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Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

As the effects of the Obamacare rollout hit and thousands, which may well in the end be millions (by official estimate) lose the insurance coverage they like and are forced to buy coverage they don't want, sometimes at higher prices, I find myself a little puzzled.

How hard would it be, really, for supporters of Obamacare to admit that they were wrong, that the package their leaders came up with was a dud, that it's harming people, and that it needs to be changed? Look, I'm not talking about their being converted to free market economics! But how about just admitting that the Obamcare requirements for so-called "minimal coverage," which include maternity coverage for 60-year-olds, are overly stringent and are causing unnecessary hardship? If catastrophic only plans could be included in the exchanges and allowed for employers to satisfy government requirements, that change alone would mitigate some of the insane effects we are seeing here.

Why should this be a matter of die-hard ideology on the left at all? Surely, it seems, this ought to be a pragmatic matter, one of those prudential things that government used to tinker with before politics got so polarized. It isn't in itself one of those allegedly divisive social issues (is it?). Sure, we constitutional die-hards are going to say that the federal government is far exceeding its constitutional authority, but we can treat that as a separate issue for purposes of asking the question: Why are supporters of Obamacare so intransigent, so utterly and absolutely determined not to admit that it is bad policy and is hurting many of the people it was intended to help? Why, when one brings up all the companies that are cutting worker hours below thirty (google it and see the enormous confirmation that this is happening) to avoid the Obamacare mandate of insuring these workers, do supporters either a) ignore the point altogether, b) deny that this is really happening, which gives a whole new meaning to "being in denial" or c) claim that the fault lies with the evil employers rather than with the policy makers who ignored this obvious effect of their law?

Why do we not find bipartisan support for scrapping Obamacare and seeking something better, less drastic, with fewer bad effects?

Some, even more cynical than I, would say that the entire goal is to create a failure and thus create support for single-payer.

I won't deny that that may be a goal of some of the architects, but it cannot explain the blinkered support of Jane and Joe Facebook, who refuse to admit that Obamacare is hurting people even as each day brings new evidence. I give Jane and Joe credit for wishing people no harm, so what gives?

For whatever they are worth, I put forward two theories, which are compatible with one another.

Theory 1: Obamacare has become a political loyalty test. If you don't support it, you give up some kind of internal or external label, or you worry that you must adopt some kind of label ("conservative," for example). Keeping loyalty to Obama himself and to his plan as being all for the best in the best of all possible worlds is more important to some people for what it symbolizes to them politically than is a willingness to do sober cause and effect analysis and admit that the plan needs changes.

Theory 2: Rose-of-gold economic ideas have become so ingrained that supporters genuinely believe that this can be made to work simply by fiat. "Better coverage" can simply be mandated for all and paid for somehow. Insurance plans that were more bare-bones were bad and evil, "not worth keeping." They should not have existed; thus forcing people not to have them is doing those people a good turn. People don't know how bad they had it! Employers who cut hours below thirty to avoid providing expensive additional insurance coverage are also bad and evil, and we should find a way to stop them if possible. In other words, whatever the bad effects of Obamacare might be, they are someone else's fault, not the fault of the policy makers nor of the policy, because only evil will can thwart good intentions in the realm of delivering needed goods and services.

What is particularly striking about the doubling down that is taking place here is what it augurs concerning every aspect of politics. What this tells me is that there is no place where left and right can come together and simply consider plain prudential predictions (or even existing outcomes) and try to make things better than they were before. It just isn't going to happen. There is no common ground, even pragmatically speaking, even where the allegedly more incendiary issues are not central.

Was there ever more common ground? I'm inclined to think that it hasn't always been this bad. After all, Hillarycare didn't pass back in the 90's. People saw that it would cause harm and shied away from it. Policy makers worried that they would lose their jobs if they rammed it through and people were dissatisfied with it. No longer.

As I ponder, discouraged, on what all of this means, I can only say that there is a long road ahead. That long road, moreover, will more and more take the form of having fewer and fewer friends who can even agree that some practical policy is bad when the evidence is sitting in front of their lying eyes. Isolation, fragmentation, and distrust will grow at the level of personal relationships.

There is plenty to be discouraged about on the social issues scene--abortion, the increasingly triumphant homosexual agenda, the elites' rampant promotion of filth and promiscuity to our children.

