What’s the hurry? “I need $800 billion and I need it now, today.” Thus President Obama (summa dixit) shortly after taking office last winter. Maybe it’s all part of what Governor Mitch Daniels has called the Obama administration’s “shock and awe statism”: startle the punters with outrageous demands. Then tell them you want them met immediately, toot sweet, eftsoons and right speedily. “Don’t bother reading the bill, just give me the money.” It really was a breathtaking performance. He almost got away with it.
Almost. Sure, he got the dough. But the rumble you’ve been hearing in the background are doubts congregating. Any real stimulus does–what? It stimulates. And what has the President’s “stimulus” (really, a spending) package given us (apart from higher taxes coming to a paycheck near you, I mean)? Take your time . . .
Anyway, now that Obama is trying a repeat performance with the way we provide health care in this country, that rumble I mentioned is growing into a deafening roar. Yesterday, Obama had the temerity to insist that his plan to nationalize health care be passed RIGHT NOW, before Congress recessed in August. Then he compounded the temerity by insisting that “the deadline isn’t being set by me. It’s being set by the American people.” Oh yeah? Or rather, sez who?
Last week, I was having lunch with a politically astute friend who observed that Obama’s unseemly haste was a trademark. Maybe it’s all part of the Rahm Emmanuel policy of not letting a good crisis go to waste. Whatever the origin of Obama’s impatience, it ought to be resisted. As my friend pointed out, Obama’s gambit actually conceals a cynical and unflattering view of the electorate. “Pass this humongous, multi-trillion dollar bill to nationalize and ration health care right now or it will never pass.”
Right you are, Pres! But hold on. My friend was quite right that the reason for the haste unseemly was Obama’s recognition that were his plan to impose socialized medicine subject to normal scrutiny, it would be subject to what the internists among you would describe as the political analogue of reverse peristalsis: i.e., the public would vomit it back into the laps of PelosiKennedy and soon to-be-former Senator Reid. I’m sure he was right about that.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
— Universal health insurance is not the same thing as universal health care.
I hate to belabor the obvious, but it may be worth pointing out that what the Democrats’ plan amounts to is a giant government-run boondoggle. It will increase the intrusiveness of government bureaucrats; it will increase the time you wait (unless you work for the government) for a medical procedure; for most people, it will certainly increase what you pay for health care. What it will erode is the relationship between doctor and patient and the overall quality of health care. A KimballQuickInvestmentTip: if the health care legislation is passed in anything like its current format, buy stock in funeral homes and gurney manufacturers. They’ll have a boom.
— Health care is not a right, it is a service.
Your toilet breaks. You call a plumber.The plumber comes and fixes your toilet. He gives you a bill. Why should it be different when you break your arm and go to the doctor?
— But wait, people in this country already get medical care whether they can pay for it or not.
You understand that, right? Let’s say you are indigent and get run over by a low-carbon-emitting, clean-fuel, environmentally friendly bus. You are taken to the emergency room. You get treated whether or not you have any dough. As always happens when the government gets involved, the proposed health care legislation would make it more, not less, difficult for doctors and hospitals ro donate services to the needy.
— A related point about Obama’s popularity.
People keep telling me how wildly popular Obama himself is, even if support for virtually all his major initiatives is eroding. Not true–the first bit, I mean. David Brooks had an interesting piece in our former paper of record today about the “Liberal Suicide March.” I think he’s right about the direction of the march. But why, apart from the sentiments of his colleagues at that fast-sinking newspaper, does he believe that “Most Americans love Barack Obama personally.” Every poll I’ve seen suggests the opposite. Nota bene: Obama did not “win by a landslide,” as the good people from Acorn, MoveOn.org, CNN, and The New York Times like to imply. He won by a margin of about 52-46–respectable these days but not hardly a landslide. And since being elected, Obama has, despite a moment of euphoria among the left, sunk steadily in the public’s estimation. In fact, he ranks 10th out of the 12 post-war presidents at this point in his tenure. Politico reports that “the number of Americans who say they trust the president has fallen from 66 percent to 54 percent. At the same time, the percentage of those who say they do not trust the president has jumped from 31 to 42.” Could it be worse? Sure. And it probably will be soon.
There is a larger question about Obama. Back when he was campaigning, some commentators assured us that, despite his hard-left associates, pronouncements, and instincts, Obama really was a “pragmatist” who would govern from the center. Any evidence of that yet? I think Bill McGurn is right that, so-far, Obama has been anything but “post-partisan.” But as the rats desert the ship and his poll numbers plummet, one wonders whether Obama will muster the political canniness that saved Bill Clinton. Clinton’s great asset was his utter lack of conviction about anything beyond his own political survival. Given his druthers, he would have liked to enact HillaryCare, expand welfare and other social programs, and pay for it all by raising taxes. But political reality intervened and he wound up enacting a boatload of Republican-inspired legislation from welfare reform on down. Will Obama opt for a similar skin-saving expedient?
Wake me up when he fires Rahm Emmanuel and David Axelrod.
No, I’m not holding my breath.