Monday, August 31, 2009

Obama Has Done Us a Favor on Health Care

Perhaps the biggest boost that Ted Kennedy could have given to President Obama was to give the president a week's pause.

Maybe that pause will have given him a chance to refashion his failing health-care plan. Conservative pundits high and low have been busy counting him out over the past couple of weeks. We've counted presidents out before. It doesn't work that way.

The fact is that President Obama has huge majorities in the Congress. If he'd just trim his sails a bit he ought to be able to pass a lot of very Democrat-friendly health legislation. The fact that he chose to go for the long ball has turned out to be a godsend to conservatives and Republicans, for it means that he is wasting some of the opportunity he had back in January.

But the Obama administration is doing conservatives a great favor. It is coming out from behind the screen and telling us exactly what liberals stand for. For the last twenty years, liberals have been pretending they are New Democrat centrists. They had to, because otherwise they couldn't get elected to the White House and to control of Congress.

But once Candidate Obama got elected to the presidency on a platform of transparency and tax cuts, and Nancy Pelosi got to be Speaker on the strength of conservative Democratic candidates winning in Republican-leaning districts, they threw off their disguise.

But that puts the real Democratic agenda in play. It means that conservatives like Betsy McCaughey can start writing about the real health care agenda of the Democrats.

The Democratic health agenda is really quite simple, as Rahm Emanuel's brother Zeke has laid out. Doctors are going to have to balance the personal needs of their patients with the overall needs of society.

Dr. Emanuel believes doctors should serve two masters, the patient and society, and that medical students should be trained "to provide socially sustainable, cost-effective care."

If you are an elite Democrat, this seems quite uncontroversial. Of course we are going to have to limit health care in the interests of society. Or, as Sarah Palin says, you are going to have to have "death panels." Otherwise health care will eat the federal budget.

But this elite Democratic view presupposes that health care is delivered as a government program. It presupposes that lordly experts will formulate health care policy and implement it in beneficial 1,000 page bills. Other experts will make life and death decisions about granting health care or withholding it, on a case by case basis.

But what experts like Emanuel don't consider is that it doesn't have to be that way. If health care weren't a government program, and health care were treated as a human need much like the need for food and housing, then people would have to balance their need for health care with other needs. And government wouldn't be in the position of playing God.

Of course, that means that rich Americans would get all the health care they wanted, and poor Americans would get only basic health care. In other words, it wouldn't be that different from the current situation in the United States.

It also wouldn't be that different from the situation in Canada. In Canada, ordinary people have to wait for health care. They have to endure the usual waiting lists that are universal in government health plans. But rich Canadians can hop south of the border to get urgent health care. Guess what. There's a movie about this. It's called The Barbarian Invasions.

How much health care do people want? Obviously, if health care were free, they would want unlimited amounts. But it isn't. So there has to be a limit.

When it comes to limited resources you have to have rationing. You can have rationing by price, or you can have rationing by waiting lists.

Or you can have a sensible combination. We could force Americans to pay for a decent minimum of health care, such as basic public health, accident, neo-natal, and hospice care. We could invite Americans to sign up for insurance to pay for their less-basic care if they valued it enough.

This system would be a two-tier system, of course. Kinda like the system they have in France.

Oh, you didn't know that France has a two-tier system? That's odd. I wonder why. You mean to say that Michael Moore in his SiCKO didn't quite make that clear?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Warning: Obamites are Weaker Than You Think

Official conservative response to the Obama phenomenon is that he and his kind are crazy lefties, and that they'll stop at nothing until they've destroyed America.

Maybe there's a problem with that analysis. Maybe it overestimates the Obama folks.

We all know that you should never underestimate the opposition, you know, like liberals. But now that we've had President Obama for about six months we are starting to get a feel for him.

I think what we've got is a weak president.

President Obama is weak because he is inexperienced. Of course no president comes into office prepared for the job. But still, Barack Obama really doesn't have the experience he needs. What a president needs is experience getting out of a jam. Barack Obama has lived a charmed life up to now, with people making the weather for him. And we don't really know how much of the brilliant campaign was Obama and how much was David Axelrod and Co.

President Obama is weak because the American people really don't want what he is offering. They don't like his stimulus package. They don't like the bailouts. They don't like the cap-and-trade, and they really don't like the health plan. What do they like? They like his wife and kids.

President Obama is weak because the left is not helping. A lefty friend complained on a listserv that Obama was selling out on health care. He completely misunderstands Obama's problem. Obama would love to legislate "single payer" for his lefty base. But he can't. He will try his darnedest to get the closest he can to single payer, given what he can get through Congress. But it's beginning to look as if he is not going to get much. That's not a sell-out. That's reality.

To make matters worse, the president is trying to calm down the left by investigating the CIA. This is like playing with fire. All we need is another terrorist attack and Obama's presidency is in deep trouble.

Here's what is shaping up. Even with a big majority in the House, and 60-40 in the US Senate, the Democrats don't have the votes to go up against the American people. Republicans would die and go to heaven to get the kind of majorities the Democrats enjoy, for haven't had anything like it for over a hundred years. But it is looking as if the Democrats are going to waste their opportunity by trying to do stuff that the American people flat out don't want.