But when the world of bare-bones practicality is also sharply divisive, then we are indeed a divided nation, and there may be no going back at all.

Comments (70)


The entire issue is the most depressing thing going in contemporary politics, if you ask me, for exactly the reasons you cite. I've tried several times to write something about it, but there's no way I can do it without coming off like a pure partisan, when it is the pure partisanship that I'm most disgusted by in this whole affair.

I am quite confident that liberals would be quite willing to point out that on Obamacare, conservatives are not blameless on the partisanship and the heated rhetoric and the divisiveness. And going by at least some of the blasts of the right-media, they would have some support for such a claim. That is to say, however justifiable we were in pointing out the ills of Obamacare, not all rightward efforts to talk about it were reasonable.

That said, surely there should be SOME liberals who can see past the bloviation on both sides of the punditry to the underlying truth: Obamacare as currently being implemented is problematic and is going to harm people unnecessarily. While many people can argue about "you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet", (an argument liberals normally would shun as being reserved to cold, heartless conservatives), the critical word was "unnecessarily." Even granting that we are going to have a national health bill, and its bureaucracy, and the state exchanges, there are STILL ways in which Obamacare is making itself and us worse than it needs to be. The easiest one to identify is the the contraception and abortifacient mandate, a provision nowhere demanded by the law itself, and if it is to be upheld, the result will be (a) absolutely enormous resources used up in maneuvering to fight it out, (b) close out the Little Sisters of the Poor from our country, (c) close a hell of a lot of operations that do an enormous amount of good - many of whom already have good insurance for their employees, thus resulting in (d) (because they close their doors) an actual reduction in health care insurance for the thousands of workers out of jobs. (That's not even to mention the huge amount of ill-will Obama is winning from his otherwise go-along-to-get-along Catholics.)

I think political discourse took a step off the path of civility and pragmatism when we began electing politicians based on something other than their stand on the issues. In Virginia, we elected Gov. Douglas Wilder because of the color of his skin. That was more than 20 years ago and Virginia has been a political football ever since. ("The double minded man is unstable in all his ways.") Recent politicians have been elected because of their "sexual orientation," their extra-marital affairs, their admitted use of illicit drugs, and their perceived ethnicity. Some have even been elected because they made women feel sexually excited.

When we elect our leaders based on such things as these, we are throwing away our constitutional democratic republic and we deserve what we get. Our current Liar-in-Chief was elected because of his skin color. We are reaping what we have sown in the blind loyalty his followers are giving him. They cannot afford to this presidency to be seen in a bad light as that would validate the things those who oppose his policies have been saying all along.

Tony, I'm extremely opposed to the contraception mandate, but by no means is that the only or even the main thing causing the massive practical problems referred to in the main post. In a sense it is a symptom, because it's one of the allegedly "minimal benefits" which everyone is supposed to be entitled to even if they don't want it, but it's the mandating of a large "minimal" package that is causing the problem, including maternity care, for example.

So, I know you were just giving an example, but I think our liberal brethren would have to be willing to admit to more problems at an economic level with the plan as a whole than those that have an impact upon freedom of conscience. The overall negative effects on ordinary people are being caused even more by other things, and in particular by the closing down of certain types of insurance plans that cannot be sold on the exchanges and that employers can't use to fulfill their new mandate to offer coverage. Also, the mandate itself is doing a lot of harm by causing people who need every hour of work they can get to have their hours cut to less than thirty.

Rich, I think your comment is especially spot-on when it comes to the treatment of Obama and all his works and plans as politically sacrosanct. I have no doubt that the "race card" is part of the reason why Obama has been able to do more harm than Clinton. It certainly isn't because Clinton was a better man! There is a kind of fanaticism about the support for Obama that makes it almost unthinkable for his supporters to imagine reversing his policies, even when they prove to be working out very badly indeed.

Lydia: "discouraged, on what all of this means, I can only say that there is a long road ahead. That long road, moreover, will more and more take the form of having fewer and fewer friends who can even agree that some practical policy is bad when the evidence is sitting in front of their lying eyes. Isolation, fragmentation, and distrust will grow at the level of personal relationships."

Has this been your direct experience?

Or is this something that you have heard from others?

Just curious.

