Obamacare is like my toilet

It’s hugely fashionable these days to make analogies between Obamacare and all kinds of things. So I will jump right on board: Obamacare is like my toilet, and I can explain why.

This toilet is like ObamacareJon and I are remodeling our condo in Dallas, and as part of this project we bought a gorgeous one-piece dual-flush Kohler toilet for $700. Sure, it’s a little pricey, but it’s beautiful, its design means there will be no leaks and it will be easy to clean, and in the long run it will save us a lot of money.

Unfortunately, since we’ve never done this before, we made some stupid mistakes. We didn’t realize that, due to the construction of our bathroom, the plumbing for the toilet is placed too close to the wall for the size of the toilet.

In fact, we discovered that the underlying construction of our condo is flawed: the “rough-in” distance is 9.5 inches, which is a non-standard distance to the wall. After calling around, we discovered that there is only one company that makes toilets that could possibly fit, and it is a cheap company that makes cheap, poorly-made toilets.

Thus, we have bought this beautiful, gorgeous, expensive toilet that will save us money in the long run if we could install it. However, we can only install it with a lot of disruption and cost. Specifically: we would have to tear up a portion of our concrete floor, move out the underlying plumbing so that it is farther away from the wall, and then re-pour concrete.

It would be costly, it would be time and labor intensive. It would mean several more days before we are able to use that toilet. It will be inconvenient in the short-run.

On the other hand, we could return the nice, beautiful, expensive toilet, and just say: Hey! Our plumbing is messed up, but it would be too disruptive and expensive to fix it. We’ll just settle with buying the cheap, low-quality toilet. Sure, it will have ongoing problems. Sure, it will probably  cost more in repairs and water-waste in the long run. But at least it can be fixed quickly, and we won’t have to pay very much right now.

So, my friends, let me ask you what the smart consumer decision is in this situation.

Faced with this kind of toilet dilemma, what should an intelligent, thoughtful consumer do?

Pay a lot more in the short run, break open the floor, deal with the mess and disruption in the short-run, so that in the long run we can have a nice, gorgeous, cost-saving toilet?

Or return the expensive toilet, and spend $99 on the cheap toilet that fits the existing plumbing, and will continue to break year after year?


Obamacare is exactly like our new toilet.

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  1. David Fagan says:

    Greg I met the same problems (rough-in distance, design, quality, etc) in remodeling my bathroom. I did find a (somewhat pricey) solution which has designer touches, has functioned well, and even has a few plus elements I had not even listed in my requirements (downside: it’s shipped from China! And, yes, I felt badly about not purchasing a Made-in-the-USA product but USA just didn’t manufacture what was needed http://tinyurl.com/lor6msk).

    It too has the dual flush which is one of your mentioned criteria (a design instituted in Europe, etc, as a water savings and one completely ignored in the U.S. … can we all repeat together the mantra ‘single payer option’?)

    It would have been wonderful if a USA manufacturer had offered what I needed. It would have been wonderful if Americans’ need to have a nicely designed, functional and cost effective (both now and in the future) toilet or health care system was the priority of a U.S. firm or the House of Representatives. Since it was not, has not been, seemingly will not be in a foreseeable future, I did what I had to do to satisfy the fundamental requirements relative to preexisting conditions, etc. The toilet is installed. I have not had enough people use the facility to speak for its universal appeal. To me it seems it will function well and not preclude beneficial improvements in the future (I yet may put glass tiles on the wall behind the lovely one-piece fixture). I hope we can say the same for Obamacare and that you can find a solution to your conumdrem.