What the American people want right now is for its political leaders to right the economy and clean up the nation's balance sheet. If the Democrats won't do that for them, they'll find someone who will.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Let's Call It "Liberal Atavism"

In the Afterword in his Liberal Fascism Jonah Goldberg marvels that the perfect illustration of his argument appeared in 2008 and won the presidency. Liberal fascism means the whole apparatus of millennial Hope, real Change, Unity, audacity, cool clothes, big chin, big stadiums, greek temples. And Barack Obama was that One.

But Jonah is still upset over the use of the word "fascism," because it has come to mean "bad person" rather than the real thing, a movement that wants to make politics the whole of life. If he had his druthers, he'd choose another word.

Let's solve Jonah's problem. Let's call it "liberal atavism." Atavism (from the Latin, ancestor) is an "evolutionary throwback" such as, in humans, multiple nipples. Fascism, as it developed in the early 20th century, was always an atavistic yearning for the old days of blood, soil, living room and tribal community.

"Atavism" has been used in a cultural sense. An example is F.A. Hayek's article "The Atavism of Social Justice." Social justice means, if it means anything at all, Hayek argues, a return to the moral framework of the hunter/gatherer band, its strict hierarchy, and its strict adherence to instinctive tradition and sharing.

The problem is, of course, that under hunter/gatherer rules the earth can only support a few million people, who live in constant conflict. (Up to half of men died violently in hunter/gatherer cultures, and never sired children, according to paleontologists.) In the modern world, where capitalist rules of law and contract operate, there is much less conflict, and people compete to serve strangers rather than kill them.

But the new order is instinctively wrong, and people are always hankering for a return to the simplicity of the hunter/gatherer band. Liberals, for all their love of science, want this too. And because they are articulate and powerful they can do something about it.

So when President Obama talks about "share the wealth" he is proposing an atavism. He is proposing to return to the world of the "atavus, a great-grandfather's grandfather." And he is proposing to return to a world of conflict, as we can see already in the tumultuous Town Halls of Demcoratic congressmen.

But it looks like he has a problem. Lots of people don't want to give up their freedom to go hide in an atavistic Obama world. And it looks like they may be willing to fight to keep their freedom.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy, RIP

It is the end of an era. Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) is dead at 77.

For at least a generation, Ted Kennedy symbolized what it meant to be a liberal: fighting injustice with government programs.

Historians may say that Kennedy spent his life fighting injustices that were already well on their way to solution before he was born, but that is not the point.

Ted Kennedy was a man who believed in the liberal faith of using government to help poor people and the disadvantaged, and he lived his faith every day. As a senator who was well liked across the aisle, he was reportedly highly effective in advancing his faith. He used his position and his seniority to pile government dollars into social programs of all kinds, especially health care and education.

Ted Kennedy's personal shortcomings are legendary, of course. So would the shortcomings of meny men if they were to be illuminated by the light of day. But, sinner as he was, he kept the liberal faith.

Our task, of course, now that Ted is gone, is to right the grievous injustices and cruelties that now lay heavily on the nation after a century of progressive politics. But that is a task for the morrow.

Today we celebrate the life of Edward Kennedy, American and statesman.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

We Need a Good Scapegoat

Scapegoating has got a bad name in recent years. Probably it's because our liberal friends don't like being blamed for the many failures of their welfare state.

But scapegoating is clearly a necessary part of life in human community. When things go wrong you need to pile all the blame on something or someone.

You cast the scapegoat into outer darkness. Only then can life go on, cleansed of the swirling cesspools of guilt and failure.

Very often in the past the king had to die to expiate the sins of the world. Christianity has gone the whole hog on this. God sacrifices his Son to expiate the sins of the world.

In modern democratic practice, we throw the bums out every couple of elections. At least, we throw the presidents out, focusing all our frustrations of the symbol of the nation. (President Bush is gone now, liberals. Time to move on.)

But I think we need better closure on the mortgage meltdown. I think our liberal friends are getting off cheap by blaming bankers and bonuses and Wall Street deregulation.

It can't be just the bankers that are to blame. That's because ever since the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 finance has been a government program. You could blame the bankers back in the 19th century when the US didn't have a central bank. But not any more.

No, liberals. The problem wasn't bankers and bonuses. The problem was you and your Fannie Mae and your Freddie Mac and your Community Reinvestment Act and your villainous liberal politicians that bullied banks into making sub-prime loans.

So we need liberal scapegoats. And we know who they should be. Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA). The egregious errors and unrepentant arrogance of these two legislators are not to be borne.

(It is delightful that the villainous firm of lawyers in The Pickwick Papers, the chaps who hound poor Mr. Pickwick into debtors prison, went by the name of Dodson and Fogg. Pretty cute, eh?)

We must pitch Dodson and Fogg--I mean Dodd and Frank--out of Congress.

Otherwise justice will not be done. Otherwise we will not have propitiated the gods. Otherwise we will not have concentrated all our guilt and shame into the necessary scapegoats and cast them out into outer darkness.

Voters of Connecticut and Massachusetts! The nation expects you to do your duty.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Let's Do It the Hard Way

Remember back in 2005? President Bush campaigned to reform Social Security. His plan was to partially privatize Social Security and get rid of the unfunded liability.