Yes, my direct experience, though I have to admit that I already tend to have mostly friends who agree with me politically, so it has not happened to a huge degree. But there have been specifics. Sometimes it is a surprising "friend of a friend," which means one has to be careful when interacting with the mutual friend, esp. on-line. If I were "out there" in the workforce outside of the home, say, I would undoubtedly be encountering the problem much more.

"Yes, my direct experience, though I have to admit that I already tend to have mostly friends who agree with me politically, so it has not happened to a huge degree."

Sigh. "Ghetto'ing" and then very, very carefully bridging between socio-culturo-politico ghettos. Tippy-toe, tippy-toe. Cultural balkanization.

Wintery Knight wrote the following regarding ENDA:

"It’s very important for Christians to consider who they talk to and what they talk about in the workplace. You might think that you have free speech rights in America, but you don’t. That is all going away now because of the gay agenda and the judicial activism in the courts. This is especially true for men who have to provide for their families. If you are going to say anything critical of the secular left, understand that they are fascists, and they will hurt you any way they can. These are not people who believe in human rights. They believe in using power to destroy anyone who offends them by mere disagreement."

Frightening because it's all to true.

I think the explanation is pretty simple. Americans have a tendency to not let reality get in the way of our ideals. Obamacare is transparently the biggest gift the insurance industry has ever seen, but liberals are so committed to their egalitarianism and goal of universal coverage that they cannot let this reality sink in. If they did, they'd be forced to concede that Obamacare is actually worse than a pure free market system from their own perspective because it further disempowers the health care consumer while providing guaranteed revenues to big business. But then the right has its own issues, the biggest two being the War on Terror and the War on Drugs. Even now, most conservatives won't admit that the cost of executing both of those projects in terms of rights, money and societal corruption are higher than the perceived gains to be had to their values on national security and drug use.

Well, Mike, what I'll say about that is if the left had as many defections from Obamacare as the right has had on those two issues--and as many defections from public left-wing intellectuals--that legislation would've been repealed in disgrace by now.

Also, the boon to the insurance companies is highly conditional and short-term. They backed it because the only way to get a seat at the table when regulations are being crafted is to lend initial support and political cover. Same with the pharma companies, same with the auto industry, etc. Political leftism in America is and always has been essentially a protection racket, whose victims in industry and among the general public always reap dubious "benefits" on the front end.

I'd underscore my last comment with the observation that the passing of the Patriot Act and the decision to invade Iraq led to a massive split in the conservative coalition and years of endless declarations of anathema, divisions which persist today. This contrasts rather severely with the desperation on the part of the entire political left--indeed, seemingly anyone who has ever voted for a Democrat--to defend every jot and tittle of Obamacare and, particularly, the unalloyed awesomeness of the One whose name it bears, even in the face of obvious, brazen lies and and chicanery of every kind, not to mention unequivocal and demonstrable failure on the practical policy front.

I'm sorry, but there just isn't any precedent, not even with prior Democrat presidents (much less Republican ones), for this level of any-argument-to-hand hypocrisy and determination to defend the indefensible. Within two years of the invasion of Iraq, for example, even William F. Buckley admitted that he had erred in supporting it because, after all, there were now facts and stuff demonstrating as much. And we're talking about the defining policy of a Republican administration that had been under absolutely unhinged attack by the entire global left for years.

Sage, I think you greatly overestimate the defections on those issues. The mainstream conservative, base to candidate, could not give a damn less about the abuses of those issues to the point of actually making even a weak effort to demand reform of some kind. For example, even after the explosive conservative outrage over the slaughter of Jose Guerena by a SWAT team that nearly killed his entire family, there is zero political support for legislatively limiting when SWAT can be deployed in Arizona. We cannot even muster the political will to say that a police commander who authorizes a militarized raid over small time drug dealing ought to be imprisoned for excessive force and child endangerment in a society that purports to be a "free society."

So no, we aren't much better either. We like to think that we stand on principle and are hard-headed realists when in fact the average conservative is as dogmatically stuck on stupid against reality on their pet issues as liberals are. Liberals merely have far more opportunities to be stuck on stupid than we do because they want so much more.

