The America of our “progressive fathers'” dreams

March 23, 2010

Wow. The Democrats actually did it. They passed the “health care” bill. When I saw the vote on Sunday I was kind of in shock.

Keep this image (below) in mind, from February 2009, as you contemplate what’s happened (video).

Is this who we are? Looking at the public opposition to this bill I’d say it’s not, but that didn’t stop the Progressives in our government from trying to make it so. Progressives are banking on the idea that even though some of us may not be socialists now, we will be in a matter of a few the next several years once we experience the wonders of government-managed health care. Yes, private insurance and private hospitals are still in play. The truth is they’ve been public-private partnerships for a long time (they didn’t start out that way), but now that partnership will be strengthened even more. The government will give them their directives, along with massive subsidies (more than they get now). The job of the private institutions will only be to implement those directives. The progressives have “restrained themselves” by allowing some choice. I mean, hey, you ought to be glad they didn’t shove through a single-payer system, right? Nevertheless this fits the definition of fascism, what’s otherwise known as “government corporatism”, where the government is telling the insurers, “You can have any color you want, so long as it’s black.” (In case you’re wondering, I’m making an allusion to a famous saying in the fashion world, not to Obama’s skin color)

We’re not quite to what our “progressive fathers” wanted, which is really government-run health care. To heck with private institutions. They anticipate though that this is where we’re headed. The bill passed on Sunday was just the “starter home”, the first installment. They will push things more in that direction the next chance they get, probably some years down the road. Charles Krauthammer has said, “This will not be repealed.” I hope he’s wrong about that. Progressives anticipate that what they’ve created will be around the next time they win power back. Somehow I wonder about that. The fiscal situation that they have put our government in is unsustainable. It’s inevitable that programs which Democrats have put in place recently and in years past will have to be cut. But then again they’ve successfully protected what was established years ago by designing their systems to create dependent constituencies, and implementing successful fear-mongering PR campaigns whenever conservatives try to eliminate such programs.

(Update 9-23-10: I heard today that Krauthammer predicts that Obama will propose a European-style VAT (Value-Added Tax) within a year, because that’s the only way the government will be able to pay for the massive spending that the Democrats have approved.)

Dealing with the situation now, under the new system, the government will be the one providing you with your choices. You go outside that selection and the government will penalize you. If you don’t buy health insurance the government will penalize you. The government has put itself in the business of managing our health. The government is now telling food companies how to make processed foods. Not that I necessarily like processed foods, but I think the dissemination of information and the free market should decide what happens to it.

Edit 3-26-10: Charles Krauthammer and Steve Hayes said some key things about the bill in the “all-star panel” discussion from 3/21, in the video clip below. The first half of the discussion is devoted to Rep. Bart Stupak’s decision to vote for the bill, and the issue of federal funds for abortion generally. I’m not real interested in that discussion. To me, where it got interesting was where Krauthammer said, “We’re going to be a different country.” Well, that’s the idea!

I recently read a historical paper on President Theodore Roosevelt, who was a progressive Republican in the early 20th century. He was obsessed with efficiency. That is a hallmark of progressivism, the desire to make the exercise of government power more efficient. That is not what the Founders wanted, for they knew that efficiency inevitably leads to abuse of government power, and tyranny over the people.

What we saw in the way that the health care bill was produced and passed was an exercise in government efficiency. The bill was written by 5 senators in Sen. Harry Reid’s office behind closed doors. The versions that came out of the Senate Finance Committee were ignored. The Senate passed the version that came out of Reid’s office within a few days. It was then passed through the House despite growing public opposition, and clear signals that we wanted congress to dump the bill.

The legislation was passed this way out of an overwhelming belief in the Democratic ranks that the public does not know what’s good for it. I guess they don’t much like the private economy for that reason as well. I am glad that most many Americans don’t much like this mentality. Progressives don’t believe in representative government, or at least believe that representatives should only listen to aristocrats who are “educated about the issues” (ie. have the same sort of mindset and life experience as they do), and have power to wield. That last part is important. If you’re a government official, the head of a corporation, or of a powerful law firm, or of a non-profit organization, they’ll listen to you. If you’re an average citizen they won’t give you the time of day. You are someone to be managed. If you exist outside of the institutional mindset that they think is legitimate, you are a “free radical”. You’ve “escaped” management control and are not to be trusted. You are not someone to be listened to. Until you vote such people out, they will continue to think that they must manage our economy, and more to the point, your life, because obviously you’re not “doing it right”.

