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Do You Support Sebelius?

Time was, Kathleen Sebelius looked like a good future candidate for President of the United States. Now, to say that she is having political trouble is like saying that the Titanic got wet.

supportsebeliusAre the critiques fair? Are the problems with ObamaCare / the Affordable Care Act really the fault of Kathleen Sebelius, or is she just the patsy for an administrative failure that lies elsewhere, or, option 3) is there really no problem with ObamaCare at all?

We’re creating this pro-Sebelius tshirt as a kind of test case, to measure Democrats’ willingness to engage on the health care reform issue. Will this tshirt sell, as our pro-Sebelius tshirts have sold in the past, or will Democrats whistle, avert their eyes, and walk away while Sebelius becomes a sacrificial lamb to placate the spirits of GOP wrathfulness?

13 thoughts on “Do You Support Sebelius?”

  1. Bill says:

    Well, I’m not much of one for voting by buying unattractive T-shirts, but the underlying question is a good one.

    I had high hopes for Sebelius when she was appointed because she had a track record as an accomplished administrator and a smart government executive, and her politics seemed generally to be on the side of goodness. But, at this point in time, I can’t give her more than a D grade, and that might even be a little too generous.

    The ACA web site SNAFU, while publicly embarrassing to her boss and pretty inexcusable, isn’t the greatest of my reasons for being cold on Sebelius, but it’s worth a comment. No, it’s not Sebelius’s ‘fault’. Still, you get to be a highly compensated high-level administrator or executive because you’re top-notch at managing large complex programs to yield successful results, and clearly that didn’t happen here. It happened on Sebelius’s watch, so ultimately it’s on her. Gotta go with a D- grade on this one.

    Much worse was her 2011 attempt to override FDA’s decision to permit sales of Plan B over-the-counter to women under the age of 17. Her decision flew in the face of all the available science and the best judgment of her own technical experts at FDA. It was a pure-play political calculation at the expense of millions of young women’s reproductive health. It was also completely tone-deaf. Grade: F.

    Also disappointing are the things that didn’t happen on her watch. First and foremost among these (at least from my personal perspective) is her failure to go to the mat to defend the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) budget. One of the very best no-brainer examples of what ‘big government’ does uniquely right is our nation’s 60+ year history of competitive funding of investigator-initiated research grants, the post-war brainchild of Vannevar Bush, which has proven to be the economic engine that powered the U.S. economy into world leadership in science and technology. After a good stretch of remarkable growth in NIH’s budget from 1998-2003, more recently NIH’s budget has been shrinking precipitously, down 22% in constant dollars over the past decade. This didn’t start under Sebelius, and I’m confident it’s not something she supports, but the plain fact is she has done nothing, in word or deed, to resist it. She should have been kicking and screaming about this since Day 1, but she hasn’t been. Again, a political calculation instead of principled action, and the consequences for America’s leadership in science and technology have been (and are) nothing short of a disaster. Grade: C-.

    Also on the NIH front, she has failed to do what needed to be done to replace Francis Collins as head of NIH. Collins is a great guy, a pre-eminent scientist, and has done some fantastic things for NIH…just not lately. He has pretty clearly outlived his usefulness in that position, but any attempt to replace him would kick up a lot of dust, so it hasn’t happened. Grade: C.

    Finally, Sebelius should also have gone to the mat to face off against Big Pharma and its shocking scam of charging Americans twice as much — or more — for prescription drugs than patients in other countries pay for the very same drugs. She should have been a very vocal crusader in the ongoing struggle to empower Medicare to negotiate the best possible drug pricing for patients, which would go a loooong way toward fixing our broken healthcare system. But she didn’t. Grade: D.

    Overall, it has seemed to me that Sebelius has managed her career as Secretary of Health and Human Services like someone who saw the job as a stepping stone to a better (elected?) position in future. She has mostly kept her head down and her mouth shut and avoided controversial decisions. A real disappointment.

  2. Dave says:

    I recall an article in Huffington Post recently that stated Sebelius recognizes the seriousness of the rollout problems and she says that she herself is responsible for the problems. If this is accurate, it answers all three of your questions.

    1. The problems are Sebelius’fault.
    2. The administrative failure does not lie with that goof
    in the White House.
    3. There really is a problem.

    Insert mini-rant: This boondoggle has cost us six hundred million dollars. Is there a company anywhere in the world that would spend that much on a website, let alone face the possibility of having to trash it and start over? This is a picture of government taking charge of your medical care. Be afraid. Does anybody in this country know how much SIX HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS is? Cheez. Any executive in the country (any real one that is) who frittered away that kind of money would be working in the mailroom next week.

    1. Jim Cook says:

      I notice you don’t have a source for that “SIX HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS” claim, Dave. Apparently (see here), that’s a wildly inaccurate figure.

      1. Bill says:

        Now, Jim, HE TYPED IT IN ALL CAPS, so it must be true.

  3. Dave says:

    Will Democrats “whistle and walk away” while Sebelius becomes whose sacrificial lamb, exactly? Wouldn’t that be the President’s? Can’t have the buck stop with him, now can we?

  4. Dave says:

    I suppose CNN could be considered a source as well as anyone.

    -the WaPo’s Kessler suggested “readers should be wary of many cost estimates uttered by lawmakers.”
    -CNN says “that also holds true for estimates uttered by conservative commentators.”
    -Dave says “that also holds true for estimates uttered by CNN.”

    1. Bill says:

      -Bill says “that also holds true for estimates uttered by Dave” 😉

      1. Bill says:

        And anyway, if the price of the federal ACA online insurance marketplace (incorrectly known as ‘that web site’) is the biggest thing you’ve got to worry about…or even on your top-one-hundred list, then the Obama administration must be doing a freaking fantastic job. Also remember that the federal marketplace wouldn’t be necessary, except for obstructionist slacker red states that refused to create their own exchanges merely to be mean and to score some cheap political points with the yahoos. Now its the voices who supported that obstructionism that are wailing most loudly about the screwed-up federal roll-out. Figgers. First you screw everything up, then you bitch about how screwed up everything is.

  5. Dave says:

    I s’pose in the end it’s only money.

    1. Jim Cook says:

      Don’t retreat to “whatever”land now. Whether it’s $600 million or $70 million matters. Don’t make a claim that you can’t support.

  6. Dave says:

    Jim, I don’t yet know that $70 million is accurate either. I couldn’t successfully highlight the link right now but according to an article on (tags healthcare reform, Obamacare/ACA costs) Bloomberg analyst Peter Gosslin estimates $1 Billion before all the smoke clears, that is, before all the contractors are paid. I will stick to 600 mil, you say 70, and I guess when an accounting is made one of us will be closer to correct numbers. Right now, it’s a political football. My guess is that insurance companies who have a stake in this will have their techies pull Sebelius’ fanny out of a crack at their own expense, skewing all cost analyses.

    Bill, all caps means I am shouting, dontcha know?

    1. Jim Cook says:

      Hi Dave. No, I don’t say $70 mil. I don’t have a dog in this fight (not a fan of Obama and this Obamacare was designed as a Republican pro-insurance-company plan before Obama adopted it, guaranteeing that the GOP would switch to hating it). It’s just that there’s no solid support for that big figure you cited other than someone said so. So before panicking about that dollar figure, make sure it’s real. If you’re not sure, don’t spread it around as all-caps truth.

  7. Dave says:

    “All-caps truth.” GOOD ONE!

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