Shorter Ezra Klein: Blame Bill Clinton for President Obama's 'You Can Keep It' Lie

November 13th, 2013 4:35 PM

According to the Washington Post's Ezra Klein, former president Bill Clinton is ultimately to blame for President Obama's oft-repeated 4-Pinocchio-grade lie that folks who like their health insurance plans under ObamaCare could keep them.

You see, when then-President Clinton proposed a government-run health care overhaul, he "promised [Americans] would lose" their health care plan because Clinton's initiative was predicated on government building from scratch a top-down approach that left had to rip up millions of health care contracts in order to put in place a top-down government-knows-best framework. That scared the dickens out of folks, and so, accordingly, liberal "health-care reformers swung far to the other side," when they continued to eternal crusade to have government "reform" health care, Klein explained (emphasis mine):

Rather than building a plan in which almost everyone lost their insurance, they began trying to build plans in which almost no one lost their insurance — and selling them under the promise that literally no one would.

That promise, as the Obama administration is now learning, went too far. Saying "everyone who likes their health insurance can keep it" is very different from saying "95 percent of people who like their health insurance can keep it."

But it's a bit rich for Clinton to argue for a plan that leaves everyone's insurance unchanged. When he managed this policy process, he believed the optimum policy upended almost everything. He knows that it's functionally impossible to reform the health-care market if you upend nothing. This is the kind of argument that, in another context, Clinton would be delighting in explaining, carefully and persuasively, why it's so very wrong.

At no point does it occur to Klein that, quite frankly, the American people don't want government to upend their ability to make choices regarding their health care, that fundamentally, Americans prefer health care reform that would empower them with choice and open up MORE options, not restrict the menu of choices they have.

Folks like Klein, who are fundamentally wedded to state-managed health coverage, cannot accept the premise that truly market-oriented reforms for health care can improve the country's health insurance industry, expand coverage, hold costs down, and be widely embraced by the American people. Unwilling to accept the obvious, Klein and others like him will resort to petty blame-shifting and excuse-making on the president's behalf.