A big brouhaha has developed among the progressive chatterers between Joan Walsh of Salon and Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, both frequent contributors to MSNBC about the Affordable Care Act and its messy rollout, and what is the proper level of criticism to fire at the Obama Administration for the mess. (Here's a link to the MSNBC clip of their on-air confrontation but that doesn't seem to work as of this writing).
I think Walsh has the better of the argument. I don't think Klein "has sold out" or anything of the sort. But I do think he's feeding, intentionally or not, into the Republican narrative about government can't do anything right, even as he himself probably views himself as a liberal sounding the alarm about feeding into this very narrative.
I know whereof I speak. I have participated in botched website rollouts for one of America's largest corporations (it's one you love to hate, but I still work there). A burning memory I will always live with was spending Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend on conference calls dealing with the fallout). I know how these SNAFUs can happen and how a corporation deals with it.
A corporation, when doing such a rollout, first of all, would never tolerate such dissension in its ranks, as we have seen here. Corporate officials who opposed the venture, would know, once it passed, that they had to either shut up and get with the program - or leave. That's a basic difference between a corporation and a democracy. Instead of that enforced unanimity, Obamacare has rolled out in a continuing atmosphere of sniper fire.
In the software biz, we talk about "scope creep", an insidious process whereby a project is given more and more tasks, more and more features (bells and whistles) to implement by clueless managers with more power than brains. Scope Creep is the biggest obstacle to a project coming in on time and under budget. The ACA was hit not with scope creep but scope explosion, an obstacle that, at one fell swoop, increased the scope by one or two "orders of magnitude". (An order of magnitude is a tenfold increase (adding a 0 at the end), two orders of magnitude is two zeroes, etc.)
When the red states pulled out of the exchanges, the Administration didn't bat an eye, they just said, that's okay, the Federal exchanges can handle it. From a business point of view that was an unimaginable blunder. If not an outright lie. But from a government point of view it was the only way forward. They didn't, and couldn't come back for more revenue because the Congress that approved Obamacare had changed to one of virulent opposition to the program.
That, right there, sealed the fate of the website. You don't have to posit conspiracy theories and saboteurs. The sabotage was right out in the open. There was no way in hell it was not going to be extremely rocky.
If a corporation found itself in such a situation it would have done one of two things:
1) Moved sufficient funding from one bucket to another to pay for the vast spike in scope.
2) Abandoned the project.
Neither of these options were available to the Obama Administration. The budget was under the control of hostile forces and no increases had a snowball's chance in hell of being approved. So the only "rational business" move at the Administration's disposal was to abandon the ACA. Which would have meant surrender.
Klein even gets this. But he still draws the wrong conclusion.
The Obama administration deserves all the criticism it's getting for the poor start of health law and more. Their job was to implement the law effectively -- even if Republicans were standing in their way.What Klein is overlooking is the difference between business and politics.
The only "rational" thing for Abraham Lincoln to do when the South seceded was to have let them go. He chose a different route, and soon we were "engaged in a great civil war". An 1861 version of Ezra Klein would have been pontificating on how the not-yet inaugurated Lincoln was a failure for letting the union fall apart.
This is war, and Klein hasn't sufficiently realized this. Maybe his 1861 doppelganger would have, eventually. Sometimes you have to decide which side are you on. This is something that Joan Walsh gets and he doesn't.
(And yes, single-payer would have been better. It wouldn't have been so complicated. Question for those tempted to sit on the sidelines because of this, is whether they think single-payer's chances are better if the Republicans prevail in this war or if Obamacare continues to limp along in its current mode. I'd go with the latter.)
It's going to be a rough ride, people. Get used to it.