Democrats, liberals, unions, and the AARP joined together in a campaign to stop reform.

Of course, part of President Bush's plan was a curb on Social Security benefits. His opponents naturally focused on that part of the plan.

Now we have Democrats under President Obama proposing a reform of health care. One of the key provisions is an attempt to reduce the cost of Medicare with end-of-life counseling.

Republicans, conservatives, and senior citizens have joined together in a campaign to stop reform.

They don't like the end-of-life care proposals, calling them "death panels."

Now, as a conservative, I regard President Obama's proposals oppressive and anti-freedom. But they are a serious, if dishonest, attempt to address the Medicare unfunded liability which is now, apparently, hitting $83 trillion.

If ObamaCare goes down just like President Bush's initiative on Social Security reform, then US voters will have sent an unmistakable message.

We don't want to solve the entitlement problem now. We would rather wait and solve it the hard way, in a total government spending train wreck, further down the track.

Friday, August 21, 2009

ObamaCare on Life Support

Just in time for a late summer weekend all the conservative commentariat is signing the death certificate for ObamaCare.

The most penetrating analysis is Peggy Noonan, once conservatives' sweetheart.

Every big idea that works is marked by simplicity, by clarity. You can understand it when you hear it, and you can explain it to people. Social Security: Retired workers receive a public pension to help them through old age.

But ObamaCare is full of the "secret language of government that no one understands—'single payer,' 'public option,' 'insurance marketplace exchange.'" People are right to be suspicious of it, and vote No.

So President Obama should pull the plug and admit he made a mistake. Unlike President Bush.

(Yeah, like that makes any sense. If President Obama admits he made a mistake the MSM will all coo that he's wonderful and modest. But President Bush was fighting a war. You can't say that Americans lost their lives in a mistake. And if Bush had said that Iraq was a mistake then the MSM and Democrats would have eaten him alive.)

It's also kinda fun to read Charles Krauthammer say that Palin is wrong about "death panels" except that she's right. End-of-life counseling will obviously nudge people towards letting go, he writes, and when government nudges, it will feel like a shove.

Anyway. One thing we are learning, according to Jonah Goldberg, as if we didn't know.

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, liberal Democrats have to accuse their opponents of racism.

It doesn't matter that America elected a black man as president. Liberals are still going to accuse anyone that opposes him of racism.

Actually, Goldberg has a darker suggestion. The racism charge is all about finding a scapegoat. Liberals are all casting around to find the right language to do this.

They'll keep trying until they find a scapegoat that works, because that is what they do.

But let's broaden the canvas. Politics is all about finding the scapegoat, because that is how you keep a political community together. It's buried deep in the DNA of evolution. When something goes wrong, you need to pile all the blame onto a scapegoat. That's how you manage to deal with the disaster and then go on.

There is another way. It is called freedom, liberty, capitalism. In that way, people take responsibility for their own mistakes. You don't need scapegoats, because in the world of liberty mistakes are OK and they don't threaten the whole community. If you aren't making mistakes you aren't learning anything.

Meanwhile, back to the bleachers to watch our liberal friends deal with their imploding dreams of universal health insurance.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

How Big Could It Get?

I was reading recently some liberal acquaintances parroting the current Democratic talking points: that the opposition to President Obama is all racism and/or astroturf organized by the insurance companies.

Poor dears. They are really in "denial," as they like to call it. They have to believe that the opposition to the president is all a cooked-up deal.

Let's be honest, here on the right. We don't know how big this is, and how big it will get. Nobody does.

But if you ask me this is the biggest thing since the anti-war movement of the 1960s.

Let's review the big Republican political years of the recent past.

Starting the 1970s we have had the pro-life movement. It has been solid and persistent, but it has never gone viral.

Starting in the late 1970s we had the Moral Majority and the Christian Right. But it was top-down, run by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.

In 1980 we saw the Reagan Democrats taking over the Republican primary process. But this was top-down politics organized by the Reagan campaign.

In 1994 we saw the Year of the Angry-White Male, as Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay organized the Republican takeover of Congress. But this was top-down politics also.

The thing about the Tea Party and the Town Hall movements is that nobody saw them coming. Our Democratic friends are all busy looking under their beds for a new militia movement (yeah, remember them?). They want it to be Southern racism redux. They want it to be neo-McCarthyism. Yes, really! Liberal columnist Richard Cohen wrote recently about echoes of McCarthyism in Sarah Palin's "death panel" remarks,

But the truth is that this is new, it is spontaneous, and nobody knows where it may lead.

It may sputter out if the Democrats pass on death panels and the public option. Or it may not. It may already be too late for that.

The Democrats may have woken a sleeping giant.

The fact is that health care provision in the United States is not what ordinary middle-class Americans would like if they had their druthers. It is a product of politics, which means that it is helping politicians get elected, not helping people get health care. If the American people get the idea that they can change health care by grass-roots political organizing, and if a movement gets to critical mass... Well, nobody knows nuttin'.

The movement could revive the Republican Party, or it could transform it. It could send change the balance of power in Congress, in 2010 and send a new President to the White House in 2012 or it could blow up tomorrow.

But the fact is that we've never seen anything like this on the right. Not in anyone's lifetime.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Liberals: Stop Scaring Moderate Women

Even though the current health care debate is a replay of the 1993/4 HillaryCare fiasco it is worth remembering what happened back then.