  2. Todd says:

    Return it. It doesn’t matter what the savings are in the long run, because you can’t afford it now. Your credit cards are maxed and you’re begging your creditors time and time again to extend your credit limit. Every budget meeting you have with your partner ends in a heated argument because you keep making purchases that supposedly will save money in the long run, but on the short term they’re throwing your budgets way out of balance. Before one investment can start to generate savings, a new purchase is on the table so you can never catch up. Your partner on the other hand, wants to make fewer purchases and find ways to bring more money in or at least cut some short-term spending and pay down some debt. Meanwhile, the last major purchase that was supposed to save you money in the long run, isn’t, and in fact the debt from it has snowballed to the point where just the interest on it has become your single biggest budget expenditure. In the end, the long-term savings from your snazzy new toilet will never come to pass because you can’t get your spending in control, so you will lose the toilet along with all it’s money-saving features when your home gets foreclosed on.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      I understand where you are going with this argument, however I don’t think it’s factually true — either in the toilet scenario, or in the “US Economy” scenario that we are making the analogy to.

      The debt is high, but the deficit is not – and the U.S. really isn’t having any difficulties in the short run making payments to creditors. While Republicans tend to focus on the really big scary number of the total debt, the fact is that if you look at what needs to be paid each year, it’s not something that is an incredible burden on our economy …. at least not yet.

      Within the analogy, what I’m saying is that although our household might have a high debt and mortgage and whatnot, our monthly payments are — at least for right now — completely within our means.

      Interestingly, we are NOT “begging our creditors” for more credit: the actual creditors have no problem extending us more credit. The only block is the artificial credit limit imposed by congress. This is akin to a situation where your actual credit card isn’t maxed out, but your cranky uncle has arbitrarily decided that you simply “shouldn’t” put more on the card.

      So the financial situation isn’t as dire as I think you are attempting to portray it in your comment.

      • Warbo says:

        I think Todd has a point, though yes, he’s incorrect about ‘begging creditors’ and such. True, the deficit is not high, but it IS a deficit, which goes contrary to the claim that we are not having difficulties making payments. A deficit shows that we only make payments by taking out more debt, which is not a good position to be in.

        On the other hand, I think it’s a crucial point that the party who is urging us not to put more debt on the card is not your cranky uncle, it’s more like your more fiscally conservative spouse or partner. The difference is that if you ignore the advice of the cranky uncle and you find yourself in hot water, it’s no skin off the uncle’s nose—he can just wash his hands of you—but the spouse boils with you.

        Right now, though, the spouse has been feeling very much left out of the decision to purchase the pricey toilet, which might be why they’ve been threatening divorce so often of late.

  3. Warbo says:

    I think your right to forgo the expensive toilet, since realistically, you may never recoup the costs of installing the thing. In fact, while they’re saying that your new toilet is going to save you all that money in the long run, you have to remember that it’s a just pitch. Salespeople and marketeers tend to rose-color things but they seldom play out as nicely as they do on paper, and if you really took a close look at the figures, it’s likely the people who came up with those numbers may not have been totally forthcoming. They are not, after all, as interested in your well-being as their friendly tone of voice makes them seem–They just want to sell you that slick new toilet.

    They also believe that if they sell it to you in just the right way, you won’t even check up to see if it’s really saving as much water as they promised. They’re probably hoping you won’t be able to figure out whether or not it really does break less often than cheaper toilets, or whether it will cost three times as much to repair when it does. They believe that once you’ve bought it, installed it and shown it to all the neighbors you’ll put up with any amount of crap (pun intended) from that fancy toilet, because by then you’re totally convinced that however bad it gets, it would have been worse if you had gone with that cheaper option. You may not even notice that you’re worse off than you were before.

    Also, if they promised you that if you liked your old plumbing, you can keep your old plumbing, then I’d say you’ve definitely been lied to, and this casts some real doubt on the other promises these guys have been making to you.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      You know what.. although I disagree with your conclusion, I really give you a lot of credit for responding PERFECTLY. A well-articulated explanation of the conservative viewpoint that is framed entirely “within the analogy”.

      Thank you for that. I enjoyed your comment a lot.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      Warbo, ok now that I’ve given you kudos, though, time for my more thoughtful, in-depth response.

      I will admit that I do not know for sure whether I will recoup the costs of installing the toilet. I will even admit that I don’t know for SURE that the toilet is the excellent quality that it claims to be. I’m not a plumber, myself, so I am not really an expert. So you are correct that I could be being bamboozled by a sales pitch.

      However, I honestly think I have done my due diligence as a consumer, and – although you may disagree – actually do think that this is a very good toilet.

