Monday, March 22, 2010

Americans Learn to Love Government

Democrats hail this as a major breakthrough in their goal of finally getting every American insured. Republicans are denouncing the action as unprecedented big government tyranny that they will continue to fight, sure to draw cheers from the base.

But Republicans like John “Bailout” Boehner can jeer all they want about how Congress failed to listen to the will of the people, how this was shoved down the throats of the American people and how Democrats like Bart Stupak will pay at the ballot box in November.

The GOP, certain to make gains this November, will undoubtedly bludgeon the Democrats this fall with their health care bill, which was achieved through any number of shady means, although any significant resistance will likely end there.

One of the biggest reasons is that there are two Republican Parties. There is the party that is out of power and/or campaigning for reelection which purports to adhere to the Constitution and restraining government. This is the party that excites the Tea Partiers. The other party is the one that returns to power, retains the apparatuses Democrats instituted and introduces some of their own. This is the party that deserves to be run out of town and the one that brings the Democrats and this vicious cycle back.

But the screaming masses on the Right need to know one thing: Republicans have had numerous opportunities to roll back the welfare state. The Social Security Act of 1935 passed with bipartisan support. The New Deal remained firmly in place after eight years of Eisenhower.

Republicans have won seven of the eleven presidential elections since Medicare passed, yet Republicans not only preserved that single-payer program but expanded it in 2003 under a Republican president and a Republican congress. This means that Republicans are either

A). Fine with keeping the welfare state in place so they too can control Americans’ lives, or

B). They are too weak-willed to address the politically suicidal task of cutting entitlements. (Hint: Either answer is acceptable)

Even if there is no public option right now, universal health care is still in our future. Since the time of FDR, America has never taken a step away from government health care, only steps towards it.

And if there is nothing as permanent as a temporary government program, what can we say about something as transformational as this legislation?

The other big reason there won’t likely be any longstanding resistance is that Americans have already gotten comfortable with the idea of government health care.

Though often hesitant at first, Americans have shown that they do grow to love their entitlements.

Social Security and Medicare were measures that were denounced at the time as socialist but Americans have largely accepted these entitlements as American birthrights on a par with freedom of religion.

In today’s debate over the Democrats’ plan, Republicans demonstrated this by wailing about the cuts to Medicare as a way to fund the new program, not whether Medicare is constitutional in the first place.

The debate over private vs. public health care was lost long before Sunday’s vote.

Over seventy years ago, journalist Peter Edward “Garet” Garrett wrote about the New Deal in "The Revolution Was":

"There are those who still think they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them. It went by in the Night of Depression, singing songs to freedom. . . .


“A government that has been supported by the people and so controlled by the people became one that supported the people and so controlled them. Much of it is irreversible. That is true because habits of dependence are much easier to form than to break.”

Those dependencies Americans have acquired, Social Security and Medicare, are running a hole in the budget. The biggest parts of the federal budget are the entitlements and all defense spending. The debt is currently $13 trillion. The Democrats propose that they can insure all Americans by just cutting from Medicare. At best, this is a solution that simply rearranges the debt. Republicans seem to be proposing that they can keep entitlement spending where it is, military spending where it is, cut taxes, and everything will be fine.

Cuts in the entitlement programs just won’t happen. Republicans won’t touch them because Democrats already campaign that Republicans will take away Social Security from seniors. Democrats won’t take a butter knife to the defense budget because Republicans already assail them for being weak. And nobody will raise taxes during a recession or during an election season.

The American government has weaned the American people into dependency. Everybody wants to cut something but nobody wants to give up their own share of the federal goodies.

In 2003 regarding the Iraq war, General David Petraeus said, “Tell me how this ends.”

We should be asking ourselves that same question today.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lessons Not Learned

The following letter appeared in the Thursday, March 11, 2010 issue of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It is in response to an editorial last week which can be read here.

Lessons Not Learned

Friday’s editorial “Election and end game” (March 5) perfectly mimicked the navel-gazing that passes for modern political discourse by declaring, “Nearly seven years after the U.S. invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, Iraq still won’t have peaceful, free and fair elections. That’s not our fault, but theirs – and perhaps history’s.”

Nearly seven years ago our government chose to invade a country with no apparent knowledge of their religion, customs, or complex ethnic history and then the editors seemingly blame the Iraqis themselves for our ruling class’s ignorance.

Historian Thomas Fleming of Chronicles magazine compares this sort of uncritical thinking to a practical joker who tells his victim that he just won the lottery. Who is at fault if the victim suffers a heart attack or carelessly spends money he ultimately doesn’t have? Is it the victim who wasted money he thought he had or is it the joker who needlessly intervened in the victim’s life?

Do we blame the Iraqis for predictably behaving according to their history or do we blame the U.S. government for unleashing that behavior by intervening in a place where it was neither necessary nor wise?

And will this same lackadaisical thinking apply again to the more heavily populated and more ethnically diverse Iran?

Carl Wicklander
Nashville, IL