What happened is that moderate women decided they wanted to keep their current health care arrangements.

And that is what seems to be happening this time around.

Moderate women have two concerns about health care. The first one is that they want to set up arrangements for the health care of themselves and their children. This means, in the first place, health insurance, and in the second place setting up ongoing relationships with doctors, specialists, hospitals, clinics. Moderate women want to know that everything is in place when they have a health care problem.

So if you start to mess with the careful health care arrangements a moderate woman has set up she will be afraid that she won't be able to get the care she needs for her family.

The second health care concern of moderate women is the health of their mothers. No, they don't worry too much about their fathers; their mothers take care of that.

Their problem is that as their mothers get older and more frail in body and mind they find that they are stepping in more and more to supervise. At the end of life, they are the ones working with health care professionals and making the hard decisions.

So when you start to mess with the careful health care arrangements that moderate women have set up for their mothers with "death panels" based on comparative effectiveness research, you make moderate women fear that they won't be able to get the health care they need for their mothers.

Now you can see why liberals and their ObamaCare are scaring the pants off moderate women and driving them into the arms of conservatives and Republicans.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Democrats Divided on Health Care

Run of the mill pundits are not prognosticating that Obama has done the impossible: he has united the Republicans and divided the Democrats.

On the right, the Blue Dog Democrats are starting to realize that they made a pact with the devil when they signed up with Rahm Emanuel in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles to get elected as conservative Democrats from districts that normally vote Republican. If health care passes they are probably road-kill. Bruce Bialosky asks what the Blue Dogs were thinking when they signed up for the Emanuel express.

The Blue Dogs need to realize that Nancy Pelosi is [French General] Petain [at Verdun]. She is sending them into to battle not caring whether they survive – just hoping to win the war. The Blue Dogs may be lost, but the left will still achieve their goal through an extreme environmental bill and the move toward nationalized health care.

On the left, liberal Democrats feel betrayed as President Obama backs away from the "public option" of government health insurance. Jake Tapper reports on the feelings of some liberal officeholders like Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY):

"Some of us who have gotten roughed up pretty good at town hall meetings and stuck in there because we believe in this, now kind of feel like we have a tire track on our chest where the bus that rolled over us is," Weiner said.

(You mean that Obama is throwing the liberals under the bus?)

These liberals are saying that without a public option there will be no bill. Really? Is that a promise?

Of course it is also possible that the Democrats are heading into the perfect storm, in which the left doesn't get a health care bill and the Blue Dogs lose their seats in 2010.

But let's not count our chickens.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Obama's Death Panels Under the Bus

The big idea behind President Obama's health reform plan is bring everyone within a single system so that the government can start to ration care. That's the only way that our liberal friends believe that they can deal with the Medicare unfunded liability.

So the central initiative is to take a whack at Medicare costs through the now notorious "death panels" that would make decisions about end-of-life care. The idea made perfect bureaucratic sense to all the liberal policy analysts and health care experts.

And it does make sense, in a rational, mechanical way.

Older people are less productive and less likely to benefit from medical care. A hip replacement for a healthy 50-year-old can return a person to work. A hip replacement for a vigorous 80-year-old can restore mobility for ten years. But a hip replacement in a frail 90-year-old isn't likely to be so successful. Chances are that granny will be too weak to walk again.

That's what "comparative effectiveness research" is all about. It is an expertise that enables government health bureaucrats to make rational decisions about expenditures for medical procedures paid for by the government.

It just shows how far our liberal friends are out of touch.

The reason we call it health care is that health care is about caring. We do healh care because it shows we care.

Well, men may not care very much, but women do care. And women go on caring when all hope is gone. They just do.

So when the government proposes to replace the caring that daughters do for their mothers--which echoes the caring their mothers did for them--with a rational system of bureaucratic triage, ordinary people, and particularly ordinary women, object.

Triage, let us not forget, is the rational procedures that armies use to dispose of the wounded. There are those that will get better without any care--so no care for them. There are those who will die whatever medical care is provided--so no care for them. Then there are those that might respond to medical care. Those are the chaps who get care. It's a sensible rational system--for armies.

But for grandma? That's why, in my view, liberals are in deeper trouble with the American people than they can possibly know.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Upchuck Factor

I call it the Upchuck Factor. It's a highly scientific measure of how long it takes for the American people to upchuck the Democrats.

This is a center-right country. People believe in freedom, self-help, family, and God. So the party of socialism and government programs has to dissimulate. It has to pretend that it is in favor of truth, justice, and the American way. Instead of the opposite.

In the 2005-08 quadrennium the Democrats played this dissimulation game a treat. They were shocked, shocked by the waste and the deficits and the corruption in the Bush administration and Congress.

The American people are a truthful people, and they assume that other people tell the truth as well. So they kinda bought into the Democratic drumbeat.

Also, the American people tired of the Bush war on terror, and half believed the Democrats when they said that Bush was stupid and obstinate.

(Actually, Bush was probably trying to avoid dividing the country any more than necessary, and understood that the enthusiasm for the war on terror would eventually flag, and with it his presidency.)

