Not Enough Said

Nicole Holofcener’s new movie Enough Said is about a woman who gradually falls in love with a man on the strength of his charms, then gradually falls out of love when the man’s faults draw more clearly into focus.

The catch is that the woman, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, does not discover and become annoyed by the man’s shortcomings on her own (he is played by James Gandolfini), but rather is warned about them by a former girlfriend of his, whose gripes prove largely accurate and, over time, cause Louis-Dreyfus to second-guess the whole relationship.

The question that inevitably arises from this unfortunate series of events—I dare not divulge the details—is whether the relationship would have endured if this third party (Catherine Keener) had not butted in and alerted Louis-Dreyfus to all of Gandolfini’s warts.  Did the ex’s assertion that any relationship with him would fail become a self-fulfilling prophesy, or did the tipoff merely accelerate something that was destined to pass?

George Orwell famously observed, “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”  At one point or another, each of us has experienced the epiphany that comes from a friend pointing out something we sorta-kinda knew all along but refused to admit outright.

You can write off your boyfriend’s collection of ten thousand toothbrushes as a harmless quirk for a long time.  But as soon as “chronic hoarder” pops up in a conversation with your girlfriends?  Well, there are some things that, once heard, cannot be unheard.

In other words, we should not underestimate the influence of others in shaping how we think about the world around us—particularly at moments when we think we did all the thinking by ourselves.

Upon the fiscal new year we mark today, certain components of the Affordable Care Act are now taking effect.  The American public has expressed profound ambivalence about what it thinks of President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy initiative, and so leaders on both sides of the issue continue to characterize the policy on the people’s behalf.

The Democratic Party, and President Obama in particular, has been lacerated by supporters for failing to “sell” Obamacare to the public.  Republicans, as demonstrated most recently by Senator Ted Cruz, have gone to extraordinary lengths to condemn the program as the second coming of the Antichrist.

In Holofcenerian terms, Obamacare is essaying the role of Gandolfini, the American people are Louis-Dreyfus and the GOP is Keener warning Louis-Dreyfus of the hazards of allowing Ganfolfini into her life.

Like the relationship in Enough Said, the Affordable Care Act is yet in a nascent stage of existence.  Its eventual consequences cannot possibly be assessed with any confidence, as the policy’s intricacies have been given barely a moment to breathe and reveal their most basic, let alone full, potential.

As such, there is no finer time for skeptics of Obamacare to bang on incessantly about its shortcomings.  There is no direct evidence on the home front to contradict them, while simultaneously there are all sorts of horror stories from foreign countries with similar programs from which to derive frightening inferences.

This is the moment, in other words, for interested parties to plant long-lasting impressions in the minds of consumers as to whether Obamacare is a good idea.  Should they succeed, then people’s reactions to the actual changes in their health coverage can be neatly filed away as confirmation bias.

The responsibility of individuals who are yet unfamiliar with the Affordable Care Act’s provisions, then, is to get ahead of the game and read up on them.  Better to have a solid understanding of the facts in order to make up your own mind, rather than allowing someone else to make up your mind for you.

The good news is that a healthcare program, unlike a relationship, can actually be measured numerically.  There are handy-dandy online calculators with which you can determine how much your own policy will probably cost, and an encouraging story last week noted that many people’s plans will be much cheaper than previously expected.

Or perhaps they won’t.  Few things are certain, although the tendency for the cost of everything to increase is possibly one of them.

The trick is to not allow other people, many of them with shady motives and a tenuous relationship with facts, to poison the well before it even fills with water.

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