Saturday, August 22, 2009

A thought on protests

Something that's occurred to me recently, in thinking about the recent posturing by supporters of Obamacare--things like Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer calling protests against the plan(s) "Un-American," or the even more ridiculous spectacle of one Congressman calling another's opposition to the plan(s) "an act of treason"--is how similar all this is to what took place during the Bush administration.

We had the fierce protests--if anything, even more over-the-top than what we have now. We had the President's supporters firing back, accusing the protesters of all kinds of nefarious political motives...and yes, we had some supporters throwing around words like "Un-American" and "treason."

However, it seems to me that there is one very big difference.

The Bush policies that so enraged the left were matters of foreign policy. They were matters where, quite apart from the debate over how these matters should be conducted (or whether they should be conducted at all) the shrillness of public protests, once past a certain level, had the effect of undermining and sabotaging the United States on the global stage--in arenas where our soldiers were in harm's way.

The Obama policies that have sent the right over the edge, by contrast, are matters of domestic policy. There is no worry about undermining or sabotaging the United States here, because no matter how over-the-top the protests become, there is no foreign enemy to be aided and comforted by the lack of a unified front.

The Obamacare protests, far from "Un-American," are precisely what the framers of the First Amendment had in mind--citizens non-violently gathering to petition the government for a redress of grievances, in matters directly affecting them.

It is American democracy in its purest form.


Monday, August 10, 2009

On the "right" to health care

Terrific summation of the fundamental philosophical problem behind the drive to Obamacare--about the most succinct I've seen anywhere--can be found in the comments section of this essay. The eighth comment down:

As people in the software business often say, there's a difference between free speech and free beer. No one is being denied freedom to health care in the free speech sense: I try to use my own resources to get health care and someone blocks me. But health care, unlike speech (or the rights to worship or assemble) is like free beer: someone else has to provide it. So it's really saying we have a right to other people's money to pay for our health care.

In two centuries, I don't think anyone has ever claimed that the right to free speech means I have the right to take even 50 cents from my neighbor to buy a stamp and an envelope to send a letter to the editor. If I can't afford to write a letter, I'll just have to live with preaching on the street corner, while the Murdocks and Turners of the world project their free speech to millions. And that's been fine. Throwing around the word "right" in this case without addressing the fact that we're talking about a very different kind of right seems dishonest.

Nothing more to say.


Thursday, August 06, 2009


Even with the massive brouhaha over health care the past several weeks, I haven't had much inclination to blog on the issue.

My take on health care is simple and utterly pessimistic: No matter which side prevails here, the system is irreparably broken. Either the premiums I pay for my health insurance will go through the roof, or the taxes I pay for premiums for government health insurance--both for my own, if I enroll, and for others', regardless--will go through the roof (or the deficit will go through the roof...though that will happen, regardless).

Whether it's the insurance companies or the government in charge, if they want to have any hope of solvency they'll have no choice but to ration care and, in the case of those who most desperately need insurance (read: pre-existing conditions) deny or drop coverage altogether.

(Well, solvency's not something the government is particularly concerned about, which is a problem in and of itself...but let's set that aside for the moment.)

For me, the equation goes something like this: If we have government health care, we will have taxpayer-funded abortions. It's inevitable, as admits without actually admitting:

While Planned Parenthood would appear to be a qualified health clinic providing certain health services to women, there is nothing in the amendment’s wording to indicate that abortion would be a covered procedure. That would be up to the HHS Secretary.

(That would be HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, for those keeping score at home.)

So, I'm opposed to any and all incarnations of Obamacare...for what little that's worth.

Public opposition means nothing. As I've said before, Obama will almost certainly be a one-term president...but in that one term, he will set the stage for a permanent Democratic majority. This will get done--the numbers game on Capitol Hill guarantees it--and once it does, it doesn't matter if Republicans get back into power. They will no more be able to repeal the programs Obama sets in motion than they were able to repeal LBJ's Great Society.

In watching this train wreck, though, there are the occasionally amusing moments, like the one at the now-infamous town hall meeting between Sebelius and Sen. Arlen Specter (D R D) on one side, and an angry crowd on the other (which may or may not have been a case of "astroturfing"--in either case, it's irrelevant to the point of this post).

Cal Thomas highlights:

In a joint appearance with Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Democrat, Mrs. Sebelius responded to shouts and catcalls from a skeptical audience at the Constitution Center in heavily Democratic Philadelphia. She said Mr. Specter shouldn't be criticized because the Senate's version of the bill has not yet been written. This takes hubris to a new level. It is one thing for a member of Congress to vote on legislation he hasn't read; it is quite another for government officials to ask for support of a bill that has not been written, at least in the Senate.

What can I say? It's a stunning display of gall and carelessness--and it's perfectly in keeping with the character of the Obama administration.