In the 1930s it took six years before the American people upchucked. In the 1938 mid-term elections they upchucked 80 Democrats, and would have sent a Republican to the White House in 1940 if it hadn't been for WWII.

In the 1960s it took six years before the American people upchucked in 1966. They hadn't voted for the crazed war on poverty that President Johnson gave them. They sent Richard Nixon to the White House in 1968.

In the 1970s it took four years for the American people to upchuck President Carter. They sent Ronald Reagan to the White House in a landslide.

In the 1990s it look two years for the American people to upchuck President Clinton. They took one look at HillaryCare and sent 50 additional Republicans to the House in 1994. Then President Clinton got with the program and reformed welfare just before the 1996 election. Democrats complain that they voted for a Democrat in 1992 and got an Eisenhower Republican.

In the 2000s it looks as if the upchuck is only taking six months. Maybe it's the internet, or maybe its the Washington gang who couldn't shoot straight. Either way, the American people started seriously vomiting a month ago, and it doesn't look as if they have cleared out their bellies yet.

There's one little problem with this story. Americans do like some government spending money. In particular, they like the government to spend money on them. So they can't quite bring themselves to send the Democrats away for ever. That's a pity, because the welfare state is slowly de-socializing America. It is teaching them to be indifferent neighbors, spouses, students. It is teaching them to dump grandma on the care of the government. It is teaching them to lose compassion for the poor. (After all, the government takes care of that.)

It's a typical divine joke. The government of socialists teaches people to be anti-social.

But it makes sense. If the state takes over the things that society ought to do, then people lose the societal virtues.

So let's get beyond the upchuck, America. Let's stop the purging, and resolve upon a healthy and limited government diet. It's for the children.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Greenness of Iceland

From the northern center of Iceland, the volcanic Lake Myvatn, greetings. This island in the north Atlantic, straddling the Atlantic ridge, is a country of scarce 300,000 people. It is remarkably empty, with widely separated farms, occasional villages, and one substantial city, Reykjavik, in the extreme west.

There are scarcely any trees, except where deliberately cultivated. The main crop of the land is grass, cropped by sheep, and grown for hay in carefully drained fields. All over Iceland you will see in August white "marshmallows," the huge rolls of hay that have been mowed, tossed, baled and wrapped in plastic. These squat cylinders are gradually moved from the fields to the farm buildings where they feed the sheep and cattle during the long dark winter.

And all over Iceland are the volcanoes, ready to spew out ash and lava. At the large icefield in the south-east, the eruptions can unleash devastating floods, as the heat of an eruption melts ice deep in the glaciers, and suddenly appears in a vast river at the snout of a glacier, tearing away bridges, roads, and embankments. At Skaftafell there is a description of the 1996 eruption in the Vatnajokull icefield that released a flood equal to the flow of the Amazon. The twisted I-beams of a collapsed bridge section are displayed to demonstrate the power of the river of water and ice blocks that burst out from beneath the 10 mile wide Skeidararjokull glacier about ten days after the eruption.

In this empty land summer tourists ride, drive, bicycle and walk along Route 1, the road that circles the island. The road winds along lonely fjords, over barren highlands, and across vast glacial outwash sands. In summer it is light all the time; in winter it is dark. Right now, in mid August, it gets darkish at about 10:30 and lightens up at about 4:30. But in midsummer it is light all the time, and in midwinter it is almost always dark. The northernmost tip of Iceland lies just below the Arctic Circle.

We are traveling west today, from Lake Myvatn to Varmahlid. Then it is on to the western tip and south back to Reykjavik and home to Seattle.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

After the Healthcare Meltdown

Now that President Obama has got us into this mess, what do we do about it?

Wise heads are talking about sensible healthcare reform, doing something about the uninsured instead of trying to rebuild the whole system on the model of the Department of Motor Vehicles.

But let us not be diverted by small ball. Let us think big ball.

The basic problem with health care (and education and just about everything to do with the modern welfare state) is that a lot of people who could be paying for their health care and should be paying for their health care are not paying for their health care. Government is good at encouraging people who don't want to pay for health care to imagine that they have a moral and economic right to free or subsidized health care. But government is thugs in pinstripe suits.

Dick Morris has remarked that that the Democratic Party is built on six pillars: blacks, Latinos, single women, young people, unions, and the elderly. You'll notice that just about all the government programs about which we've heard tell give money to these special interests. But the elderly, he writes, are turning away from the Democrats because of the threat in Obamacare to their Medicare benefits.

Maybe they will, but the Republicans aren't likely to be much help. Republicans think that Medicare needs "reform" too. Only they aren't quite as two-faced about it as the Democrats.

Sooner or later all these programs that keep up the pillars in the Democratic Party are going to come tumbling down, because there just ain't the money there to pay for them all. Democrats have promised the same money to six different pillars.

Maybe the right thing to do is to stand back and let the pillars fall down. After all, blacks and Latinos should get a job. Union thugs should get a job. Single women should get a husband, Young people should get a job. And the elderly, America's richest kind, should get a life and pay for their own medical care, as most of them can.

Then we would have money available to help people who are needy through no fault of their own. Instead, we are paying out trillions in benefits to middle-class people who can afford to look after themselves.

