Ed Driscoll

Circus, Circus

Welcome to the P.T. Barnum Administration”, Dan Gainor writes:

It’s an era of hoaxes and hucksters. Balloons shaped like 1950s UFOs dominate the skies, and missing children out their parents for their stupid stunts. TV news shows are filled with made-up news stories and made-up quotes about Rush Limbaugh, and instead of the three-ring circus, the master of ceremonies tried to bring us all five Olympic rings.

There he stands, under the glare of the spotlight, embracing a phrase claimed to be from the greatest showman of all time – P.T. Barnum. The phrase, you wonder? “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Even if Barnum didn’t say it (and historians dispute the point) the parallels remain. President Barack Obama is a master at pulling the wool over our eyes – a real professional huckster.

He ran as an anti-war candidate and still pushes two wars, but he won’t commit to either prosecuting the wars or withdrawing. It’s like having the circus high-wire act perform without a net. Sure it might work, but one mistake gets somebody killed. Suckers.

Obama rammed through a $787 billion stimulus plan to keep unemployment from going no higher than eight percent, and it’s now nearly 10 percent, and it’s looking like it will get worse since the Labor Department estimated another 825,000 jobs have been lost but won’t be counted until a spring revision. Suckers.

Now the latest is health care. He and the Hill Democrats are pushing through health care reform bills based on numbers that are virtually meaningless. Even The Washington Post admitted it. The Oct. 19 Post ran a story on the “man who has to decide what it would cost to rebuild the health insurance system” – Congressional Budget Office senior analyst Phil Ellis.

Only Ellis was honest about something few in D.C. ever admit: “We’re always putting out these estimates: This is going to cost $1.042 trillion exactly,” he told the Post. “But you sort of want to add, you know, ‘Your mileage may vary.’” In other words, the cost estimates for health care reform aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.

That, of course, isn’t what we are told on TV. NBC’s Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd went into great detail about the financial difference among the plans during an Oct. 8 “Today” segment. The piece was entirely upbeat about the last bill getting voted out of committee, and Todd called it “a big booster shot of confidence” and “renewed momentum.”

Then he detailed the finances. “On cost, the Senate Finance Bill would total $829 billion. The Senate Health Committee Bill $645 billion. And a House version, more than $1.2 trillion.” He added that only one lowers the deficit, saying “the Senate Finance Bill subtracts $81 billion, but the other two bills add to the deficit.”

Now we know that to be largely bogus. Government programs rarely cost what they are predicted to cost. Medicare is a classic example. Back in 1965, it was estimated that the “hospital insurance portion of the program, Part A, would cost about $9 billion annually by 1990.v Actual Part A spending in 1990 was $67 billion,” according to a congressional report. That’s more than seven times higher. Suckers.

P.T. Barnum has long gotten the credit for something the infinitely more elitist H.L. Mencken once observed: “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” But Obama’s greatest trick was to first sucker those who fancied themselves the smartest bobos in the (dorm) room.

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