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Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Sauce for the Goose, Part II: The Health Care Debate

Notes and quotes on the health care debate itself (more than on the substance of the matter). It's fascinating. And a good word about Utah along the way. Also, rat me out. Please!

Let's have a bit of seriousness, shall we, before we turn our attention to the drama unfolding around us? I'll interrupt that discussion periodically with suggestions about what we can do. But first . . .

A Bit of Seriousness

No regular reader of this blog will be surprised if I confess thinking that government-run health care is a colossally bad idea, both economically and medically. If the real aims of socialized medicine in the modern century were to improve health care and reduce its costs, then the proposal would be completely irrational, because it doesn't do either of these desirable things, as numerous nations have proven, not least our genial neighbors to the north. But these things are just the advertising, not the real objective; government-run health care never fails to achieve the real objective. This is to increase and secure political power for the faction which successfully executes such an audacious power-grab. In one rather common view, others' freedom and quality medical care are small prices to pay to expand and extend one's own political power.

To a degree, this is Gerald Seib's point, too, when he writes in an insightful Wall Street Journal article,

The health debate, which now has moved beyond the Beltway and into raucous town halls across the land, is so intense in part because it's not really about health care at all.

On a deeper level, it's about the role of government in America's economy. And that is a raw and unresolved topic, only made more so by months of exceptional government intervention amid a deep recession. . . .

Moving straight from wrenching economic crisis to wrenching health debate was a calculated gamble by the White House. It thought the economic shock might actually ease the way for a broad revamp because Americans would be ready to accept the idea of big changes and also would accept the argument that full recovery couldn't occur until runaway health costs were corralled.

But the timing has had another effect: It has meant the health debate is unfolding just as Americans are pondering what the shape and size of the government's role in the economy ought to be.

So much for the serious part of our time together today. On to the entertainment. (It's serious, too, I suppose, but also dramatic.)

The Drama

The current American debate of government-run health care and its precursors is well worth having, both for its content and for what it reveals of the parties and people involved. And, yes, for the high drama.

Around the country, distinguished United States Senators and Members of Congress are going to town hall meetings and being eaten alive, figuratively, for their galactically profligate spending habits and especially their concerted assault on health care and health insurance. The fact that our distinguished representatives don't seem to read the bills they pass just makes people in flyover country angrier, in part because, in the end, this means that unelected staffers, not elected representatives, are the ones making laws. Meanwhile, the fact that much of the voting population no longer seems to be listening to the party currently in power or their publicity arm, the Big Media Acronyms, angers and frustrates the noble class from Capitol Hill.

Some of them are retreating to town teleconferences or altogether abandoning any illusion of meeting with the surly masses. Others press on. There's an election coming up in 2010, you know. There's always an election coming up, especially if you're in the House. So far, no one I know has yet adopted the president's long-established approach, controlling who fills the seats and scripting their questions.

What we can do: Attend a town hall meeting, or at least watch one or two on the Web. Speak our minds, if we've made them up. Write our representatives, using our own words.


The party line is that these relatively well-mannered rebellions are orchestrated. (I call them relatively well-mannered because they are basically non-violent, at least in physical terms, and seem to involve reluctant novices who are motivated by ideas, not bitter partisanship.) To me they don't appear to be orchestrated to any significant degree, but what if they were? The other side has been orchestrating protests, often much less tastefully, for years. Labor unions, which tend to support Democrats, are the acknowledged masters at orchestrating protests. Well, what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, they say -- but the ganders are presently gagging on their own sauce.

Besides that, it's not as easy to orchestrate such things as you might think. Look how much trouble the Democrats are having orchestrating their message. President Obama insists that his "public option" will not destroy the private insurance industry and that it is not a clear step in the direction of a single-payer system (socialized medicine). Meanwhile, some of his fellow Democrats are running around quite openly saying the opposite. The President insists that the program will pay for itself in savings and not require a massive tax increase on the middle class, but he can't get the Congressional Budget Office to agree.

Orchestration isn't easy, but it also isn't relevant. Why would we think that a group's political opinions are invalid just because they're able to organize themselves?

And shouldn't we be celebrating the sudden burst of participation by droves of people who usually don't participate in our politics at all? We did when the newcomers were voting for Hope and Change.

Meanwhile, even the true believers who are still with the president are edging away. Eugene Robinson, writing for the Washington Post, is a case in point. He recites the crazed-mob catechism -- the things he knows, which probably aren't really so -- but then the truth slips out:

We know that there are crazies in the town-hall mobs -- paranoid fantasists who imagine they hear the whop-whop-whop of the World Government black helicopters coming closer by the minute. We know that much of the action is being directed from the wings by cynical political operatives, following a script written by Washington lobbyists. But the nut jobs and carpetbaggers are outnumbered by confused and concerned Americans who seem genuinely convinced they're not being told the whole truth about health care reform.

