Friday, November 15, 2013

Amphibian wisdom


Obama Blames U.S. Economic Trouble on Someone Else

The Reagan administration waged the War on Drugs; the second Bush administration waged the War on Terror. Barack Obama will go down as the president who waged the War on Success. A key weapon in this war has been diverting responsibility to others. It was no shock when during the 2008 campaign Obama blamed George W. Bush for the economic meltdown. It soon became apparent that affixing blame elsewhere would become a way of life for Obama.

He blames everyone, from the “the millionaires and billionaires” to Fox News. More recently, “bad apple” insurance companies are to blame for the nightmare that is ObamaCare. Basically, the Obama administration has been responsible for nothing – except, of course, the take-down of Osama bin Laden. The president most recently continued this pattern by blaming U.S. economic problems on … Germany. A semi-annual report by the Treasury Department report accused Germany of “cooking the books” in terms of its exports and thus hindering the global recovery. The Germans are already upset with the U.S. over the NSA spying; now Obama blames them for his economic mess.

Germany does make an excellent scapegoat for Obama with its enviable (by comparison) 6.9% unemployment rate and its increase in consumer spending. It's faring much better than other countries in the EU, something the German authorities were quick to point out in their reaction to the report. It seems Obama is not just against American exceptionalism but exceptionalism, period.

In the meantime, the U.S. economy expanded at a 2.8% annual rate from July to September, much better than anticipated by economic experts. So much for the Democrats' claims that the government shutdown would hurt the economy – in fact, maybe the government should shut down more often.



Bill Clinton May Have Just Penned ObamaCare's Epitaph

Who would think the president who proposed HillaryCare would help kill ObamaCare. Bill Clinton just gave congressional Democrats cover to oppose their party's president — and try salvaging their political skins.

When New Coke failed back in the 1980s, the Coca-Cola Co. didn't "fix" it; the company swiftly brought back the real Coke, calling it "Coca-Cola Classic."

In the end, New Coke was scrapped and the fiasco made consumers appreciate "The Real Thing" that they had taken for granted.

ObamaCare can't be "fixed" any more than New Coke could. But the pressure's on for Democrats to get rid of it, even if, like the Coke Co., they must pretend it's not really a failure, and they're not returning to the past.

Of all people, ex-President Bill Clinton has come to their rescue. Ozy Media's interview with Clinton sent tremors through Washington on Tuesday, as President Obama's official ObamaCare "explainer in chief" said: "Even if it takes a change to the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made" to younger, healthy health insurance beneficiaries "and let 'em keep what they got."

But this isn't just self-centered Bill being Bill, as when his convention speech outshone Obama's at last year's convention. Clinton may well be saving incumbent Democratic congressmen and senators from the voters' wrath next year, for which they'll be grateful — both to Bill and to certain 2016 presidential candidate Hillary.

What the Democratic Party's elder statesman just did is give congressional Democrats permission to oppose Obama on ObamaCare.

It doesn't mean they will explicitly call for repeal, but they now no longer have to be shy about insisting on big legislative changes that could unravel the whole law.

Writing in Forbes on the eve of Clinton's remarks, University of Colorado at Boulder presidential scholar Steven Hayward firmly predicted that "ObamaCare is going to be repealed well in advance of next year's election" — even if it's "repeal" by another name.

The question is what the political dynamic will be in Congress. With majority control of the House of Representatives, Republicans should wield huge leverage.

But Hayward warns that changing the ObamaCare law to drop the individual mandate "could leave us with an unfunded expansion of Medicaid and a badly disrupted private insurance market," something the GOP can avoid through proposing "a serious replacement policy, based on the premium support tax credit ideas that John McCain advocated (poorly) in 2008."

There is a much bigger issue, however: Will the Tea Party, and their sizable forces among House Republicans, accept anything less than pure repeal — even if it is a legislative reform that tears the heart out of ObamaCare and will be a big step toward its demise?

Will doing nothing — forcing Democrats to sleep in the bed they made for themselves — be an option?

