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Twilight of the Sort-Of Gods

Many people were surprised by ObamaCare, once they found out what was in it. They included: (1) Catholics with religious objections to plans they were now mandated to provide or fund; (2) people who hadn’t thought free contraceptives for law students (or other mandated micro-coverage) was part of the health care “crisis;” (3) thousands of companies that needed “waivers” from unworkable provisions of the new law; and (4) people who found “death panels” endorsed on the New York Times op-ed page as eventually necessary under ObamaCare. There will undoubtedly be more surprises after the election, when new taxes under ObamaCare take effect, the real costs emerge, and serious side effects and unintended consequences become evident.

Passed with a hyper-partisan vote, using a hyper-partisan procedure, complete with cynical arguments that it was a cost-saving initiative not affecting those who liked their existing plans; financed with money taken from Medicare or from new taxes deemed “Medicare contributions” but that had nothing to do with Medicare; rushed through without waiting for public hearings; defying adverse reactions in town hall meetings, public opinion polls, and the Massachusetts election (which was effectively a referendum on it), Obamacare was emblematic of the manner in which modern liberalism sought to effectuate its goals. Kesler concludes it may signal “the twilight of the liberal welfare state”:

To the extent that liberalism is the welfare state, and the welfare state is entitlement spending, and entitlements are mostly spent effecting the right to health care, the insolvency of the health care entitlement programs is rightly regarded as a major part of the economic, and moral, crisis of liberalism. … According to the Congressional Budget Office, by 2025 Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and the interest on the federal debt will consume all -- all -- federal revenues, leaving defense and all other expenditures to be paid for by borrowing; and the debt will be approaching twice the country's annual GDP.

The problem with actually-existing liberalism is that it has an inherent contradiction within it: it involves endless government interventions in the lives of its citizens (since the perfect society is always in the future), using mandates from a government freed from prior constitutional restrictions (since the “living Constitution” is an evolving one, not limited by the original understanding of the words in it), creating a government economy on top of the private one, while depending on the latter for the revenues necessary to fulfill its promises (since the government does not generate any revenue of its own). At some point, the weight of the governmental economy on the private economy becomes too much.

The path Obama sought for the country is clearer now than it was four years ago -- now that the rhetoric has been replaced by a record. November 6, 2012, will be a moment different than the one Obama envisioned in 2008; less a “defining moment” than an opportunity for voters to prevent the nation from reaching a tipping point. In a sense, it will be our destiny calling, giving us a second chance, having shown us the culmination of modern liberalism in a smooth-talking great-man president.