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Medpac And The Jennifer Aniston Theory Of Obamaism

Sticking with the same topic as my previous post, The Atlantic's Derek Thompson, who brilliantly recast Frank's and my theory of Obamaism as the Jennifer Aniston theory of Obamaism, tries to extend the metaphor to accommodate Obama's enthusiasm for MedPAC (i.e., an independent agency that would make health care cost-cutting recommendations, which Congress could reject all at once but couldn't monkey around with). Thompson writes:

I wonder how this statement on MedPAC jives with my Jennifer Aniston theory of Obamaism. This is, in a nutshell, the theory that Obama prefers to tweak incentives for private actors rather than have the government take over. The name comes from the Aniston movie The Break-Up, where her character famously tells her live-in boyfriend that she doesn't want to do the dishes for him; nor does she want to force him to do the dishes: She wants him to want to do the dishes.

theorized (via this TNR feature by Noam Scheiber and Frank Foer) that Obama would try to nudge private insurers to offer cheaper effective care. On first blush, that's what MedPAC does. Obama even discusses it as a way to "continually present new ideas to change incentives" for private insurers. 

But the fact that Obama wants to take Medicare policy "out of politics" also reveals a fatal flaw in the boyfriend-girlfriend theory of economics: Tweaking your partner's incentives is always much harder than you think! Sometimes you need outside help. MedPAC wouldn't be just another nudge. It would be an expert, impartial adviser living outside the political relationship -- a marriage counselor tasked with fixing the problems we can't fix on your own. Six months in, Obama is beginning to learn the limits of economic Anistonism. 

The man is definitely onto something. It's downright eerie how much of the Obama presidency can be explained by serial monogamy.  

--Noam Scheiber