Obamacare and the fundamental failure of O'Malleyism

If Maryland’s bolloxed rollout of Obamacare has taught us anything, it is the failure of technocracy — especially the snake oil the O’Malley administration has been selling since 2006.  The idea that they are a results-oriented, data driven lot  —you know better choices, better results … or something.

According to an investigation by Sun reporters Meredith Cohn and Andrea Walker, Maryland’s Obamacare exchange website, the Maryland Health Connection, was plagued by all manner of problems both before and after its October launch.  Problems included among other issues, technical glitches and feuding contractors.  Upon launch the website crashed often as many users were not able to access the site, and Maryland has posted lower enrollment numbers compared to other state-run exchanges.

Amid the controversy, the head of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, Rebecca Pearce resigned after it was learned she took a Caribbean vacation in late November as state lawmakers demanded answers from exchange officials.

The botched rollout was a far cry from the glowing preview of Maryland’s health exchange and its leaders provided by Business Week in August 2012: 

The day after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld President Barack Obama’s health-care reform law, his campaign put Martin O’Malley on the phone with reporters. A Democrat from one of the country’s bluest states, he referred to his Republican peers who’d waged the unsuccessful legal battle to strike down the Affordable Care Act as “laggards.” Now that the Supreme Court had ruled, he offered to help other states prepare for it, as he’d already been doing for more than a year. “We are ready and willing and very happy to share what we’ve learned in this process with governors of both parties,” O’Malley said….

If any state is poised to be ready, it’s Maryland. One of the first to pass a law establishing an exchange, back in April 2011, it’s moved swiftly to begin building a $51 million computer system that citizens will use to shop for insurance online as they do for airline tickets on Expedia. “We want to be the model,” says Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, who oversees the state’s health-care reform efforts.

And now we’ve learned that Maryland is one of several state-based health exchange websites vulnerable to a WiFi attack that allows hackers to obtain usernames and passwords.

The technocratic ideal is enticing, as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman once called it “the beauty of pushing a button to solve problems.”  Jigger this input here, to tweak that output there, and voila we can reach the sunny uplands of history!

Governor O’Malley has embraced the technocratic ideal — hello StateStat — and made it the centerpiece of his nascent presidential bid.   And, much like the Obamacare flop, reality has thrown cold water on the technocratic promise of “One Maryland.”

The tag line for O’Malley’s vaunted StateStat program is, “Things that get measured are things that get done.”  Apparently, StateStat wasn’t measuring contraband cell phones coming into the Baltimore City Detention Center, the state-run jail taken over by the violent Black Guerilla Family gang.  Legislative audits dating back to 2010 show O’Malley’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services in complete disarray.

Legislative audits for other state agencies also belie the technocratic fairy tale of One Maryland.  

Remember O’Malley’s promise to roll back BG&E rate hikes?  How’d that turn out? 

We’re still waiting on that “detailed plan to make energy more affordable.”

How about those competent, professional regulators O’Malley appointed to the Public Service Commission like chairman Doug Nazarian?  Nazarian admitted he and his colleagues dropped the ball on electric utility reliability during severe storms.  

But don’t pay that no never mind, because thanks to O’Malley’s EmPower Maryland policy you pay for the electricity you didn’t use during an outage.  

O’Malley’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) was supposed to usher in an era of “green energy” production for Maryland.  Except it didn’t. According to U.S. Energy Information Administration data (see table 5) between 2000-2010 renewable energy as a percentage share of total electric power generation decreased from 1.6 percent to 1.3 percent.  Instead of affordable “green energy,” O’Malley’s RPS allows rent seekers and Wall Street to speculate in our utility bills.

These failures, especially in Maryland’s health exchange and O’Malley’s energy policy, highlight the Achilles heel of the technocratic project.  O’Malley and his button pushers arrogantly assume they can artificially replicate — through central planning — the myriad organic decisions and actions made by individuals that direct a market or an economy. 

For in truth, the button pushers just can’t stand the fact that an individual might know what’s best for them, their family, or their business. 

--Mark Newgent

Red Maryland has strived to be the premier blog and radio network of conservative and Republican politics and ideas in the free state since 2007. Its posts appear regularly on baltimoresun.com.

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