Is this a great country or what!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pelosi's Un-Americans

You'd think that US politicians would have learned by now not to accuse the opposition of being un-patriotic. So why are House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer coming out and calling the opponents to ObamaCare "un-American?"

However, it is now evident that an ugly campaign is underway not merely to misrepresent the health insurance reform legislation, but to disrupt public meetings and prevent members of Congress and constituents from conducting a civil dialogue.

Oh, silly me. The chaps who started the un-American thing 50 years ago were Republican McCarthyites. Nobody could accuse a Democrat of using McCarthyite tactics. Nancy Pelosi is a card-carrying liberal. Nobody could accuse her of fascistic tendencies.

More and more, it is becoming clear that Nancy Pelosi is out of her depth. She just doesn't understand the "high game" and thinks she is still playing thug-level big-city machine politics. Republicans couldn't ask for a better opponent.

Glenn Reynolds has articulated the situation best.

The truth is that for my adult lifetime, "protest" has been a kind of Kabuki engaged in by organized groups on the Left with help from the press -- as in the recent bus tour of AIG executives that was organized and paid for by an ACORN affiliate and in which the protesters were heavily outnumbered by the media, who nonetheless generally treated it as an "authentic" expression of populist discontent.

Now, all of a sudden, conservatives have erupted into genuine "out-of-doors" political activity, and liberals are calling it "unruly" and "astro-turf." They are questioning its legitimacy. These are the guys who have made an art form out of rent-a-mob "peaceful protest."

I'd advise my Democratic friends to be careful. In politics you want to avoid waking sleeping dogs. You can get the people to put up with a lot of abuse from government. They will grumble and complain, but not do anything about it. But when you provoke a populace into rebellion, then you have bought yourself a peck of trouble. Once people get aroused it becomes very difficult to get them to go home again.

Back in the 1950s liberals were delighted to be accused of being "un-American." It put them on the side of the angels over a dispute (communists spies in government) in which they had a lot to answer for.

Today, conservatives should be delighted that clumsy liberals like Nancy Pelosi are reaching for the patriotism button. It will rile up center-right Americans like you wouldn't believe, and unite conservatives, libertarians, and Christian conservatives into a single, powerful coalition. That is terrible news for liberals because this is a center-right country, and the only way that liberals can get things done is by keeping the right divided.

My judgment is that we have a generation of liberals in power today that don't really have first-class political minds. They have had it too easy, for they have never had to defend their ideas against a hostile media. Unlike your average conservative.

We are going to see, in our time, a great liberal unraveling. It began with the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Liberals had told us how bad it was for politicians like Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon to lie. Liberals had told us that the rules over the treatment of women had changed and that the old double standard was over. Then along came Bill Clinton, treating women like objects, and lying about it.

So liberals said it was OK. Everyone lies about sex, they said.

In the Obama era we will see a bunch of other liberal sacred cows sacrificed to political convenience.

That is why conservatives make such a big deal whenever Obama throws someone "under the bus." Modern liberalism is reduced to mere political convenience, even as it continues to recite the shibboleths from its long-departed era of idealism with ever increasing emphasis.

So go ahead Nancy Pelosi. Call me un-patriotic. Make my day.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Liberals and the "Unruly Mob"

For years and years our liberal friends have written sensitively about "peaceful protesters" and marches for justice.

They understood the rage that drove the workers and the civil-rights activists, the feminists and gays, to the streets. The earnest faces of the ordinary Americans driven to the streets were a verdict on America's failure to live up to its promise.

But now that peaceful protesters are attending the town halls of Democratic representatives and senators, our liberal friends are singing a different tune.

Senior Democrats are talking about "unruly mobs."

It almost reminds me of the "middle-class riot" that occurred during the Counting of the Chads in Florida 2000.

What is going on here? All of a sudden our liberal friends are fulminating about "the mob!" They sound like British Tory squires expostulating from their gentlemen's clubs in London. Or 19th century American robber barons exclaiming about labor agitators threatening the extra dividend.

Anyway, what is this mob are we talking about? Everything that I've seen about the spirited town hall participants says: Middle-class America. Are liberals now saying that the great middle class is a bunch of radical provocateurs out to create a disturbance of the peace?

And what about the police that are being used by the upper class to limit the right of peacable assembly? How long are they prepared to act as the stooges of their liberal masters?

I'll tell you. If liberals think that the mild reactions to their cruel and unjust takeover of health care are the work of "unruly mobs," I'm here to say this.

You ain't seen nothing yet.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Greetings from Rejkyavik

Yes. Here we are on a dull rainy morning in Reykjavik, Iceland, reporting from the 4th Floor Hotel's wireless connection, after an overnight flight on Icelandair from Seattle.

Night is by courtesy. Since the flight went above the Arctic Circle, it never quite got dark in the plane; there was always a tinge of dusk/dawn in the north.

But what a surprise as we descended through the clouds into Kevlavik Airport. There, out at sea, was a cruise ship. You mean to say the cruise ships come to little old Iceland? Yes, they do, according to the taxi driver on the way into Reykjavik. Above 50 ships will call this year, and maybe 80 next year. They call at Reykjavik and the east side of Iceland, and then head north to Spitzbergen before cruising down the coast of Norway. Some ships even cross over to the east coast of Greenland.