Edit 4-10-10: Dick Morris released an excerpt from his book 2010 Take Back America: A Battle Plan that I thought was really good, entitled “Obama is leading us into socialism”. I think he accurately describes what Obama has been doing politically to lull Americans into a socialistic framework. This is the most chilling part:

THE SIREN SINGS: You don’t really need your democracy anymore. Let us experts run things. We know better than you what you need and we have the knowledge to get it for you. Turn away from the cantankerous politics of shrill debate. Trust those who act with benign knowledge of what is best for you.
BUT REALITY ANSWERS: The experts covet power, and power corrupts them as easily as it does anyone else. Bureaucracies become obsessed with self-perpetuation and soon lose sight of the populations they are supposed to serve. They develop cozy relationships with the power brokers in big companies to form a consortium of business and government to control our lives. It is only through democracy that we can fight their tyranny.


Assume the position…

March 18, 2010

The government seems prepared to give the American people its medicine even though we don’t want it. You’ll need to take three every year or so, and we’ll need to check in with the government from time to time to see how we’re doing. The House is within 4 votes of the amount needed to pass the Senate “health care” bill, or perhaps to just “deem” it passed with another bill the House wants to pass, containing changes which are expected to be taken up by the Senate in reconciliation, as if that cluster#%&* of a plan is going to work out… Geez these people are so desperate it’s scary.

Glenn Beck had quite a show yesterday (3-22-10: the video for this episode is gone now). I think he is right about what this health care bill is about. It’s not about improving health care. It’s about taking power and money for the government and the unions. He also accurately identified what’s going to become of the tax hikes that are part of this bill, which are ostensibly to pay for the government infrastructure that this bill will create. They’ll pay for that, but they’ll also be used to pay for whatever the government wants to spend money on, which has nothing to do with health care. The so-called health care benefits won’t come online until 2014.

Beck played a clip of the President’s interview with Bret Baier of Fox News, where the President said that the House “will either vote for health care reform, or against it,” as if it was a political rally! No, they trying to get enough votes to pass a bill that’s going to affect all of us. It’s not a mere pep rally.

I’m not quite as convinced as Beck is that this will all lead to a single-payer, government system. The Democrats need donors who owe them something. What’ll probably happen is more of a kleptocracy that is part public and part private, each scratching each other’s backs, with the government in the more dominant position.

This is part of building the Democrats’ power base. Not only will they have hospitals and insurance companies beholden to them, but they will also have the American people. Once the people become dependent on the Democrats, any Republican who dares propose a private sector replacement for this system will be washed out, because most people will find it easier for someone else to provide secure health care for them, rather than providing it for themselves. This will be true even as the health care system gets worse, as it inevitably will with this plan, because people can always be scared into believing that it was worse when the private sector was less regulated.

There’s more to it than that. We’ve gradually been herded into this position over several decades, because the federal and state governments, and indeed the trial lawyers, have taken more and more control of our health care system over that time, making it more expensive to get care. We became desperate enough to believe that the federal and state governments could provide a solution to this, when they’ve been causing the problem the whole time. Now that the coup de grace is nearly upon us we’re pulling back, realizing the mistake we’ve made, but the Democratic political leadership and its allies are going to try as hard as they can to get us to eat this “crap sandwich”. Quite a few seem eerily immune to public opinion. I can only hope there are enough congressional representatives who will listen to their constituents who are against this bill, to stand firm against the political pressure that the Democratic Party is putting upon them.

I learned last night that the Idaho legislature and its governor have just approved a bill that requires the state’s attorney general to sue the federal government in case the health care bill passes in the coming days. Thirty-seven other states are considering similar legislation. The main objection is the “individual mandate”, requiring people to either buy health insurance or pay a fine to the federal government. I object to this as well. The Constitution allows the federal government to tax my income. It does not allow it to place a fine on me for any reason, unless I have taken an action which violates federal law. My mere existence is not voluntary (on my part), and so it cannot violate federal law. How can the federal government put a fine on me if I don’t buy health insurance? I think the federal government is going to have a tough time defending that.

They got away with this in Massachusetts with Gov. Mitt Romney no less, a Republican. Perhaps this is legal by the state’s constitution, but I am sure the federal constitution does not allow the federal government to put this requirement on anybody.