Whatever happens, by backing changing the law to fulfill a promise Obama knew he couldn't keep, Bill Clinton may find himself having written ObamaCare's epitaph.



Trust Us: This Will Be Good for You

By Jonah Goldberg

The government thinks you're stupid, or at least ignorant.

This isn't just an indictment of the current government or an indictment of government itself. It's simply a statement of fact. At its core, the government exists to do certain things that people aren't equipped to do on their own. The list of those things has gotten longer and longer over the years. In 1776, the federal government's portfolio could have easily fit in a file folder: maintain an army and navy, a few federal courts, the post office, the patent office and maybe a dozen or two other pretty obvious things.

Now, the file folder of things the federal government does is much bigger. To paraphrase Dr. Egon Spengler from “Ghostbusters,” let's imagine that the federal government in 1776 was the size of this Twinkie (take my word for it, I'm holding a normal-sized Twinkie). Today that Twinkie would be 35 feet long, weighing approximately 600 pounds. Or, if that illustration doesn't work for you, consider this: The number of civilians (i.e., not counting the military) who work for the executive branch alone is today nearly equal to the entire population of the United States in 1776. The Federal Register, the federal government's fun-filled journal of new rules, regulations and the like, was about 2,600 pages in 1936 (a year after it was created). Today it's over 80,000 pages.

And that's just at the federal level. Each state government is a pretty giant-sized Twinkie, too. In Massachusetts, all kids in daycare are required by law to brush their teeth after lunch. In Texas – Texas! – if you don't have an interior design license, you can't call yourself an interior designer, lest some unsuspecting consumer trust your opinion on throw pillow placement without the backing of the state. Almost everywhere, Americans need a license to open a business – sometimes even a lemonade stand – but in Milwaukee, you even need a license to go out of business.

The justifications for all of these laws and all of these workers – the good, the bad and the ugly – have one thing in common: the assumption that the rest of us couldn't get by without them, whether we like it or not.

This week the feds took the first steps to ban trans fats. Why? Because trans fats are bad for you and you can't be trusted to avoid them on your own. I bring this up not because it is such an outrageous illustration of my point, but to demonstrate how typical it is. This is what the government does, day in, day out.

That's what makes the reaction to Obamacare so interesting. Several times now, the president has endeavored to explain that it's not that big a deal millions of Americans are losing their health insurance plans against their will. The people who had plans they liked didn't understand that the plans they liked were no good – they were the actuarial equivalent of trans fats, don't you know? The fact that the people who held them liked them, thought they were good and wanted to keep them doesn't count for much, because the government knows best.

The president can't say it as plainly as he would like, because to do so would be to admit not only that he lied to the American people, but that he thinks the complainers are ignorant about their own needs and interests.

The president's more intellectually honest defenders have said exactly that. “Vast swathes of policy are based on the correct presumption that people don't know what's best for them. Nothing new,” tweeted Josh Barro, politics editor for Business Insider.

Barro's fairly liberal, but I'd be dishonest if I said that he was wrong from a conservative perspective. The difference, however, is that conservatives tend to see government as a necessary evil, and therefore see policymaking with some humility. Liberals tend to see government as a necessary good, and see ordering people to do things “for their own good” as a source of pride, even hubris.

From a conservative perspective, telling people how to run their lives when not absolutely necessary is an abuse of power. For liberals, telling people how to run their lives is one of the really fun perks of working for the government.

You can see the frustration on the president's face. It's almost like the ingrates who refuse to understand that his were necessary lies for their own good are spoiling all his fun.



The Progressive Degradation of Freedom

By Daren Jonescu

I am convinced we are born with a "freedom sense," a mental faculty which perceives the degree to which our lives are grounded in our own will and judgment.  This is not the same as the desire to be free; rather, it is the capacity to perceive whether we are free.  It is therefore related to the desires as are all our perceptual faculties, namely as nature's means of revealing our proper goals.  Freedom would therefore stand in the same column of human goods as the beautiful and the euphonious, things which are desirable because they satisfy the natural purpose, or obey the innate "rules," of the faculties to which they correspond.    

