One argument made by President Obama and Democrats on why Congress should pass health-care reform is the polls say so. They concede that a majority of Americans oppose the overall bill, but they point out when you ask them about the individual aspects of the bill, a majority of Americans like each of them. So according to the Democrats somewhat twisted logic, if you like the small parts then you should love them all when jammed together in a gigantic piece of legislation.
The Democrats have it wrong. For one, it is very unlikely the majorities who like the individual parts are the same for each. In other words, some people like some parts and not others and to varying degrees. That is why a majority disapproves of the comprehensive health-care reform bill.
The flawed logic is best explained though an example. Say after a dinner at a restaurant the waitress gives you the dessert menu. Your first reaction is to say everything looks so good. You wouldn’t mind having a piece of chocolate cake; or a piece of the apple pie; or the ice-cream sundae. Yet it is highly unlikely you would order everything on the menu and eat them all at one sitting. If you did, it would cost not only a lot of money but you would likely end up sick the next day. As well, you would have to run five marathons to burn the calories you ingested. In other words, the sum of the parts don’t equal the whole.
Another example I came across recently was a thought experiment of how to build the ideal car. One would think you take the best parts of the best cars, i.e. the engine of a Porsche; the braking system of Volvo; the body design of a Mazarati and put them together. The conclusion of the thought experiment is such a process would end up building a bad car. The reason is the engine of the Porsche is designed to work with the other parts of a Porsche, not of a Ford or Chevrolet.
This is the same with the health-care reform bill. Pulling together into one huge bill the so-called best ideas from various academic papers or existing health-care initiatives in states or other counties doesn’t make for an optimal bill.
One last item. President Obama stated on many occasions that he would not sign a bill that added one dime to the national debt. Greg Mankiw has a good analogy as to why such a goal does more harm than good.