What's the economy here in Iceland, you ask? Tourism (up sharply this year), fish, and aluminum. The cheap geothermal power means they can afford to do aluminum smelting. And then there's oil.

What, you say? I thought the world was running out of oil. Not in Iceland. There's oil off the east coast and they are drilling in the strait between Iceland and Greenland. More oil than the North Sea fields, the taxi driver says.

It's now 9:00 am, and the other hotel guests are coming into the restaurant for breakfast. There's breakfast for all here. Cold cuts for the Germans, baked beans for the Brits, and good healthy stuff for the Americans. And fish for the Icelanders.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Is Opposition to ObamaCare "Astroturf?"

The current line from the president, the Democrats in Congress, and the "state-run media" is that the apparent grass-roots opposition to the president's healthcare proposals is in fact "Astroturfing."

For those of you not yet up the minute on the latest political jargon, here is the definition from Wikipedia. It is a top-down political (or PR campaign) that is

seeking to create the impression of being spontaneous "grassroots" behavior, hence the reference to the artificial grass, AstroTurf.

The term was apparently invented by Texas US Senator Lloyd Bentsen.

Thus, our Democratic friends are presently trying to sell the notion (from the top) that the angry constituents barracking their Democratic representatives at local townhall meetings are not spontaneously organized from the grass roots, but in fact artificial "astroturf" organized from the top down.

(The Dems should know about astroturfing. Many of their activist organizations are organized and funded by the billionaire George Soros.)

Today, InstaPundit Glenn Reynolds has lots of links about the controversy, here, here, and here.

So which is it? Well, my instinct is that the opposition started spontaneously, and was not initially organized by GOP leaders in Washington. But now, of course, the bigwigs have latched onto the grass-roots phenomenon and are flogging it for all they are worth.

Here's what I think is happening. A whole bunch of folks that weren't too politically motivated in the last few years and who got kinda disappointed by the Bush administration are now, all of a sudden, fighting mad.

Now why would that be?

It's simple. The Obama administration is taking dead aim at their pocket-books. All of a sudden we are looking at major tax increases.

When you really get down to it, politics in the United States is pretty simple. If the Democratic Party doesn't stand for more spending, what's the point of it? So the Democrats always stand for more spending. If the Republican Party doesn't stand for tax cuts, what's the point of it? So the Republicans are always strong on tax cutting. Elections are about the clash of these opposing notions.

What with the Reagan and Bush tax cuts, the average Republican-leaning voter hasn't felt that they had a dog in the race recently. Taxes were reasonable, house prices were going up, jobs were plentiful. They were relaxed about a little increased spending. Why not? We could afford it.

But now things have changed. Not only is the economy in trouble, stocks and house prices in the tank, but the Democrats are proposing tax increases to sustain their bloated patronage state.

That is going to hurt a lot of people, and re-inject rage and energy into Republican Party politics.

You can call it "grass-roots" or you can call it "astroturf." Take your pick. It is still real, and you ain't seen nothing yet.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Obama = Joker = Racism?

This is not a post-racial presidency, Virginia. Not a chance. It was always obvious that as soon as President Obama got into a jam that our liberal friends would start playing the race card. And so they have.

Someone has been putting up posters in Los Angeles and elsewhere featuring the president as The Joker--as played by the late Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. According to Thomas Lifson in The American Thinker, it means the end of the fantasy,

It is starting. Open mockery of Barack Obama, as disillusionment sets in with the man, his policies, and the phony image of a race-healing, brilliant, scholarly, middle-of-the-roader.

You could easily see what was coming next. Racism! Yes, the usual suspects are accusing the president's critics of being racist. From Toby Harnden in the British Daily Telegraph:

The liberal tabloid "LA Weekly", which depicted George W. Bush, the former president, as Dracula on its cover in 2004, denounced the Obama-Joker poster as virulently racist.
"It has a bit of everything to appeal to the drunk tank of California conservatism: Obama is in white face, his mouth (like Ledger's Joker's) has been grotesquely slit wide open and the word 'Socialism' appears below his face," wrote its blogger Steven Mikulan. "The only thing missing is a noose."

This is an important warning to conservatives everywhere. As things go south for President Obama our liberal friends are going to get increasingly desperate. They will reach for the race card again and again. Conservatives will have to learn how to respond with the appropriate degree of courage and scorn. Fortunately there are examples of appropriate scorn that we can use.

  1. Joseph Welch to Senator Joseph McCarthy: "You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"
  2. Dirty Harry to a punk: "Go ahead. Make my day."
  3. Rhett Butler to Scarlett: "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."
I tell you. What's not to like?

But there is a serious side to this. For too long, decent Americans have been afraid, afraid to be tagged as racists. This must stop. Because there is one thing you need to defend freedom, justice, and the American Way. And that is courage. In America in 2009, in 2010 and beyond, if you are going to defend freedom you are going to need the courage to risk being called a racist.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Injustice of the Welfare State

There seems to be a rising tide of outrage sweeping the nation. It is directed at the unjust plan of President Obama and the Democrats in Congress to nationalize health care.

Whatever the merits of the plan, it will clearly not let Americans alone in their current health arrangements. It will nudge them, and pretty soon shove them, into a one-size-fits-all government program.

