There is a movie/play/movie called The Producers in which the main characters try their hand at a classic con. Let me describe how it is supposed to worked from the conned person’s point of view.  I forget the exact numbers and percentage, I am not sure if they say them, so I will make them up:

You’re a rich person, and you are approached by a pair of producers to invest $1,000,000 to make a new production, with the promise that you will make 90% of all profits from the show. (And the producers keep 10%) This is how most Broadway shows tend to be funded, by the way. It all seems reasonable, so you go for it.

The show flops opening night. The producers produce receipts showing you that they spent $950,000 (Of the original $1,000,000.) on the sets and costumes and advertising and paying actors and the director, and the door only made $10,000 because a lot of people walked out and asked for their money back. Thus you get back the remaining $50,000 of your original money, and 90% of the $10,000 at the door, for a total of $59,000. (And the producers, for this flop, get to keep only $1000, which seems about right.)

A bad investment, right? But shows go under all the time. Usually not that bad, and you won’t be investing with those idiots again, but it happens.

Except it was a con. The producers actually sold 19 other people 90% of the profits also. That is clearly impossible…except it works out perfectly if the show flops.

The producers, which have collected a total of $20,000,000,  and have spent $950,000 of that on expenses. Then at the end have to pay each of the investors $59,000 each, for a total of $1,180,000. They walk away with $17,870,000.

It’s very clever. The books are entirely correct. They spent all the money they said they spent and have documentation for that. And they didn’t skim off the door. To summarize, they basically took 20 people’s money, proceeded to blow through one person’s money, and then presented documentation to each of the 20 that it was their money they lost, and kept most of the money of the other 19.

The problem in this con, of course, is that the more money the show makes, the more money has to be given out. Each dollar of profit is 18 dollars (20 * 90%) that has to be distributed. If the show makes slightly more money than the ‘original investment’ of $1,00,000, the producers are paying out more than they took in!

Thus the producers, in The Producers, plan for the show to fail. They make a show literally praising Hitler, deliberately picking the worse actors and dancers they could.

And, because this is a musical comedy, everything goes horribly right, they fail at failing, and the show is a blockbuster, and they are utterly and totally screwed:

I am not sure if the Republicans have enough self awareness to realize this just happened to them with regard to the ACA, but maybe some do.


There are a lot of things wrong with the ACA, and people have complained about it for years, and the Republicans, who also do not like the ACA, have gotten elected at least partially based on their opposition.

The problem is: The problem people have with the ACA is not even slightly the problem the Republicans politicians have with it.

The people’s objection to the ACA: People want lower premiums, aka, more subsidies, they want wider networks, aka, more expensive insurance, so either higher premiums or more subsidies, and they want the mandate gone or weakened…which requires subsidizing insurance companies in some manner, or much higher premiums or more subsidies.

Getting at the heart of the issue, the voters basically seem to think it’s underfunded. (This is not a crazy idea.) They want better, more expensive insurance, and want to pay less for it. Meanwhile, the private insurance market simply will not, and cannot, sell those plans at those prices.

There’s not any way to make this work without having the government cover the difference. (Or just providing the plans itself.) It doesn’t matter how you structure it. There’s some vague talk about letting young people get crappy insurance, which would be cheaper for them, but that just makes things more expensive for old people.

The Republican’s objection to the ACA: The Republicans do not like the taxes that fund it. That’s mostly it. They want to remove those taxes, thus reducing the funding.

Basically, one side wants a replacement for the ACA that spends a lot more money making sure that people can afford the things. The other side wants a replacement for the ACA (without the taxes) that spends a lot less money.

I hate to have to point it out, but those are literally opposite goals. There isn’t a middle ground here…or, if it there, it’s the ACA!

It’s basically that trick of agreeing with someone by disliking something they like, and not bothering to mention you dislike it for literally the opposite reason they do. Someone says ‘I don’t like that movie because it was too slow and dragged out’, and you nod and say ‘I agree, it had problems with pacing’, not mentioning the fact that the reason you didn’t like it is that you think it ended too abruptly and wished it was both longer, and that they had expanded the second act a bit more.

Agreement by disagreement, basically.

This fact is why the Republicans been unable to come up with a real plan over the past eight years. Well, I lie, they came up with Price’s plan, and that new state-opt out), but those are not really going to happen, because both of those use the existing ACA taxes to fund them, and Republicans really, really, really want those taxes gone.

But as long as they were not able to pass a plan, everything worked perfectly. They could use anger against the ACA to rally the troops, while not having to face the truth that providing a plan that people liked would not be in line with what the hard-right conservatives in Congress would provide.

And then, like the main characters of the Producers, they accidentally succeeded and got put in charge.

This is also why repeal and replace has stalled. Repeal would include undoing those taxes, and the most sane Republicans have realized that any replacement needs those taxes, and it would be very hard to put them back once repealed. (And you’d have Grover Norquist made at you.)

The most self-aware Republicans are probably singing ‘Where Did We Go Right’ at this point.



One thought on “No way out. No way out.

  1. Very concise, and funny, analysis of the problem
    However both the American people and , hopefully, the producers are screwed.

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