And they have a point.

What we can do: Don't let our own interest and participation wane when the passion does. And don't get the idea that this is the end of the battle or the war.

Duped by Special Interests?

We're not celebrating this enhanced involvement, because they're all supposedly duped by the special interests -- which in this case means the pharmaceutical companies, who manufacture the drugs which keep me from sneezing myself into oblivion and the drugs which keep one of my children from rejecting her transplanted kidney, and the insurance companies, including the one which routinely leaves Medicare in the dust, when it comes to intelligence, efficiency, humanity, and professionalism in dealing with the Rodebacks.

Besides, as MFCC said to me the other day, health care isn't a special interest. It touches everyone. It's a general interest. I suspect this explains the recent poll results, which have Americans disapproving Obamacare by a three-to-two ratio at the moment. I don't think the disapproval among Members of Congress is to that point yet, but we're getting there, I hope.

What we can do: Don't allow the poll results du jour to worry or lull us unduly.


If you've ever been to a rock concert and an air show, you may have been struck by how much litter the rock concert-goers leave behind and how little the air show crowd produces. The contrast between real revolutionary violence in American and world history, on one hand, and the moderately violent words employed by unhappy constituents in town meetings, on the other hand, is just as striking. I won't defend the cranky public's manners in every instance, but it is at least understandable that they refuse to listen to the people they elected, once those elected officials signal their disinterest in listening to the people who elected them.

It's true, there has been a small amount of physical violence, and there may be more to come -- though there shouldn't be any at all. Numerous people who were shut out of a Florida meeting scuffled, and one fellow received minor injuries while being prevented from entering the already crowded meeting. I suppose he may have been in the wrong somehow, but Americans aren't necessarily expected to go quietly when they are excluded from meetings whose ostensible purpose is to allow them to speak their minds.

And some union thugs in St. Louis beat up a guy for passing out buttons and American flags, but we know which side they're on.

When further violence breaks out, if we can manage to investigate all parties appropriately, don't be surprised if some of them turn out to be Democrat ringers, sent to incite, if not to perform, physical violence to discredit the opposition. It's an old trick.

Nazis and Puzzlement

What puzzles me is how completely the Democrat machine seems to be breaking down in the face of massive public dissent. Certain highly placed Democrats may have spoken before their cue in predicting violence at these meetings. They should have waited until their plants were in place to wreak some actual violence while pretending to be opponents of socialized medicine. This is not unthinkable. Surely, in their morality the size and importance of the prize would justify a little bit of deceptive theater.

Speaker Pelosi's bad timing in announcing that opponents were coming to meetings displaying swastikas actually was quite a gaffe. By all accounts the swastikas in question had red circles around them and red lines through them, and were on opponents' placards. They were not signaling that the opponents themselves are Nazis. Either some folks understandably associate tyrannical government with the Nazis, or they cleverly realized that Nazi is short for National Socialist and quite naturally linked that notion with socialized medicine. I wouldn't put it past the Left to trot some skinheads into a few future town hall meetings just for effect, even if it is too late for effect, but I have to think that willing skinheads are a lot harder to find across America than the Left realizes.

The other high-profile appearance of a swastika was Rush Limbaugh's response to Speaker Pelosi, an Obamacare logo that morphed into a swastika. It may not have been completely tasteful, but under the circumstances it was quite inevitable.

For those with memories longer than eight months, I'm sure that if we managed to corner the Speaker of the House long enough to ask her how she felt about all the Lefty use of "Nazi" and "Hitler" to describe President George W. Bush, assuming she deigned to answer, she would explain that that was different; he was a Nazi.

A National Socialist, you see. It's getting so you can't tell the alleged tyrants without a program.

What we can do: Learn and remember Godwin's Law.

The Word Finished Its Previous Assignment Just in Time

Have you heard -- surely you've heard -- that the war on terror is over? In fact, we're not even calling it terrorism any more; an act of terrorism is now a "man-caused disaster." (Where are the feminists, I wonder?) This has conveniently freed the terrorist lexicon to be applied to those recalcitrant citizens who keep disagreeing with the noble class. These are now "political terrorists." God bless them.

Also, God bless all those American troops who are still half a world away, fighting what used to be called the War on Terror. Funny thing: changing the name doesn't disarm all those IEDs.

What we can do: Next time they tell us "freedom is slavery," throw the book at them -- by which I mean, send them a marked copy of 1984. (Read it first.)

The Snitches, the Snitchees, and The List

As if all that, especially the language games, weren't Orwellian enough, there's the snitch list. All Americans are cordially invited to rat on anyone sending e-mail messages or publishing Web pages which contain deceptive information about Obamacare. The nice folks at the White House won't retaliate; they swear they won't. Cross their hearts. They'll just try to correct the author's misperceptions.

