I learned about real fiascos in Italy. A fiasco is a bottle that you cook beans in. You put the beans and water in the bottle and sit it in the warm embers of your fireplace before you go to bed. If everything goes right, those beans will be tender and delicious in the morning. But beans are full of gas producing and nitrogen containing compounds so they tend to be unstable when they’re cooked under pressure. So, you could come downstairs to find that your fiasco has blown up all over the place and you now have a mess to clean up.
In other words, fiascos are more likely to occur when you leave the bottle unattended.
On Nov 1, 2013, This American Life reprised one of my favorite episodes on Fiascos. The funniest act in the episode is about what happens when an untested director reaches beyond her modest abilities to stage a Julie Taymor-esque version of Peter Pan complete with flying apparatus. It’s hysterical but also illuminating. You get the stages of a fiasco in the making from this act. At first, the audience is bemused and forgiving. Then the mistakes keep piling up and the audience progresses from sympathizing with the actors to ridicule. Then they start getting involved. The play completely breaks down and the audience is fully engaged in demolition. At some point the audience recognizes that they are no longer watching a play. They are watching a fiasco.
I think we are at the ridicule stage right now with Obamacare. We are rapidly reaching the point of no return with this play. We may get a reaction to Obamacare that was completely absent with HAMP but what the heck, why not revisit HAMP too, while we’re at it?
Some of us knew the Democrats were working with an untended mess of explosive beans but did they listen? No. They did not. There are really no good options right now. Just watch it explode and be ready on the other side with some game changing plan. I’m going to bet that the fiasco is going to generate enough public anger that there will be a slim chink of an opportunity to get something passed.
Go big. Like a public option. Make it administered by a non-profit insurance company like Blue Cross. Pour the subsidies into it. Make sure providers in the area can’t lock public option participants out and tell everyone you’re working on a permanent fix.
The problem is the for profit insurance companies and the politicians who cooperated with them. Let’s stop forcing this fiasco on the uninsured, the poor and the sick.
And check out Fiasco! on This American Life for one of the funniest episodes they’ve ever broadcast.