruction of the Affordable Care Act.
ROVNER: Which led to the first big problem: money. When it became clear that HHS would need more money to build the federal exchange than had been allocated in the original law, Republicans in Congress refused to provide it. As a result, said Angoff...
ANGOFF: HHS had to scrape together money from various offices within HHS to build a federal exchange.
Then Rovner blamed how Team Obama made politicial calculations: they delayed for a Supreme Court endorsement, they delayed to see if Obama was re-elected, and they assumed every Republican governor would surrender on creating state exchanges:
ROVNER: Then there was the timing issue. Technically, department officials have had three-and-a-half years since the law passed. But much of that time was spent in limbo. First, there was waiting to see if the Supreme Court would overturn the law in the summer of 2012.
Then there was waiting to see if Mitt Romney and a Republican Senate would be elected that November to repeal it. Then it was another month waiting for states to decide if they wanted to build their own health exchanges or let the federal government do it for them.
ANGOFF: The administration bent over backwards to accommodate the states. The administration begged states to cooperate.
ROVNER: And in the end, they made a major miscalculation. They figured that even Republican states would both create their own exchanges and expand their Medicaid programs because both came with so much federal money attached.
But merging your health care system with politics? That’s exactly what “the universal right to health care” does. It politicizes medicine.
Who can hear these stories and think NPR has demonstrated independence from the executive branch?
UPDATE: NPR promoted the Rovner story on its main Facebook page.