Enemies list or not, here's the e-mail address for ratting out your electronic neighbors: flag@whitehouse.gov. And here's a bit from the White House blog. The post's title is "Facts Are Stubborn Things." Aren't they, indeed?

There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can't keep track of all of them here at the White House, we're asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to flag@whitehouse.gov.

What you can do: Rat me out. Please. I beg you. Turn me in. Send them this URL: http://www.localcommentary.com/davidblog. I want to be on their list of people who aren't buying it. Secondarily, I want to report back to you on any contact they make to try to adjust my thinking.

No, I'm not wearing a tin foil hat, and I'm not expecting some weird retaliation that belongs in a bad movie script. I'm expecting an e-mail message a little less rude and snotty than the letter American Forkers got when they opted out of the new recycling program this summer. (P.S.: I recycle anyway, have for years.)

Another thing we can do: Rat them out to themselves. Pick an Obamalie from Dick Morris's list and run with it.

They're Already Eating Their Young

I'm about to do something I believe I have never done: quote Camille Paglia at length, in a more or less approving way. She has lately written the following in a lengthy piece in Slate that calls for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to resign forthwith. Make no mistake: she's writing from the Left.

I must confess my dismay bordering on horror at the amateurism of the White House apparatus for domestic policy. When will heads start to roll? I was glad to see the White House counsel booted, as well as Michelle Obama's chief of staff, and hope it's a harbinger of things to come. Except for that wily fox, David Axelrod, who could charm gold threads out of moonbeams, Obama seems to be surrounded by juvenile tinhorns, bumbling mediocrities and crass bully boys.

Case in point: the administration's grotesque mishandling of healthcare reform, one of the most vital issues facing the nation. Ever since Hillary Clinton's megalomaniacal annihilation of our last best chance at reform in 1993 (all of which was suppressed by the mainstream media when she was running for president), Democrats have been longing for that happy day when this issue would once again be front and center.

But who would have thought that the sober, deliberative Barack Obama would have nothing to propose but vague and slippery promises -- or that he would so easily cede the leadership clout of the executive branch to a chaotic, rapacious, solipsistic Congress? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom I used to admire for her smooth aplomb under pressure, has clearly gone off the deep end with her bizarre rants about legitimate town-hall protests by American citizens. She is doing grievous damage to the party and should immediately step down.

There is plenty of blame to go around. Obama's aggressive endorsement of a healthcare plan that does not even exist yet, except in five competing, fluctuating drafts, makes Washington seem like Cloud Cuckoo Land. The president is promoting the most colossal, brazen bait-and-switch operation since the Bush administration snookered the country into invading Iraq with apocalyptic visions of mushroom clouds over American cities.

You can keep your doctor; you can keep your insurance, if you're happy with it, Obama keeps assuring us in soothing, lullaby tones. Oh, really? And what if my doctor is not the one appointed by the new government medical boards for ruling on my access to tests and specialists? And what if my insurance company goes belly up because of undercutting by its government-bankrolled competitor? Face it: Virtually all nationalized health systems, neither nourished nor updated by profit-driven private investment, eventually lead to rationing.

Don't look now, but Camille Paglia just compared President Barack H. Obama to President George W. Bush, and Obamacare to "Bush Lied, People Died." Ouch!

How About This for a Huntsman Legacy?

When we're not all preoccupied with calling each other names, Utah is getting some attention from people whose motive really is health care reform, including Kathleen Parker.

Revolutionary in its respect for rational human behavior, [Governor] Huntsman's plan, scheduled to go into effect this fall, begs to be admired up close. . . . Many of the problems afflicting Utah are among the same that plague us nationally. But Utah, unlike Washington, has sought practical, consensus solutions for the real problems, rather than a sweeping remake that puts government in control.

I'm looking forward to hearing more because <blush!> I haven't yet paid much attention to that plan . . .

In Closing

Three final thoughts:

First: It hardly seems possible, but the health care debate is going to get more interesting before it gets less interesting. There's a small chance that it could turn tragic, too, but I suspect it won't.

Second: I expect some sort of lame health care reform to pass Congress and be signed by the president, but it won't be a big step toward nationalized health care. It will be a small step, enough to advance the socialist cause a bit without ticking off the entire country, enough to allow opponents to boast that they won the day, and enough to allow lawmakers to claim in the next election that they solved the problem.

Third: I repeat, Rat me out. Please. That's flag@whitehouse.gov. Just for fun, rat out Camille Paglia, too.

Thank you -- on which subject, I have bit of a thank-you note for you tomorrow.

David Rodeback comments (August 15, 2009):

Since there wasn't enough name-calling already, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who used to be a conservative Democrat from Nevada, added "evil-mongers" to the list of epithets describing fellow citizens who disagree with him about health care.

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