Another Way Obamacare Is Not Katrina

Bill Scher

In today’s New York Times, Republicans are found comparing the rollout of the Affordable Care Act to the disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina by President George Bush’s FEMA.

Slate’s Matthew Yglesias, CEPR’s Dean Baker and I’m sure others have delivered the most obvious rebuttal: Obamacare hasn’t killed any anybody. Even on a bad day of Obamacare, somebody gets life-saving health coverage that didn’t have it before.

But there’s another big difference.

The failed Katrina response was the result of Bush taking an well-functioning government agency and deliberating degrading it: taking it from disaster managmement professionals, giving it to political cronies and beginning a process of reckless privatization.

With the Affordable Care Act, President Obama is not tearing down an existing agency, but trying to build up a new government program from scratch. As I’ve written before, new government programs typically suffer bumpy beginnings, but by facing up to new challenges, our government innovates and advances to better address problems the public wants solved.

In other words, Bush made government dumber. Obama, and Obamacare, is making government smarter.

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