In the great tradition of American civil disobedience, President Barack Obama is defying a law. It’s just one that he himself lobbied for, signed and lost a house of Congress over. Even Henry David Thoreau would be hard-pressed to understand this one.
The famous dissenter refused to pay a tax because of his opposition to the Mexican-American War and slavery; presumably, though, he would have been willing to comply with the provisions of something called ThoreauCare.
President Obama is in a much more awkward spot. At every turn, he is confronted by the irrationalities and inconveniences of his own health-care law. Not since Cary Grant was chased by the crop-duster in “North by Northwest” has there been such an affecting scene of a man constantly on the run. The president’s tools of evasion are waivers, deadline extensions, reinterpretations and last-minute demands on insurance companies. Really, any means necessary.
Coordination with the insurance companies is dispensed with, and public notice is spotty. Announcements are sometimes made at night, when everyone eagerly awaits the latest news on how American health insurance will work. It was around 9 p.m. that the administration let it be known that it was partially suspending the individual mandate in 2014 by exempting people who have had their insurance policies canceled. It didn’t even publicly announce its one-day extension of the deadline to get insurance by Jan. 1. This is not just government by diktat, but government by embarrassed diktat.
Understandably, since the administration has a lot to be embarrassed about, it long ago stopped caring about coherence. After the latest big change, the individual mandate applies to you, except if it doesn’t. It is absolutely essential to the functioning of the law, except when it isn’t. The law is a Great Leap Forward for the cause of social justice. But it is also a hardship.