What angers me the most about Obamacare aside from the mandate is the fact that all of the people outraged over healthcare.gov will likely completely miss the point about how government procurement practices lead to that. Anyone familiar with the federal government knows that healthcare.gov is actually pretty normal for how so many government systems end up. How it got there is pretty typical too. I've seen only the vaguest understanding that CGI Federal got the work sole source in no small part because they won a contract vehicle with DHHS that gave them one of a limited set of prime slots to bid on contracts. It's a f#$%ing racket and everyone in this region knows it, but the general American public might as well be passed out in the back of the car along for the ride in terms of doing their civic duty to demand these close task orders/contract vehicles be nuked from orbit by Congress.

Well, Mike, what I'll say about that is if the left had as many defections from Obamacare as the right has had on those two issues--and as many defections from public left-wing intellectuals--that legislation would've been repealed in disgrace by now.

It took the right at least 5 years to finally concede on Iraq, and many of them still haven't. If Obamacare proves to be a running failure for 2 or 3 years, then we might see some defection, but right now it is still too soon.

It would all be much easier if conservatives/republicans actually had some idea of their own of what to replace Obamacare with.


A great post.

Perhaps there is some hope yet:

1) http://www.tpnn.com/lefty-daily-kos-writer-trashes-obamacare-what-the-hell-kind-of-reform-is-this/ (although it is funny how all the other left-wing true believers had to step up to defend the One);

2) http://www.glennbeck.com/2013/10/29/former-congressional-aide-it-should-be-called-the-available-care-act-not-the-affordable-care-act/

I admit these are baby steps, but I can't help it -- I'm a glass half-full kind of guy ;-)

Mike T -- the militarization of police and the concomitant war on drugs are not unambiguously Republican policies in a manner comparable to Obamacare and the Democrats. Tough-on-crime style politics are much more bipartisan in nature. There is no way that "SWAT excess" can be blamed GOP voters and politicians as Obamacare is blamed on Democrats.

The Iraq war is a closer analogy, but there was never the kind of unanimity that Lydia is describing here. I mean, The American Conservative launched in 2002, some months before the war began, in order to oppose it.

Iraq wasn't unanimous, but neither is Obamacare if held to that standard. A decent amount of the ongoing opposition comes from the left which would prefer single payer and views Obamacare as too compromised.

The militarization of police has so many differences with the issue under discussion I hardly know where to begin, and the war in Iraq wasn't simply "not unanimous" in the very mild sense you suggest. But if you're just determined to posit a 1:1 comparison between what we're seeing now from the Democrats on Obamacare, and what support actually exists on the right for something like the War on Drugs or the Patriot Act, then go ahead. We've said all that it's possible to say.

Mike T, if I may say so, your comments here read like libertarian spleen bordering on thread-jacking. After all, when have you *ever* seen enthusiastic defense (or any defense) of either the war on terror or the war on drugs on this site? Not ever, that I can recall. I myself have always had strong libertarian inclinations (which get me in trouble with our "third way," "crunchy," or "paleo" brethren) and opposed Iraq II when it was unfashionable among conservatives to do so. I have repeatedly spoken of the attractions of non-mainstream views on the military and on our military endeavors in particular, and I'm acutely aware of the problems with a militarized police force and the trashing of the 4th amendment. In fact, if I recall correctly, I've blogged about the latter.

I have no wish to deny that people on the right engage in partisan politics. Often they do. The reflexive support for any war declared by a Republican President and the sudden discovery of the problems with interventionism when a war is declared by a Democrat President is just one example.

I agree, however, with the others in this thread that your examples are rather strained, if for no other reason than that, as you yourself acknowledge, the left wants so much more than the right, and Obamacare is one of the biggest power grabs yet.

So really, the never-ending tu quoques and attempts to get us to discuss something else are getting more than a tad dull.

Moreover, as I tried to point out in the main post, it is an area where *they themselves* ought to be able to see that it is not delivering on its promises *in their own terms*--e.g., to help the people struggling to afford health insurance. The question is why, when the evidence is rolling out in large amounts, quite dramatically, at a crucial moment such as this one, more of them don't recognize this fact?

Jeffrey, thanks, those are small glimmers of light. It's actually rather striking that I've seen people who are no doubt less leftist across the board than those two writers who are nonetheless reflexively defending Obamacare.

