When I was in first grade, our class' part in the school's Christmas concert was to sing The First Noel and Hark, the Herald Angels Sing! Guess what we had to dress up as.
Our costumes were fairly simple. Robes made from sheets following a pattern the nuns sent home with us. Halos made of coat hanger wire wrapped in tinsel. And poster board wings we cut out and painted in art class. Attaching the wings turned out to be the tricky part. Most of my classmates had theirs taped or stapled or sewn to the backs of their robes, but mine were bolted on.
I can't remember what method I'd tried to start, but for some reason my wings wouldn't stay on when I tried the on at home the afternoon before the concert. I was in despair. I was going to be the only angel without wings. But Pop Mannion came up with a solution. Pop was trained as a scientist but he's always had a bit of the engineer in him and by the time he was done I owned the sturdiest, most securely attached set of wings any angel could hope for. I hated them.
Pop's design involved nuts and bolts, a backing of sturdy cardboard, and an elaborate network of belts and straps and twine. When he was finished, I felt more securely harnessed to my wings than an astronaut in his capsule. I didn't wear the wings. The wings wore me. I was also embarrassed, because Pop's design also required cutting an opening in the back of my robe so everbody could see that I was the Frankenstein's monster of angels.
Still, it worked. My wings stayed on and open in an almost realistic way. But it was an engineering solution to what was a relative simple problem in creative design. Needlessly complex, inelegant, and ugly.
I'm sure I complained, and I'm sure Pop didn't understand the reason for my complaints. He and I saw attaching the wings as different sorts of problems.
I'm thinking Obamacare is an engineering solution to a relatively simple problem.
The problem that needs to be solved is that too many people in this country can't afford to see a doctor when they need to. That is, the problem is inadquate health care. The simple solution is for the government to just pick up the tab for everybody. That, however, would mean the end of the health insurance industry. The problem Obamacare is designed to solve is that too many people can't afford to see a doctor because they don't have health insurance. And part of solving that problem was figuring out how to get people insured without blowing up a major American industry.
I've compared looking at the messiness of the rollout and declaring the whole project a failure to looking at a construction site in the first weeks after breaking ground and declaring that the building will never get built. But maybe it's more like trying to replace all the sewer and water mains beneath a city without closing off any streets or shutting down any businesses for even a day.
It'll get done. But it's needlessly complex, inelegant, and ugly.