What happens, however, when oppressive violations are systematized, and take on the aspect of insurmountable obstacles which leave us physically intact while flatly denying us the basic ownership of body and mind that is the minimum requirement of natural self-preservation?  What happens, in other words, when coercion and violation -- the normal methods of humans who choose to live as irrational animals -- evolve towards a totalitarian form?

In such circumstances, the choices before us are more complex.  These "progressive," insinuating forms of oppression force us to accommodate ourselves to the situation -- to learn to live with it -- as the only means of maintaining any sense of normalcy in our lives.  Just as we have the capacity to adjust the receptiveness of our sight to filter out flaws and ugliness that disturb our view of things, or to acclimatize our hearing to ignore monotonous or ugly sounds that would otherwise distract us from our thoughts and pleasures, so we are able to train our minds to overlook encroachments upon our will in the name of maintaining a more palatable perception of our circumstances with regard to freedom.

To demonstrate what is thus lost, consider, on the one hand, the American founders, men whose freedom sense was developed to a level comparable to perfect pitch in hearing.  They were so acutely sensitive to encroachments upon the individual's natural need for self-determination, and so offended by these unnatural disturbances, that while differing on the precise means, they were united in literally seeking to banish the most serious and offensive of such violations -- those deriving from political authority -- from their midst entirely, at the risk of their reputations, wealth, and blood if necessary.  "Give me liberty or give me death" may be said by anyone; it may only be lived by someone with a heightened sensitivity to the loss of liberty, meaning someone whose nature has not yet been diluted by the gradual distortion of self-preservation into acquiescence, as described above.

And consider our Western progressive majority, their freedom sense well along the downward arc from the peak of the American founders to the bleak degradations of North Korea.  What has progressivism wrought?

Today, even the heirs to the American founders have seen themselves subjected to degradations and injustices more extreme than the affronts which compelled their forebears to stage a revolution.  And progressivism's grand prize, socialized medicine, has forced in the door at last.  Americans who fantasize that Obamacare's failure will be its undoing have missed the point.  What does "failure" have to do with anything?  All progressive programs fail.  If the successful provision of societal benefits were a necessary condition of its continuance, socialism would no longer exist.  The necessary condition for the continuance of progressive policies is a ruling elite motivated by power lust -- and time for men to denature themselves in the name of "learning to live with it."

Socialized medicine teaches that you must not value your life above that of other men.  Not only should no doctor care about your personal survival, but you yourself should stop thinking your survival is any kind of priority.  You should wait your turn in the only line in town, and be grateful if you do eventually get what you need from central command.  After all, what choice do you have?  Finally, this degradation -- this total denial in principle of the most basic instinct of all living things, the instinct to preserve oneself through one's own effort -- causes one to see "fairness" in this universal abject self-denial, to bow one's head before the objective hand of government.

This is what becomes of the desire for self-preservation under progressivism.  Indeed, this is the purpose of progressivism in all its forms -- from socialized education to the bureaucratically micromanaged economy, and from the moral relativism and collectivist sentimentalism of "mass entertainment" to the protection of a permanent ruling elite through cronyism and a state-manipulated press.  The aim is to produce the sort of citizen for whom "I am human" no longer essentially means "I am free."

The goal is to degrade your natural perception of freedom to the level of being content with your bowl of rice -- or, at the intermediate stage, with your smartphones, music videos, and entitlement programs -- purchased with your daughter's future, your reason, your self-ownership.  That this goal is as close to global achievement as it is today is astonishing -- though no more so than the fact that there are still men left who are able to perceive what has been lost, and to mount a resistance.



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1 comment:

Robert said...

Jonah Goldberg's article reminded me of a scene from Star Wars Episode II where Anakin (later Darth Vader) told Padme of his attitude of how he would be willing to force people to do things against their will "for their own good". A very apt comparison to "progressives" throughout history. And Padme correctly responded, "Sounds like a dictatorship."