Secrecy Bites Redux

When I saw Nancy Pelosi caught looking foolish on Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show,” I thought she would have done well to read this blog entry that I posted a while back. I decided to bring it back for a timely encore.

It appears to me that the President’s penchant for secrecy has come around to bite him. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was sold, much like the President himself, as a “pig in a poke.” Virtually no one read it before it was “passed.” It was thousands of pages long and legislators were told they had to “pass it to find out what was in it.” Obviously whatever was in it had to be kept secret. So what to do when it came time to set up the computer programs to enable the new law to work? If they hired one outstanding firm to assign their best programmers to the task, it was almost certain that the programmers would have to know what was in it. After all, how could they write code without knowing what the code was supposed to accomplish?

The way to keep it secret was, first of all, to use only people who could be trusted. The programming job had to be done by people who wouldn’t spill the beans. Spilling the beans prematurely could engender more resistance to the law than was good for the President’s objectives. But even that wasn’t fool proof. Washington, D.C. was prone to information leaks. To make such leaks less likely, the best plan was a.) to give the job to a Canadian company, after all, they already had a nationalized healthcare system, and b.) to divide the programming into separate smaller segments. That way the program could be written but be so fragmented that no one would have the overall picture. The right hand wouldn’t know what the left hand was doing. It could all be put together later.

One method programmers use when they don’t know specifically what goes into a certain position in a program is to enter “placeholder” language. When that is all “put together” without being edited by someone who understands the demands of the whole law, you get what we’ve got. But it all had to be kept secret. You know, like Obama’s college records, who it was who decided to say that the Benghazi killings happened because of a video, who gave the orders for the IRS to target conservative groups, and on and on.

The problems with the sign-up page are just the beginning. Who has any confidence that other aspects of the program are set to run any more smoothly? Millions of people have been told their health insurance doesn’t qualify under the new law. So much for “you can keep your plan.”

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