There are no doubt many reasons inspiring the Democrats towards this goal. Let us at least acknowledge the idealism behind the politics: the desire to give to every person, regardless of means, a decent health care free of financial worry.

We may perhaps be excused for thinking our liberal friends rather like Dorothea Brooke, for whom "every [notion] is apt to conjure up wonder, hope, belief, vast as a sky, and colored by a diffused thimbleful of matter in the shape of knowledge." It's a wonderful thing to imagine life freed of its fears and its dangers: but is it possible? Would it even be life?

The problem is that between the wish and the result is a monstrous injustice. And it is an injustice that lays heavily upon every one of us.

The welfare state is an injustice that is forced upon the rich, the middle class, and the poor.

For the rich, who shoulder most of the tax burden in these modern times--both as a fraction of their income and as an overall fraction of the taxes collected--the injustice is simple. Their money is taken away from them and spent by the political system. That means they have less money for houses, movables, objets d'art and investing in their businesses. Perhaps we should not care too much about all that. But it is true that all that money would go into jobs of one kind or another. And maybe it would be better spent by the rich than by the politicians.

The welfare state is also unjust to the middle class. It forces them to buy education from the government, and it shoves them into the health-care options, retirement provisions, and insurance subsidized or compelled by the political system. A mother might want to send her child to a special school adapted to the special needs of her child. That is hard to do when you are paying school taxes. A family might want to save up to buy a business. That is hard to do when you are forced to save for retirement using the government's Social Security system, and forced to provide for unemployment using the government's unemployment taxes. Saving up to buy a business is no different from any other saving. But the government says no. First you must pay into our system. Then, if you have anything left over, you can contribute to your own plans for the future.

But this is mere bagatelle. For the rich and the middle class, the welfare state's injustices are light to moderate. It is the poor that really suffer from the welfare state.

Perhaps the most significant burden on the poor is the one-two combination of compulsory education and child-labor laws. If we really cared about the poor we would provide simple schools that provided basic literacy and numeracy, and then we would let the kids start work at ten or twelve. And the terms of work would be simple. No complicated taxes and requirements. Just work compensated by payment in cash or in kind.

Yes but what about the poor getting into college and becoming doctors and lawyers. If they leave school at ten, they will never get to college! Look nobody is forbidding the poor from getting an education. All we are saying is that the poor shouldn't be forced to go to school, and shouldn't be prevented from working.

The poor are not like you and me. They live by informal exchange of favors and labor. Maybe this month a family has a crisis, so the kid must be pulled out of school to help his parents. But the formal economy works with rigid rules and substantial taxes. No way can an employer afford all the taxes and employment rules when operating a small business in the inner city.

But right now the poor are screwed every which way. The police don't police; the garbage isn't picked up; there are street people hustling illegal businesses all over. Businesses have to pay off the politicians to get any services at all. And people with connections get all the money for grants and subsidized loans.

There's a word to describe how we got into this frightful mess. Liberals. Liberals wrote all the laws to create social benefits that all have their unintended consequences. The trouble is that when the economy has to pay for an expensive health sector and an expensive education sector then the taxes that go to pay for it crowd out the marginal businessman and worker. You end up with an economy that works pretty well for the middle-class worker with a half-decent education. But everyone below that level finds themselves struggling, forced to live and work in the informal economy, and they can't figure out why.

This is the great Question of our age. We want everyone to enjoy the benefits of material prosperity and the health and freedom from want and fear that it provides. But surely there is a better way than the bossy, interfering way of our liberal masters.

Yet here we are, about to ratchet up the bossiness index with a huge, central, bureaucratic mess of a health program that will put the government's nose even further into our lives. It will increase the marginal tax rate on all Americans and push the poor further into the informal, underground economy.

There's got to be a better way.

Monday, August 3, 2009

"What's In It for Me"

Did you know that the insurance companies are to blame? That's the current tactic for President Obama and Nancy Pelosi as they try to rescue their floundering plan for a government takeover of health care.

According to Sheryl Gay Stolberg and David M. Herszenhorn at The New York Times:

Congressional Democrats and leading advocacy groups are laying the groundwork for an August offensive against the insurance industry as part of a coordinated campaign to sell the public on the need for reform.

It's a cunning ploy. Having got the insurance companies more or less on board, now the politicians decide to box them in on the last lap.

The administration's problem is that there is nothing in the current plan for the average American. Almost all Americans have health insurance. So the Dems are going to insist that the evil insurance companies remove their limitations on pre-existing conditions. Says David Axelrod: "Our job is to help folks understand how this will help them." As the Times as it:

With Republicans making headway by casting the legislation as a costly government takeover, Democrats have decided they must answer the question on the minds of those now insured: “What’s in it for me?”

The joke is: How can it possibly be the fault of the insurance companies? They are just about the most regulated industry in the United States. Whatever they do must already have the imprimatur of government.

Still, I heard from two different people over the last week about the perfidy of the insurance companies, so the Democrats must be on to something.

But hey! If we want to stop the insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, let's do it!

But here's another idea. Let's do the opposite. Let us permit the insurance companies to offer any kind of policy they want, without the inclusions that politicians force them to include. Then people could buy simple insurance against big, but unusual, risks, and pay for day-to-day care out of pocket.

I know. Dream on.