If one steps back and looks at the larger picture one would see Obama's handler's goal. The goal is to introduce chaos into the American fabric in an effort to undermine the Republic. With America financially weak and our freedoms in tatters it will be much more easy to introduce stringent measures to "correct" the problems. With the Constitution out of the way, the Senate in his pocket, the House of Representatives trying but failing to get a handle on all of the many scandals, the Supreme Court and the media working hard for him and the Dept. of Justice doing nothing, things seem to be going his way. The Republic is on the precipice.

And who would these "handlers" be, and what is their real objective?

On my FAcebook thread on this same issue, I asked the following question: Did Obamacare have to be this stupid? According to its supporters, that is? For example, what ideological mandate is there for blocking truly minimal coverage, such as catastrophic policies, from the exchanges and from satisfying employer coverage? Now, of course, they are committed to saying that all these policies, even if sold by major companies like Blue Cross, are "junk insurance" and the like, but that came up as ex post facto damage control. Why could they not have had some aspects of their policy in the first place (e.g., forcing employers to pay for coverage for all employees over thirty hours) bu allowed more minimal plans? Mind you, we would still be having plenty of bad effects from that, including part-timers getting their hours cut below 30. But _fewer_ bad effects, such as the gazillions of cancellations. So did it have to be this stupid?

One of my friends answered that it did, ideologically, because the act is in no small part about the utopian desire to erase differences. Hence the "loaded" definition of "minimal coverage" and the unwillingness to let go of it.

Well, in a sense, I see that, but don't leftists also believe in incremental steps? Heaven knows they've made good use of the concept over the past few decades in a number of areas. Why couldn't they have mandated something lesser here?

The only answer I can think of is the Obama campaign slogan, "Yes, we can" and what it symbolizes. In terms of Thomas Sowell's prescient book (which you can descry my allusion to in the main post), the Vision of the Anointed is that their utopian fantasies can be brought about by sheer power of the will and that only ill-will impedes them. Hence (this goes to my #2 idea in the main post), they truly believe that it is _possible_ to wave a magic wand and give everyone a higher level of coverage, hence, those who impede this (insurance companies and individuals who want to engage in free transactions to buy and sell lesser policies) must simply be stopped. And Obama has given the idea that this can be forced through now and therefore should be. That it's turning out to be a disaster rather than a utopia is apparently stopping very few from reconsidering.

What do you all think: Could the leftists accept a crucial revision of Obamacare along these lines without unacceptable (to them) ideological loss of face?


I was just going to post this comment when I saw your new one from this morning that addressed some of the points I was going to make. Check out this new story about a liberal couple in California who have just lost their insurance coverage but are still committed to Obamacare (although they want relief from their problem):


There is a lot of juicy stuff in the article, but overall I think it supports the notion that liberals are ultimately afflicted with what you call "rose-of-gold economic ideas" or as your latest comment suggests, Sowell's "Vision of the Anointed". I mean, look at this quote from "consumer advocate" Anthony Wright:

“We certainly had an individual market, especially in California which was the Wild Wild West, where there was huge price increases, cancellations, a range of other practices.

“That doesn't mean that there were certain people who lucked out in the old system, who wound up in a group with a relatively healthy risk mix and thus lower premiums,” he added. “The question is: Is health insurance something where people get a rate based on the luck of the draw or do we have something where we have some standards where people who live in the same community, of the same age, with the same benefit package are treated equally?”

What he calls the "luck of the draw" was in fact a relatively (because there were still plenty of regulations in place, contrary to what he says about the "Wild Wild West") normal functioning market.

If leftists would just listen to conservatives we would be willing to work with them to help the poor get medical care: we just want to do it the old-fashioned way, by actually paying for it (or actually purchasing insurance for poor people). Let market forces bring down insurance costs (and medical costs) for everyone -- instead we created the Rube Goldberg machine of Obamacare to somehow level the playing field -- it is insane.

It's very strange that he uses the term "luck of the draw." People go out and _buy_ insurance policies. That isn't "luck" any more than buying any other item or service in the world is "luck." I remember when I was newlywed and poor and no longer on my parents' insurance I had a catastrophic only policy. I'm not saying I read all its provisions. I understood that it wouldn't pay for my routine medical visits, so I paid for those out of pocket and sought doctors whom I could afford. The policy was recommended to me by a good friend who was an insurance broker, and we were able to afford it. I never had to make a claim, because I never had a catastrophic loss, but it did what insurance is supposed to do--it guarded me against what might have happened if, e.g., I'd been in a bad car accident. (And considering the car we drove at that time, that wasn't so improbable!) Was my satisfaction with my policy, on which I made no claims, "luck"? What silliness. It was just a product I purchased for a particular purpose.


