Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal carried a blistering editorial about President Obama’s 11-page effort to combine elements of the House and Senate bills to “reform” — read, reduce to a government-run satrapy — American health care. Entitled “ObamaCare at Ramming Speed,” the editorial cites chapter and verse to show how the “the President’s plan” “manages to take the worst of both the House and Senate bills and combine them into something more destructive. It includes more taxes, more subsidies and even less cost control than the Senate bill. And it purports to fix the special-interest favors in the Senate bill not by eliminating them—but by expanding them to everyone.”
Not for the first time since January 20, 2009, I found myself thinking of Governor Mitch Daniels’s characterization of the Obama administration’s “shock-and-awe statism.” “Ramming speed,” indeed. The phrase is not only a play on the name of Obama’s singular chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel; it also accurately describes the heedless velocity with which the administration approaches the tasks of governing. It turns out that the family Toyota is not the only thing with its accelerator stuck to the floor board.
The Journal editorial is well worth pondering, assuming your stomach — and your blood pressure — can take it. Good though “ObamaCare at Ramming Speed” is as a title, “Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid” captures something else about the emotional wallop of the column. Even as the Obama administration shows itself racing to revolutionize one aspect of American society after the next, so it demonstrates once again that socialism is only another name for paternalism, which, with Tocqueville, we may file under the heading of “Democratic Despotism.” Remember Obama’s promise in October of 2008 that he was on the threshold of “fundamentally transforming the United States of America”? Here we go. You don’t “fundamentally transform” a capitalist country that puts a premium on entrepreneurship and individual liberty without undermining capitalism, innovation, and freedom.
Hence no one should be surprised at the aroma of coercion that is such a prominent feature of Obama’s various proposals to remake this country. At the heart of his “cap-and-trade” initiatives, for example, were provisions that would impose ruinous regulation on American industry even as it would make energy more expensive for American citizens.
Don’t forget the bit about choice: I was just in a hotel in the Midwest where every lamp was fitted out with one of those newly “energy efficient” lightbulbs your masters in Washington want you to use. The sickly yellow glow emitted reminded me of a B-film about Eastern Europe during the Cold War. In 2012, unless people come to their senses, you’ll be forced — forced — to buy that sort of light bulb because Congress in its wacko nanny-state wisdom has decided that’s the only kind of light bulb you will be allowed to buy. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this splendid, if depressing, clip from Reason TV:
The Obama administration’s approach to health care betrays a similar top-down, do-as-I-say, it’s-for-your-own-good, nanny-state aroma. As the Journal notes (my emphasis),
The coercive flavor that animates this exercise is best captured in the section that purports to accept the Senate’s “grandfather clause” allowing people who like their current health plan to keep it. Except that “The President’s Proposal adds certain consumer protections to these ‘grandfathered’ plans. Within months of legislation being enacted, it requires plans . . . prohibits . . . mandates . . . requires . . . the President’s Proposal adds new protections that prohibit . . . ban . . . and prohibit . . . The President’s Proposal requires . . .” After all of these dictates, no “grandfathered” plan will exist.
Are you listening? Obama & Co. require, prohibit, mandate, ban. That’s what it’s about, folks. Government deciding for you how and how much to pay (you can be sure it will be lots), what doctors you see, indeed, what sorts of doctors there are for you to see. Lenin put it more briefly still: the fundamental question of politics, he said, is Who-whom? “Whom,” it pains me to report, is us, the American people.
Tomorrow, we can all watch the little circus Obama has crafted for the credulous: the “bipartisan” “debate” over health care in which Obama, as master of ceremonies, will invite his Republican colleagues to demonstrate their “bi-partisanship” by acquiescing to the Democratic plan. The show is guaranteed to be a travesty, though not, I think, in the entertaining, theatrical sense.
The more the public knows about what the Democrats have in store for them with respect to health care, the less they like it. “Voters still strongly oppose the health care reform plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats,” Rasmussen reports. Don’t think a little thing like that matters, though. Part of the shock and awe in shock-and-awe statism is the sublime indifference it shows to anything so quaint as democratic accountability. Big nurse here knows what’s good for you, and she’s going to give it to you whether you like it or not.
There’s a lot about dollars and cents in the debate over the future of American health care. The sums of money being bandied about really are staggering. (My favorite bumper sticker of late: “It’s a good thing Obama doesn’t know what comes after ‘trillion.’ ”) But even more alarming is are the dolors and (non)sense — I mean the prospects for 1) freedom and 2) quality medical care. The issue of freedom is one that is too obvious to require commentary: if ObamaCare passes, you will be less free in about 87 different ways. You’ll be poorer, you’ll have less choice, and you’ll be subject to vastly more regulation and bureaucracy. It’s a horrible thought. The DMV coming to a doctor’s office near you.
But the proof’s in the pudding. At the end of the day, how good will American health care be? (By “American health care,” incidentally, I do not mean “health care available to Congress and other members of the government”: as part of our nomenklatura, they of course get special dispensation, not a Cadillac plan, but a Mercedes, a Rolls Royce plan not available to us plebs.) I am finally getting around to my title. In essence, Obama wants to transform American health care into a larger version of what is available in Canada. What do you make of that? There’s a news story going around the internet that gives us the nub. When push comes to shove — when it’s your kidneys, your heart, your cancer — what would you do if you were Canadian? The story of Danny Williams, the Canadian Premier, tells you all you need to know.
In an interview with the Canadian Press, Williams said he went to Miami to have a “minimally invasive” surgery for an ailment first detected nearly a year ago, based on the advice of his doctors:
“This was my heart, my choice and my health,” Williams said late Monday from his condominium in Sarasota, Fla.
“I did not sign away my right to get the best possible health care for myself when I entered politics.” . . .
“My heart, my choice,” eh? That’s so yesterday, Danny. You were lucky enough to live in a world that offered both the self-righteousness of Canadian socialism and the competence of American capitalism. What’s your son or daughter going to doing if the former is abolished by well-meaning but clueless bureaucrats? Then it will be “My heart, your choice.” What do you think of that?
UPDATE: William Jacobson knows what he thinks of it: take a look at his column today at “Legal Insurrection”:
The health care plan put forth by Obama, based on the prior Senate bill, is so destructive on so many levels that it must be opposed without regard to political fallout.
The Obama plan contains fiscal gimmicks and gamesmanship which will lead to crushing deficits and debt; sanctions government intrusion into our lives unlike anything we have seen before; will lead to the destruction of a private insurance system which, while not perfect, delivers coverage to the overwhelming majority of Americans in a satisfactory manner; will result in the demoralization of our most honored profession, reducing medical care to the lowest common denominator in the cause of a false sense of fairness; and reflects the ultimate hubris of ideological, power drunk people who have proven themselves unworthy of our trust and who express, time and again, their disdain for the people they claim to serve.
Hat-tip to the Argus-eyed Instapundit.