Tax-Day and stupidity
So, the ides in April is the 13th, not the 15th, and Tax Day this year, if you keep track of these things, is not until the 18th.
But most of us, being sentimental, will always regard today — that’s April 15 — as the real Tax Day. Hence the multiple tea-party rallies scheduled across the country for today and tonight (here, for example, and here, here, here, and . . . well, type “tea party rally” into your favorite search engine and you’ll see.) Hence, too, the opening of part 1 of Atlas Shrugged, a book I admit I’ve never been able to read but a movie I am definitely planning to see, especially after watching this rousing preview. And hence that unbearable feeling of lightness I experience every year on this date after I make a sorrowful visit to my accountant and write the largest check I write all year to help support that caring, sharing, fairing society that Barack Obama is so keen to impose on the land of the formerly free.
“You think we’re stupid?” Obama asked at a feel-good, spend-more event for Democratic donors yesterday — where by “you” he meant Republicans who dislike the prospect of national bankruptcy.
My gastroenterologist warned me off Obama’s speeches months ago. So I didn’t actually listen to his day-time raid on Paul Ryan (the new Bush) Wednesday. I noted with amusement, though, the rhapsody it produced at The New York Times — “President Obama, Reinvigorated,” crowed the editorialist, a brave soul who can contemplate sudden fiscal catastrophe with sanctimonious glee.
Elsewhere, the response was less ecstatic. Even many liberal outlets winced: a writer for The Atlantic, no friend to Republicans, thought the speech “not just weak but pitiful.” Charles Krauthmmer described the speech as a “prose poem to higher taxes.” And The Wall Street Journal dilated on the fundamental “dishonesty” of the speech (like Falstaff’s it was — “gross as a mountain, open, palpable . . .”), not least the dishonesty of pretending that his risible proposal to turn the determination of Medicare payments over to an unelected commission (the “Independent Payment Advisory Board”) -- members of which would be appointed by the President -- would actually lower costs and ferret out “waste and abuse.”
No, unless you occupy by the same mental space as editorialists for The New York Times it was not a good speech. In fact, it was embarrassing. It was, as Paul Ryan noted in his response, a pure partisan performance, a stump speech, political bile unsupported by anything so pedestrian as vision, detail, or understanding.
Which brings me back to that unscripted, of the cuff, is-the-mic-still-on? moment in front of the men with the checkbooks and a sufficiency of zeros: “You think we’re stupid?”
Yes and no. Certainly not, if the opposite of “stupid” is demonstrating a certain political cunning. But in the larger sense, the answer must be Yes: yes, Obama and his minions are stupid.
Listen again to that brief, candid-camera expostulation by the President I link to above. They (the Republicans) want to repeal ObamaCare — but what if ObamaCare, instead of helping people, makes medical care less efficient, less innovative, and wildly more expensive: what then? The President says Republicans want to gut the EPA — but what if the EPA is counterproductive: what if instead of aiding “the environment” it actually just attacks productivity by heaping growth-killing regulations on business? What then? The President spoke of Republican efforts to ignore the evil of climate-change — but what if the hysteria over “global warming” and climate change is entirely wrong-headed, based on faulty science, and turns out to be little more than a left-wing conspiracy to stymie economic growth and force a global redistribution of wealth? What then?
The stupidity of Obama and his echo chamber is of a peculiar kind. We know what idiots savants are: people who have an extraordinary skill at some narrowly focussed mental task — discerning prime numbers, for example, or adding long columns of numbers at sight — but who in a larger sense are stupid: i.e., out of touch with the common realities of life. Obama and his entourage are not idiots savants, but they exhibit a not dissimilar intellectual deformation. They are (in Wittgenstein’s phrase) “held captive” by an idea. They are slaves to The Consensus — the liberal consensus according to which the emotion of virtue is the test of political wisdom: We tell the world we care about the poor, the disadvantaged, the helpless (except, of course, for the most helpless, the unborn): that is what matters: that we talk about it. Never mind that our policies, our actions, what we actually do makes people poorer, more dependent, less free. We have enunciated our virtuous feelings: we are for the environment; we are for the poor and disadvantaged; we are against war. How easy it is to say those things! How difficult to do justice to those who, by pursuing a course of fiscal responsibility, actually achieve the ends which those enslaved to The Consensus talk about but effectively ignore.
I have been re-reading Pride and Prejudice, one of my favorite books. Early on, Mr. Bennet describes his wife as a woman of “mean intelligence, little information, and uncertain temper.” Barack Obama is no where near as charming or as attractive a figure as Mrs. Bennet, but that phrase — especially if you add the words from Jane Austen’s title — goes some distance in illuminating his stupidity. As Glenn Reynolds is fond of pointing out, if things wind up as they did under another such stupid man, Jimmy Carter, it will have been the best-case scenario.