      I’ve read the specs and understood, to the best of my ability, the explanation of how it works and what aspects of its design are supposed to be cleaner and more efficient, and it all makes sense to me.

      I’ve seen toilets that are similar, designed on very similar principles, functioning very well in other people’s homes.

      I’ve listened to plumbers that I trust on other issues, and whom I’ve come to trust for a variety of reasons, and the plumbers that I’m used to listening to and with whom I often agree on OTHER topics tend to all say this is a good toilet.

      To me, that seems enough on which to base an educated decision.

      Now, I understand that some people are risk-averse. They say: if you are not CERTAIN the toilet is as good as it says, then do not buy the toilet!!

      But maybe this is just a fundamental personality difference between progressives and conservatives. And this is a personality bias that I, for one, and COMPLETELY willing to admit about myself, as well.

      I think liberals like the idea of buying the new toilet that they think “should work in theory”, because they like new and improved stuff. There, I admitted it. 😉 And I think that liberals often think, “Even if the brand new thing doesn’t work exactly right immediately, I still like the fact that I’ve done something that is an improvement, and I can keep on working in it to make it better!”

      I think conservatives tend to have more of an attitude to stick with the existing stuff (in the case of this analogy, the existing plumbing) until they are CERTAIN that the new stuff is better.

      What do you think? Could this simply be, at its core, a difference in personalities this way?

      • Warbo says:

        I think there’s definitely some merit to that point of view. Erring on the side of caution is essentially what makes a person conservative on any given issue. I think risk-averse may be a little strong a term, though. I think everyone involved understands the importance of taking risks, but there’s a difference between risk and uncertainty. Risk is calculated, where uncertainty occurs where calculations can’t be made or when they are inaccurate.

        I should be sure to point out that the economics are not the heart of the concerns Conservatives have with Obamacare, but they do feel the calculations on Obamacare haven’t been terribly accurate. For instance,—and I’m going to have to break the metaphor here because I’m not sure how to work it in—the ACA is heavily reliant on low-risk (especially young) participants signing up for insurance to keep plans affordable. However, Information from polls and the signup numbers so far show that young people still aren’t really interested in insurance. The incentives just aren’t proving to be strong enough.

        This wouldn’t be such a sticking point, except that Republicans had already looked into this issue and found that the odds were definitely against success here, but the White House made the gamble anyway. Granted, it could still pay off if the trend changes, but it’s still a very long shot, and this is just one of many very uncertain hurdles.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      I know it’s cheesy to leave multiple replies to the same comment, so I honestly do apologize; however, I’ve been thinking about this some more and I also want to reply to this:

      “Also, if they promised you that if you liked your old plumbing, you can keep your old plumbing, then I’d say you’ve definitely been lied to, and this casts some real doubt on the other promises these guys have been making to you.”

      Here’s the thing: If you had asked me a month ago if I liked the plumbing in my guest bathroom, I would have said: “Sure…. what’s not to like?” Up to that point, I had washed my face in the sink, used the toilet for toilet stuff, and although the toilet itself was a pretty cheap toilet and broke now and again it generally worked.

      But I also wasn’t as informed at that point. I didn’t know that the construction was poor, and that the rough-in was 9 1/2″ inches from the wall, which is a non-standard distance: almost no toilets are made that can even possibly fit this poorly-constructed bathroom, and the only ones that can are extremely cheap and prone to problems. I didn’t learn any of this until I actually wanted to buy a new toilet to replace the old one.

      So if someone showed up a month ago, and simply said: “HEY! I’ma have to tear up your floor!!!” with no explanation, of course I would feel pissed off. THAT is the mistake that Obama’s administration made: not that they were “lying”, but that they haven’t adequately educated people about why the changes that are being forced on people are being forced on people.

      Because the real fact of the matter is: once I learned the reality of the plumbing in my guest bathroom, it became obviously that I didn’t actually “like” the plumbing. It wasn’t “fine”. It was poor construction… and the only reason I had thought that I liked it was because I didn’t know the details about my own plumbing.

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