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EDITORIAL

Obamacare and the debate over big government

Monday, July 8, 2013 - 8:06 am

Delay casts doubt on federal government's ability to be effective.

Consider reactions to the issue of a one-year delay of the employer-mandate portion of Obamacare. “We are relieved,” said Tippecanoe County Commissioner Tom Murtaugh. “There has been such uncertainty about exactly what the legislation entails …” All four school districts in Shelby County had opted to cut employee hours this spring, but “decisions may now be changed.” The delay “is a good decision for employers and employees … facing costly mandates,” says Rep. Andy Barr of Kentucky. The decision “could provide cover for Democratic candidates in next year's congressional elections,” reports The Associated Press.

In other words, whew! Something obviously very bad will be put off. And those relieved Democrats won't have to start running for cover; they were just handed it.

The obvious point here is that one more flaw has been heaped on the ones already discovered after passage of what even one of its supporters has called a coming train wreck. Obamacare cannot be tinkered into acceptability with fixes here and there. The only wise thing to do is just to scrap it and start over. It is too big and complicated and ignorant of how private business works in this country. It will make things worse, not better.

But it also raises a larger question and might be getting closer to the debate some of us have long called for about the size and scope of the federal government. “Can government effectively implement something as big and complex as the Affordable Care Act?' asks Dan Balz of The Washington Post. President Obama has argued that the debate should not be seen as a question of bigger government vs. smaller government “but whether it can be demonstrated that the federal government can be both smart and effective,” but the decision on delay “clearly heightens the stakes for the president and his allies to prove the critics wrong and demonstrate that they can make big government work.”

George Mason University economist Walter Williams raises a related pertinent point: States are beginning to wake up to the federal government's usurpation of their power. About four-fifths of states now have local laws that reject or ignore federal laws on marijuana use, gun control, health insurance requirements and driver's license identification standards. More state legislatures are showing a feisty streak of independence each day.

Dare we hope for a tipping point when the feds try to ram one more 2,000-page monstrosity down our throats and enough states take back enough power to make it seem ordinary instead of foolhardy? Yes, we do.