Alan Greenspan might call it “irrational exuberance.” Pundits everywhere, scrutinizing Obama’s falling poll numbers and the frightened disarray of the Democrats as they splutter through their townhall meetings, have concluded that Obamacare is essentially dead. Thus the commentator Charlie Cook: “The situation this summer has slipped completely out of control for President Obama and Congressional Democrats.” Sweet words to the politically mature, of course, but what, really, do they portend?
The glee on the part of critics of Obamacare may well be premature.
Obama himself dismisses it: “We’ve been through this before,” he said yesterday, and he was right. He came from behind in the campaign and won a handsome victory.
Naturally, those in favor of Obama’s ambitions to have Washington swallow up the management of health care were infuriated by Sarah Palin’s talk of “death panels.” The combination of fury and contempt Governor Palin elicits is something I am not sure I fully understand. Snobbery plays a role, I am sure, but there are other, hard-to-fathom forces at work, too. It is less what she says, I believe, than what she is.
Even many on the Right side of the aisle distanced themselves from the “hysteria” her remark supposedly betokened. The always sensible Charles Krauthammer took a few steps back from Palin in a column about end-of-life counselling: “there are no ‘death panels’ in the Democratic health care bills, and to say that there are is to debase the debate.” Mr. Krauthammer goes on to raise serious objections to the Democratic plan, concluding that “you have to be a fool or a knave to deny that it’s intended to gently point you in a certain direction, toward the corner of the sick room where stands a ghostly figure, scythe in hand, offering release.”
Indeed. But I think the debate over “reforming” health care often gets bogged down in, is positively dazzled by, the details. Thomas Sowell, as I said yesterday, was right to ask “Why does it take more than 1,000 pages of legislation to insure people who lack medical insurance?” That’s precisely the sort of question Democrats don’t want you to ask because it derails their rhetorical shuttlecock: “Be reasonable,” they say, “we’re just trying to bring a little order and sanity to the delivery of health care. We want to make it cheaper and provide coverage for more people. How can you object to that?”
That’s one end of the shuttlecock’s trajectory. It’s the other end that worries me. I believe that the Democratic — or at least the Obama administration’s — ambition is to use the government take over of health care not simply to socialize medicine but to socialize America.
I have often quoted from a speech Obama gave the week before the election in which he told his cheering acolytes that they were only “a few days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” I think he was in earnest about that, and I find the prospect frightening. Were America to be remade according to Obama’s blueprint, it would, I am convinced, be poorer, less free, and less secure. It would also more heavily regulated, more drearily conformist, more politically correct.
Those are the things I keep in mind when I contemplate the proposed “reform” of health care. At issue are not just questions about what sort of health care will be available to whom. Those are, to be sure, important questions. But they distract us from the larger goal: what sort of life will be possible to whom in this country.
Andrew McCarthy has written a brilliant, must-read piece that makes this case with appropriate urgency. Really, if you read nothing else this week, read Andy’s piece. It cuts to the heart of what is at stake in the debate over health care. Obama’s purpose, Andy reminds us,
is revolutionary change in an American society he grew up understanding to be fundamentally unjust, racist, materialist, imperialist, and the agent of global misery. He is in Washington to transform the nation from the top down. Nationalized health care is key for him. If he gets it, sovereignty shifts from the citizen to the state. By law, government will be empowered to manage minute details of our lives. Over time — when, as the American Thinker’s Joseph Ashby observes, a “1,000-page health-care law explodes into many thousands of pages of regulatory codes” — that is precisely what government will do.
“Sovereignty shifts from the citizen to the state”: that is what we’re talking about hear: not (or only incidentally) the way we pay for our annual check up or some prescription drug or surgical procedure. The real issue is Who decides: you or a government bureaucrat.
During his campaign, Obama denied that he was a liberal: no, he said, I am a pragmatist . Some people believed him; when he was elected, we all hoped it was so.
But Obama is not a pragmatist. He is a True Believer (the allusion to Eric Hoffer is deliberate). He is not, as Andy says, “a normal politician. He’s a visionary, and using health care to radically expand the scope of government happens to be central to his vision.”
That vision is a socialized America, an America in which central planning is the order of the day, in which individual initiative is severely curbed and economic freedom is curtailed in the name of a “higher,” communitarian good. It is, as many commentators have pointed out, a Europeanized America, but it faces this complication: socialized, politically correct, welfare-state Europe was possible only because the United States with its military might, its economic largess, and its political will stood behind it, guaranteeing the safety of its childlike charges.
Who will perform the function of the adult if America, too, grows weary of maturity and allows itself to waddle down the road of political and spiritual regression?
Some observers are writing off the current struggle, looking forward instead to the 2012 election. But Andy has another sobering thought: “Even if Obama were a normal politician, 2012 is three years away, and he’ll worry about that later, if he has to worry at all: With his Justice Department green-lighting election fraud, ACORN and the New Black Panther party riding high, and amnesty for millions of illegal aliens on the horizon, 2012 may take care of itself.”
Food for thought, no?
The gravamen is not how we are going to organize health care but how we are going to organize our lives — or, rather, whether we are still going to be allowed the freedom to organize them for ourselves.
That’s why I agree with Andy McCarthy that Sarah Palin was on to something important with her talk of “death panels.” “The editorial that pooh-poohed the label, ” he notes,
acknowledged . . . that the legislation gave great reason (I’d say grave reason) to be concerned about “government rationing and a general slide toward euthanasia.” The editorial’s contention was that there wouldn’t “literally” be death panels. To me, that’s not much different from quibbling over “what the meaning of ‘is’ is.” The stakes here couldn’t be higher, time is short, and “death panel” cuts to the chase. . . .
Obama has reinstated a 52-page “end of life planning document” authored by a medical ethicist who has advocated doctor-assisted suicide in a Supreme Court brief. This Orwellian “Your Life, Your Choices” questionnaire, in the familiar “push poll” manner, methodically steers the patient toward the notion that he is a malingering near-vegetable causing a “severe emotional burden” for his family. I don’t know what the correct, non-hysterical term for such a process is, but “Grim Government Reaper” strikes me as more accurate than “Your Life, Your Choices.”
Are you getting it yet? “Democrats want to repeal individual liberty; move one-sixth of the private sector into the same government-controlled model that has produced bankruptcy in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.” Is that the sort of Hope and Change you want for yourselves and your children?