In a recent post on CNN’s Opinion blog, Michael Zuckerman, a writer at the Center for Public Leadership at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, has offered one of the few suggestions I’ve heard about how to fix ObamaCare that actually made me sit up and take notice: Replace the now widely discredited Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sibelius, with none other than . . . HIZZONER.
Zuckerman presents the argument better than I can, so you should really just go to his op-ed directly, but as I see it, here are few of the more compelling reasons to support this somewhat unconventional choice:
(1) Mayor Bloomberg is unconventional. It’s now beyond clear that the President’s beleaguered signature program desperately needs a serious injection of outside-the-box thinking. With Bloomberg, the project of fixing ObamaCare would gain a leader unbeholden to administration insiders AND somebody who has already demonstrated his ability to succeed at the (virtually) impossible not once, but twice: first through his invention of the “Bloomberg Machine” – an innovation that literally revolutionized the financial world by exponentially increasing the amount of information instantly available to traders; and (2) in my view at least, successfully governing the nation’s largest city for 12 years while fighting (and often winning) endless battles against every imaginable interest group. Even if you don’t love the guy, you have to acknowledge he is all about big ideas, creative solutions and perhaps, most importantly, boundless confidence.
(2) Where is ObamaCare failing? Ok – some of you would say everywhere. I get that. But seeing as the program is here to stay, let’s zone in on the biggest flaws and see if we can’t at least find a formulation that makes life better for most Americans. Under the circumstances, to me, that’s just basic patriotism. I don’t ever root against United States of America – EVER. So . . . the two biggest problems: overhauling the embarrasingly disastrous website; and getting out accurate information about ObamaCare to an extraordinaly diverse population (actually multiple populations). Both of those areas are exactly where Bloomberg excels: as noted, he made his billions by being the first to figure out how to effectively and widely disseminate a particular type of information that’s arguably even more complex – financial data – AND he’s coming off of twelve years spent explaining (and selling) policy changes to a city with the largest number of distinct ethnicities, political divisions and other demographic groups than anywhere in the United States. It’s just hard to argue with a resume like that.
(3) As a pro-business fiscal conservative/social liberal Bloomberg actually has a good shot at making it through Congressional confirmation. Ultimately, Wall Street and big business (even those who oppose ObamaCare) recognize that a totally malfunctioning system is simply bad for the bottom line. The extremes on the Left and Right won’t ever be persuaded. I say: WHO CARES? I’d much rather have a smart, tough independent who gets the job done than either a croney or a zealot. Also, never forget: this is the guy who not only successfully sold and implemented what was originally one of the least popular public health laws in history – banning smoking in restaurants and bars – but then vastly increased the scope of that law and simultaneously transformed New York’s once “radical” policy into a new national norm. (OK – Maybe he did go a little overboard with the whole soda thing, but I’m giving him a pass on that one . . .)
(4) Hiring Bloomberg ought to appeal to President Obama – if only because it may his last best shot at saving a sinking ship. And I’m not talking about ObamaCare . . . I’m talking about his entire presidency. The guy who killed Osama Bin Laden, saved the nation (more than once) from plunging into an actual Great Depression and has successfully overseen the end of one unpopular war and the winding down of another, has an approval rating at somewhere between 41% and 37% (admittedly still A LOT higher than Congress…) Point is, HE NEEDS HELP. Replacing Sibelius with Bloomberg would send a clear signal that this President does’t just apologize for mistakes – he takes bold actions to fix them.
(5) We’re increasingly seeing the emergence of fraudsters attempting to use confusion about ObamaCare to take advantage of the elderly and other vulnerable populations. During his tenure managing the city that more or less invented con-artistry (I’m assuming that’s a word…), Bloomberg dealt with more than his share of scandals – inside and outside City Hall. Nearly always, however, he did so aggressively, intelligently and in ways that made them less likely to recur.
(6) ObamaCare’s ultimate fate is predicated on whether a sufficient number of participants sign up for the various plans being offered over health insurance exchanges. There are few people in the world with more direct experience studying functional and dysfunctional markets AND THEN CONVINCING SOME VERY STUBBORN PEOPLE TO ACCEPT RADICALLY NEW IDEAS than Mayor Bloomberg. Before becoming Secretary, Sibelius was a mostly popular governor of Kansas. No offense to Kansas, but I’d prefer the guy who singlehandedly redesigned Wall Street’s information architecture.
Now, one obvious objection is that Bloomberg remains Mayor until January and many would argue that ObamaCare can’t afford to wait that long for new leadership. I don’t see that as a disqualifier. Were Bloomberg to agree to take the job, Obama could make the announcement now (something that would boost confidence all by itself) and appoint a transition team (or allow Bloomberg to choose his own) – Plus he’d get to jumpstart the convoluted process of confirmation.
If you’ve got a better idea, I’d love to hear it.
So cheers to Michael Zuckerman! Let’s just hope somebody at the White House is listening.