Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Doubling Down On ObamaCare

Imagine that last week you spent $50 for a non-refundable ticket to today’s concert. When it’s time to leave for the concert hall, however, you decide that, all things considered (including the heartfelt regret you are now experiencing for buying the ticket), you’d prefer to stay home and watch your favorite TV show. You might force yourself to go to the concert anyway because you’ve already plunked down the $50. But if you did, an economist would say that you’d succumbed to the “fallacy of sunk costs.” The only consideration pertinent to your decision about attending the concert is forward-looking, whether you expect to enjoy going enough to justify expending the effort to get to the concert hall and missing the TV show. Since you can’t get your $50 back no matter what you do, your having already spent it is beside the point.

Consider Mike Allen’s post about how some liberal activists are gearing up for the mid-term elections and ask yourself whether they’re succumbing to the fallacy of sunk costs (my emphasis):

“Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Victoria Kennedy — widow of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) — are expected to be named co-chairmen of a $125 million campaign that White House allies are rolling out to defend health care reform amid growing signs Democrats are failing to get political traction on the issue.

“The extraordinary campaign, which could provide an unprecedented amount of cover for a White House in a policy debate, reflects urgency among Democrats to explain, defend and depoliticize health care reform now that people are beginning to feel the new law’s effects.

“The Health Information Center is being started by Andrew Grossman, a veteran Democratic operative who founded Wal-Mart Watch, a labor-backed group to challenge the world’s largest retailer on employee relations and other fronts.

“Grossman told POLITICO that the lessons of Wal-Mart Watch will be helpful on health reform. ‘When you treat people with respect and try to understand how they interact with businesses and politics, you can move them,’ he explained." 
There’s no denying that Democrats have already invested a lot of scarce resources passing ObamaCare, including money, their reputation in some circles for playing by the procedural rules of the Senate and much of Obama’s declining popularity. The sad fact is that, despite all that investment, a healthy majority of likely voters still favors repeal. But those sunk costs are irrelevant to the decision about whether it’s reasonable for Democrats to double down on their ObamaCare bets.

Can trying to get people who’ve already been inundated with Democratic messaging (and probably tuned out) to change their minds about ObamaCare really be a better use of $125 million and Obama’s shrinking popularity than spending those resources on telling voters about the great things Democrats plan to do after the election (including implementing and improving ObamaCare) if they succeed in retaining their congressional majorities? I’m no political strategist, but that doesn’t sound very plausible to me.

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