Monday, February 15, 2010

Bad salesmanship or just bad product?

Mickey Kaus:
Lots of intellectual effort now seems to be going into explaining Obama's (possible/likely/impending) health care failure as the inevitable product of larger historic and constitutional forces. There's something to this of course--the Framers went overboard in making it hard for the government to act, for example. But in this case there's a simpler explanation: Barack Obama's job was to sell a health care reform plan to American voters. He failed.
Yes. He failed to sell his "health care reform plan" to the voters. That's absolutely true. But is that a failure of Obama, or the voters or the plan?
He didn't fail because 55% of Americans can never be convinced of anything. It happens all the time. He just failed. He tried to sell expanding coverage as a deficit reducer. Voters didn't believe him and worried that they would pay the bill in some unadvertised way (through Medicare reductions or future tax increases, mainly). That's not constitutional paralysis or Web-enabled mob rule. It's just bad salesmanship.
Well, let's concede that it isn't spectacular salesmanship, of the "selling ice to eskimoes" variety. But is it really bad salesmanship if you fail to sell a big, expensive product that has a lot of big, expensive details that people don't want? Yes, he tried to sell expanding coverage as a deficit reducre and "voters didn't believe him." But did they not believe him because he didn't sell it well, or because he was selling it as a deficit reducer and it really isn't?

What positive features of the plan has he failed to present? What negative features did he fail to downplay? When did he fail to push it when given the opportunity? The problem isn't the salesmanship, it's the product. The more the people learned, the more they didn't want it. The more they saw the process in the Congress, the more turned off they were. I don't see this as a result of "bad salesmanship" on Obama's part. Could it have been better sold? Maybe, though it's not obvious to me how that would have been done. But let's face it - the product stinks. It's too big, it's too expensive, it has the potential to inconvenience or harm far more people than it helps, while providing a net cost increase to more people than see a decrease. Billy Mays couldn't have sold the reality of this plan.

(H/T: Instapundit)

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