THE BLOG
07/15/2013 03:08 pm ET Updated Sep 14, 2013

The Sword of Damocles

When I led the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), we invested a substantial amount of time and resources in health care issues that were always among the top concerns of our members. One of our biggest headaches was making certain we had reliable expertise on staff to attend all of the endless hearings and meetings, and decipher the complex proposals bouncing around on Capitol Hill. The people who really understood what was going on were few and far between.

And that was before Obamacare -- the thousand page plus bundle of incomprehensible bureaucratic and legalistic doubletalk that no one fully understands. For the last couple of years our economy has struggled -- growing but not fast enough, adding jobs but not fast enough -- and a major impediment to economic growth is Obamacare which is like the fabled sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of political and business leaders. No one knows exactly how it is going to play out, but it is clear that the overall cost of health care, already at about 18 percent of GDP, can only increase under this program. We simply cannot afford to lard expensive new requirements onto our bloated health care system, but that is exactly what this program will do.

The Obama administration's recent decision to postpone for a year the requirement that businesses employing 50 or more employees provide their workers with health insurance or face fines -- a key provision in the law -- dramatically underscores the fundamental incoherence at the base of this ill-conceived adventure in runaway government.

Some states are moving ahead to set up exchanges to enable low-income people to obtain health insurance, while others are dragging their feet. Everyone is waiting for regulations to guide their decisions, but the health care bureaucrats in Washington are having trouble writing sensible regulations. In the meantime, the public is totally confused and worried about what the new system will mean to them. "The administration's public information campaign on the benefits of the Affordable Care Act deserves a failing grade," Senator Max Baucus told Health and Human Services Secretary last April. "You need to fix this."

But I fear it is beyond fixing. Obamacare is at its core a Rube Goldberg contraption attempting to provide universal cradle-to-gave health care without recognizing and resolving the economic implications. President Obama should have first taken on the admittedly tough challenge of reining in health care costs before he attempted to extend health insurance to everyone.

In the final analysis, the critical failing of Obamacare is that it lacks broad public support. "Great innovations," said Thomas Jefferson, "should not be forced on slender majorities." To bring about dramatic change in something as large and pervasive as health care, you must have a credible bi-partisan consensus. Obamacare is much too complex to permit intelligent implementation and its lack of broad public support exacerbates that weakness. Senator Baucus said he sees a huge train wreck coming, and I share that concern.

Jerry Jasinowski, an economist and author, served as President of the National Association of Manufacturers for 14 years and later The Manufacturing Institute. Jerry is available for speaking engagements. July 2013