Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Midweek Potpourri, Or When Math Is Irrelevant

There's a thread here, if you pick at it hard enough, but these are our seemingly unrelated observations at midweek:

  • Jim Bunning's little escapade was a delightful piece of political theater that will have at worst an inconveniencing effect on a few people. For the record, we note that Bunning, not always the most Senatorial of Senators, was simply asking Democrats to do what they claim to do, which is operate on "Pay-Go" rules (a miserable expression, which sounds like etiquette at a convenience store) by which new spending must be matched with commensurate new revenue or budget cuts. Asking that the Ds simply release some of their "stimulus" slush fund for what would clearly fit the purpose of the so-called stimulus bill was hardly unreasonable. It must be noted that at any point Reid could have invoked cloture and got the 60 votes to end Bunning's objection to unanimous consent. He didn't because Ds wanted to characterize Republicans as heartless illegitimate children via Bunning's move.
  • Meanwhile, Ds continue to talk about passing ObamaCare via reconciliation, pretending that doing so is in keeping with the best traditions of social legislation and the use of reconciliation since its introduction in the 1970s. Our friends at WSJ expose the hypocrisy of that appeal to history. Prior social legislation has passed with massive bipartisan majorities, while reconciliation, intended to facilitate budgetary discipline, has never been employed for something so comprehensive.
  • Meanwhile, BHO is attaching "Republican ideas" to ObamaCare, presumably to be considered as amendments in the reconciliation process. These concessions are so insignificant and shallow as to defy labeling as empty tokens. Rs are for Obama merely a less significant special-interest group than labor unions, Louisiana or Nebraska. Willie Nelson offered more common ground to his estranged partner in "You Were Always on My Mind" than Obama does to Rs. Meanwhile, the essential illogic of ObamaCare--bending the cost curve downward by offering more generous first-dollar subsidies for everyone--continues apace. Crumbling at its foundation, ObamaCare will now be decorated with two or three tiny bits of faux Republican graffiti.
  • And locally, Cincinnati is debating where the new train station ought to be, while some fret that indecision will mean that Our Fair City will be left out of the grand, high-speed rail line that will connect Cincinnati to Columbus and Cleveland.*
And so it's time to consider the comparisons between BHO's ObamaCare and LBJ's Great Society, the comparisons in which BHO, Pelosi and Reid seem to take so much delight. We recommend reviewing LBJ's speeches as he was introducing Great Society legislation in 1965. For access, the sublime American Experience programs on LBJ are simply the best. In those speeches, one will note a disturbing undercurrent of fiscal hubris: the notion that Our Republic had become rich enough to fund absolutely anything we put our mind to.

As a case in point, we note the recent confession of Joseph Califano, an assistant in LBJ's White House who later served as Carter's Health and Human Services Secretary. Califano on NPR confessed that in studying healthcare patterns in the run-up to Medicare, he discovered that America's docs were providing a great deal of pro bono service to America's senior citizens. So when those same docs (who by nature tend to be libertarian, at least about docs) objected to Medicare, LBJ bought them by promising to pay for every procedure they performed.

Of course, such a move was ridiculously expensive. Why pay for something that you're already getting for free? But it made sense at the time because Johnson believed he was at a unique nexus of history: where money was no longer an object.

Vietnam destroyed LBJ's fantasy faster than anyone could have imagined. But the unpleasant lessons of history are hard to remember.

Obama/Pelosi/Reid is (use the singular verb with a singular subject) now LBJ on steroids plus LSD plus crack. Shall we spend anything and everything to get universal health care? Yes, indeed! Shall we spend anything and everything to have high speed rail (just like Europe and Japan, the only justification besides weakly argued "green" concerns offered for this boondoggle), even in areas that totally lack the population density and public-transportation infrastructure to support such rail projects, and where travel times will still be greater than a trip in a car on the expressway? Why not? Shall we do this without out the votes or the public support? You betcha! Shall we do all of this while invoking history, even though we have to distort history to do it? Absolutely!

Why? This is a time like no other, and we are under the call of history (not God, we hasten to add) to act. We don't need to add up the numbers, whether the numbers represent dollars, Congressmen, or voters. Math has been suspended for the moment. We live in a singularity, like the Big Bang. Call it the Big Barack.

And if it all fails, we'll call the other guys heartless illegitimate children yet again and try once again after the election.

*Non-bold prediction: the Cincinnati-Columbus-Cleveland train will not run in the lifetime of this blogger or any gentle reader.

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