Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.
MSNBC host Chuck Todd ripped into President Barack Obama's signature legislative accomplishment on Sunday, telling a panel on "Meet the Press" that the health care website's glitches represent "an indictment on the whole idea of government as a solution."
While not mentioning that private companies developed the first and second iterations of HealthCare.gov, Todd soared right past the common Republican line that Obamacare is a failure and seemingly went after liberalism as a whole.
"It's page three of the report, it says here that 'The team is operating with private sector velocity and effectiveness,'" Todd told columnist David Brooks. "Okay, that is an acknowledgement that, 'You know what? If this was a government operation for a long time and it failed, now we're bringing in the private sector folks.' I mean that is an indictment on the whole idea of government as a solution, frankly."
Amazingly, fellow MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell seemed to agree with Todd, saying that Obama is "at risk of losing the credibility of government as an agent of change, for a generation."
Despite the hosts' earnest private sector advocacy, experts say the health care website's glitches arose from systems developed by dozens of separate private contractors that did not communicate with each other.
All but one of the 47 contractors who won contracts to carry out work on the Affordable Care Act worked for the government prior to its passage. Many -- like the Rand Corporation and the MITRE Corporation -- have done so for decades. And some, like Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, are among the biggest wielders of influence in Washington. Some 17 ACA contract winners reported spending more than $128 million on lobbying in 2011 and 2012, while 29 had employees or political action committees or both that contributed $32 million to federal candidates and parties in the same period. Of that amount, President Barack Obama collected $3.9 million.
Sunlight's survey does not include awards to contractors that built the 14 state exchanges. For example, Xerox Corp. won a $72 million contract to help build Nevada's exchange and one for $68 million to do the same in Florida. Not only is Xerox building the online marketplaces for some states, it's also offering insurers the means to "fully take advantage of the nearly 30 million new members that will be shopping for health care on these exchanges."
What's more, the Affordable Care Act's biggest weakness is arguably not the faulty website rollout but the fact that it is set up to funnel yet more money into the corrupt business of profiting off mortality.
Even the (not exactly) raving liberals at Forbes have pointed out that health reform "only enriches only the health insurance giants and their shareholders," while giving small businesses and healthy people the short end of the stick.
Truly using government as a solution for health care would require a public option at least, or single-payer/Medicare-for-all at best, which has tended to work out quite well for almost every country that's tried something similar.
So, want to take another shot at that whole "indicting government as a solution" thing, Chuck?
(Meanwhile, if it's any consolation, officials say that HealthCare.gov is working much better now.)
Meet the Press roundtable on Obamacare site -- aired Sunday, December 1, 2013.