Belmont Club

You Are The 'World'

The Military Times calls it a puzzle.  A survey shows that president Obama has the approval of only 15 percent of military personnel yet a majority now accept the reality of gays in the military and women in combat roles.  But there’s no contradiction.  Acceptance has always been different from approval. Most of us accept we are going to die of some day,  even though not many approve approve.  The US military, like civilians, may have little fondness for their Pointy Haired Bosses yet still go to work each day and  boast: “I never missed a day of work in my life.”

One of the most salient characteristic of American culture is “can do” — its ability to find a way around obstacles placed in its path.  Reuters recently reported that ice-cream shops in Venezuela are closing due to the unavailability of milk.   In America the outcome may have been the invention of a source of artificial milk.  Instead of closing the shops they might have reopened as artificial ice cream parlors.

American oil and gas companies reacted precisely in this way to government discouragement.  The industry simply invented new technologies which made America the biggest oil producer in the world.

In the United States failure appears to be a profit opportunity. Several  American friends have unaccountably offered me exactly  the same piece of sage advice.  “Richard, never trust anyone who hasn’t failed.”  In their view anyone who hasn’t been flat broke at least once in his life has some kind of character defect. One acquaintance  wistfully recalled the time he lost his fortune and had to live out of his car, and how that motivated him to even greater wealth.  Maybe his last conscious thoughts when the time comes to cross the river will not be of the yacht anchored off the Riviera, or of starlit nights and steel guitars in Rio, but fond memories of a shower and shave at the CITGO rest room.

The downside to this laudable impulse to self-help is that very few American politicians are ever punished for their blunders.  The population apparently finds it easier to adapt.  It is easier to invent a new industry than start a political movement.

Take for example the case of New York City resident Nicolas Karlson.   The Affordable Care Act gave him the shaft. In the pre-Obamacare days Karlson paid only $1,805 every three months to medically insure himself and his wife.  Obamacare canceled his plan and the cheapest thing he can get costs “$1,221.60 per month, or more than 100 percent more than his old plan cost.” Not only that, his network of doctors excludes everyone. So what does Karlson do? He adapts by hiring an adviser named Brett Sigler of Client Focused Advisors in New York.  Brett will get him a deal somehow.

He reached out to someone he knew who had dealt with insurance before, who referred him to an investment adviser name Brett Sigler, of Client Focused Advisors in New York. Sigler and his colleagues last year got certified as brokers for the New York State of Health.

Sigler told CNBC that while “we saw there was an opportunity where a lot of people were going to need help,” other than putting out the word in a networking group he was associated with, he didn’t really solicit business actively.

Despite that, Sigler’s gotten Obamacare business this year from Karlson and about 100 other people, essentially from word of mouth.

“It’s been way more than I anticipated,” Sigler said. “I’ll get calls from people that I’ve never met before.”

Obamacare will be great for guys like Sigler. The bigger the screwup, the bigger the opportunity. Megan McArdle notes the reason Vermont  gave up on Single Payer was it would cost as much as everything the State was now spending. The problem isn’t how to divvy up the bill. The problem is the bill. Nobody can make the unaffordable affordable any more than guys at a clip joint can pay for the bottle service when the dollars in their pocket come up short. Asking the waiter for single or separate bills is irrelevant. The reason health care is so expensive is it already consists of a mass of workarounds.

But workarounds it is. The American ability to adapt explains why president Obama — and why incompetent politicians in general — can get away with almost anything. Michael Walsh warns Barack Obama is in the final, unfettered two years of his plan to fundamentally pervert America and nobody seems to care.  They care. It’s just they many are focusing on survival strategies, preferrably ones which can earn them a profit.

The men behind Obama took a calculated gamble in 2008 that the nation was ready for the first post-American president, a man with no meaningful cultural roots in the nation he would profess to lead. They relied on the intrinsic good-heartedness of the electorate to show their lack of prejudice in voting for a man with an exotic Arabic/Muslim name only seven years after the atrocity of Sept. 11. They counted on the innate good will of the American people, judged that the time was right for a black president, and then went out and found the only half-black candidate who had absolutely nothing to do with the black American experience and ran him as an avatar of black America.

The men behind Obama counted on more than American goodwill. They relied on the population’s ability to adapt, innovate and survive him. Julie Pace and Nancy Benac of the Associated Press make a similar but more restrained argument to Walsh’s.  They claim Obama feels liberated by the absence of obligation to anything, not even to his own party.

People close to Obama say he is energized at not having to worry about helping — or hurting — Democrats in another congressional election on his watch. He has become more comfortable with his executive powers, moving unilaterally on immigration, Internet neutrality and climate change in the last two months. And he sees legacy-building opportunities on the international stage, from an elusive nuclear deal with Iran to normalizing relations with Cuba after a half-century freeze.

“He gained some clarity for the next two years that is liberating,” said Jay Carney, who served as Obama’s press secretary until this spring. “He doesn’t have as much responsibility for others.”

He’s past caring, even about consequences.  Why? Because he has faith there will be none. While in Venezuela Obama’s behavior would result in a shortage of everything, including ice cream,  and possibly mobs of irate people in the street, in America Obama is betting his screwups will result in new industries galore. As with the US military, people accept and innovate.  Obama has discovered all he has to do is displace the institutions in the direction of his preferred moral arc. And while the institutions may never return to their original position they will find a way to continue regardless of the costs he imposes.

Maybe he’s now engaged in a game of “can I break this carbon nanotube fiber?”  cause it sure seems hard to break.

The Left never tires of denouncing the idea of American exceptionalism. Yet their behavior reveals a complete reliance on it. Do you need to give 5 million people health care? Just mandate it. The Asian Journal says that California is already considering extending government health benefits to newly amnestied aliens. Politico reports that the Democratic Party has already established an “immigration strike team” for Hispanics. The Dems are going to ride all the way back into the White House by promising their a new piece of the pie. And not just pie either. What about artificial ice-cream to go with it?

American history has been one long race between Tammany Hall and the Frontier; a contest between “in God we trust” and “you can come up with the vig”. But it’s not just the Democratic Party that expects miracles. Spend a few minutes reading the international press asking yourself, what precisely is referred to when the phrases “we must keep world peace” or “stop ebola” or “put an end to terrorism” are uttered?  Who is we? People not only believe in miracles.  They expect them from the implicit “we”.

If the foundations the earth are founded on the rock of faith, it is not the faith of the simple in the great, but on the contrary in the reliance of the great in the unbreakability of the simple. We are the world. Now get to work.

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