Edit 3-22-10: I don’t consider the mandate constitutional, but I learned tonight that the mandate really takes the form of an extra tax that’s tacked on (2.8% or $2,500, whichever is larger) to your income tax if you don’t have a government-approved health plan. So it’s not a fee. Given this I anticipate that the state AGs are going to have a tough time making the case, because the government does have broad authority in the Constitution to tax income.

Some people try to rationalize the mandate, saying that people are required to buy auto insurance. Well for one, the penalties are different. If I don’t have auto insurance and I’m stopped, I will be fined, not taxed. The analogy oversimplifies the issue. For one, there’s more leeway in states to put requirements on people. They can be added to the state’s constitution. Now, the federal constitution could be altered as well to allow this mandate, but no such action is being taken up by the federal government or the states. Secondly, people don’t have to drive cars. If I don’t drive a car, no law in any state requires me to buy auto insurance. Driving a car is a voluntary act. I think it can be reasonably argued that if one drives a car, the state I live in can require me to either buy insurance or prove that I am self-insured. The same cannot be said of my existence.

I am heartened that at least one state, maybe more, will be holding the federal government accountable, to “tie it down by the chains of the Constitution”, as Jefferson said. I hope they win, though now I’m not so sure that they will.

My other concern is that our health care system will become as bad as those in socialist countries, even though private insurance is ostensibly left intact in this plan. I believe the New England Journal of Medicine when it predicts that 30% of doctors will leave the profession if this bill passes. This means in the future people are going to have to wait to see a doctor, and wait for a critical test or operation. From what I’ve seen, many Democrats are ignorant enough to believe that there is more than enough capacity for all of the people who need care. It’s just the greedy insurance companies who are keeping them from accessing it. It makes absolutely no sense, but that’s what they believe. Scary, isn’t it? There would be enough capacity for those who need care if health care was allowed to function as a relatively free market, but this is not the case. And with private insurance companies and private hospitals still in existence, they’ll become the whipping boys when the calamity comes. Democrats, and some Republicans, won’t look at the government as the problem. When it comes to government’s control over a private industry, they never have. But perhaps now that the government’s actions have gotten the American people’s attention we’ll be better educated about what the problem actually is, so that we won’t buy into their calls for more government control.

As the old world dies

March 13, 2010

This is a follow-up to my post called “Governments shutting down services”. Tammy Bruce talked about a couple articles on the decline of Detroit, MI. One is on Detroit Mayor Bing’s plan to relocate some residents because they live in areas of the city that are largely abandoned, where the government sees no hope for recovery. The other is an article based on the account written by a Detroit blogger, which says that Nature is reclaiming parts of Detroit. New meadows and prairies are appearing that used to be developed. Wild animals are reclaiming parts of the city. The account reminds me of old Manhattan Island when it was a developing city settlement that coexisted with lush forests and country farmers who lived in sparsely populated areas.

Since 1950 Detroit has lost about 900,000 residents. Many of them have moved to Detroit’s suburbs. Unlike New Orleans, which lost a significant amount of its population due to Hurricane Katrina, there is no big push behind a recovery plan. A big reason for this is that Detroit was not hit by a natural disaster. This “disaster” has come about largely because Detroit “bet the farm” on the auto industry, which has been in decline for decades. Another cause that I think is unavoidable is Michigan’s economic policies. By this I mean their inflexibility. From the ads I’ve been seeing on TV they seem to be trying to welcome entrepreneurs, perhaps for the first time. What I’ve been hearing, though, is that Michigan’s government still doesn’t understand how to spur economic growth. So while they get points for effort, they have more to learn to really succeed.

Reviewing this information, and information from other sources, I’ve begun to wonder if we may someday see cities in California suffering a similar fate. Since the 1990s there has been an outward migration of residents from California to other parts of the country. Detroit’s and Michigan’s economic decline has taken about 4 decades. California is a larger state. So it may take longer. Then again, there is the old saying, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.”

Edit 6-16-10: Here is a very good video analysis of “What happened to Detroit”, showing its current state of decay, done by Steven Crowder:

A question that came into my mind as I was watching this is, “If Detroit is the poster child of liberal policies, and the decrepitude it causes, why didn’t this happen to New York City?” New York has had more “political diversity” than Detroit has. It’s had liberal, moderate, and conservative mayors. For a time New York City was bankrupt and in a state of decay. Then they elected Rudy Giuliani… But then the question came to mind, “What about San Francisco?” One of the most, if not THE most, liberal cities in the country. I don’t have an answer for that one. I can say though that Los Angeles is nearly bankrupt right now.