11/05/2013 01:07 pm ET Updated Nov 05, 2013

Here's How Larry Summers Could Have Saved Obamacare

It turns out Larry Summers is not always wrong about everything! The problem is that, when Summers was a top White House economic adviser, President Obama listened to him at the wrong time, pretty much every time.

Take Obamacare: Summers wanted to take the job of launching the Affordable Care Act away from Obama's political team and give it to a health-care "czar," the Washington Post reported on Tuesday. This czar would have been an outsider who knew about insurance and business and technology -- the kind of stuff you want to know when rolling out a massive new health care program and accompanying website.

But, oops, Obama resisted Summers, which helped lead to the clownpocalypse of Obamacare's launch, now in its second embarrassing month.

As Ezra Klein points out, a czar might not have done a much better job of launching Obamacare than the political team did. But then the czar would probably not have been as self-destructively paranoid as the political team apparently was about every little step in the process, according to the WaPo's account. The White House's irrational fear of Republicans scoring cheap political points caused confusion and delay. It's hard to imagine how things could have gone much worse had Obama simply listened to Summers in this case.

It's too bad Obama didn't instead ignore Summers in early 2009, when Summers argued for a smaller stimulus package than other economists thought was necessary. That decision was also based on political considerations, and it also turned out badly. The stimulus gave the economy a boost, sure, but the economy could have used a lot more.

Summers' advice in that case is one of the many reasons he is not currently Obama's nominee to be the next Federal Reserve chairman. Summers and Obama, and Obamacare, and maybe the nation, might be better off had Obama reversed the occasions on which he chose to ignore Larry Summers.



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