I suspect he means "luck" in the sense of having a genetic illness or some other infamous "pre-existing condition" that makes insurance particularly expensive or difficult to get for certain people. In that sense, he's right -- some people are luckier than others -- just like some people are smarter, taller, better looking, etc. When it comes to health, as I said, I'd be willing to help out the truly sick with charity, but instead we get the insane liberal position of egalitarianism -- the sick and lame must be treated just like the healthy!

Tony, I would say that Islam would be a good candidate for O's handlers. He bows to their potentates and certainly champions their causes. As you know, Islam's goal is to dominate the world but before you dominate the strong man, you must first tie him up.

Tony, I would say that Islam would be a good candidate for O's handlers. He bows to their potentates and certainly champions their causes. As you know, Islam's goal is to dominate the world but before you dominate the strong man, you must first tie him up.

"Check out this new story about a liberal couple in California who have just lost their insurance coverage but are still committed to Obamacare (although they want relief from their problem):"

I'm a compassionate conservative. I felt sorry for the prodigal son who was feeding at the pig trough too.

If the prodigal son never repented, compassionate conservatives still feel sorry for him being in circumstances of his own choosing.

"If leftists would just listen to conservatives we would be willing to work with them to help the poor get medical care"

Why would they listen to a bunch of pro-business GOP clowns who just pushed for, of all things, a huge cut in food stamps? Makes the mainstream right's concern for the poor a tad suspect, no?

Oh yes, and this was done while maintaining subsidies for Big Agra. Seems to me that it's not just the libs that have "rose of gold" economic ideas.

Half the excuse for Obamacare being as terrible as it is, and the purely partisan horror show that it is, has always been something like Nice Marmot's "argument," that is, the mindlessly partisan hatred of Republicans on the part of liberal Democrats. Republicans are, bad, bad men who are wrong on lots of other stuff. Ergo, Obamacare.

Needless to say, this specious nonsense, being devoid of relevant content, fails to address the deficiencies of the bill as it actually exists, much less does it succeed in justifying Obamacare as written, and certainly it fails to get the Democrats off the hook for having lied and bullied their way to an unpopular policy debacle that is currently wrecking the health insurance market. But comment boxes on the internet are overflowing this this kind of bile in response to any and every failure of the ACA, and in fact something like it has been the common response I have always gotten from liberals whenever confronting them with the flaming ball of awfulness that is Obamacare. References to such irrelevancies as the War in Iraq have started to wane, and are now going to be replaced, I suppose, with references to the GOP's support for agribusiness subsidies. Anything to avoid confronting responsibility for the actual problem at hand.

In short, if Obama committed Black Mass live on television in the Oval Office, liberals the world over would respond with something like Phil Hartman's Frankenstein character on SNL: "Republicans baaaaad!"

I could simplify my remark above by saying that NM pretty much volunteers to be a case in point for Lydia, by changing the subject to how terrible he thinks the Republicans are, rather than just admitting the obvious with respect to Obamacare. The reason liberals will never admit the obvious--that Obama lied his face off, that Obamacare is massively disruptive of a health care insurance industry with which most people were quite content--is that they can never, ever admit that those dastardly Republicans were kinda, sorta right about something. It's low and pathetic stuff, and I hope never to be brought to a point where I'd defend a Republican policy or president in the same fashion.

You miss my point, Sage. Obama and the pseudo "Care" plan which bears his name are awful, pure and simple. But...why would any liberals so inclined bother to listen to us on how to help the poor w/r/t health care issues after we've just hosed them regarding food? If your doctor poked out your eye while attempting to lance a boil on your forehead, would you want him to have a go at that second boil?

Your question is simply too loaded to answer directly, NM. I don't agree with its premise, pure and simple, because food stand expenditures were and remain wildly out of control, and the GOP proposal doesn't discredit them with respect to health care reform. That's a policy matter on which we disagree, but apparently it's such a serious matter that annihilating the health care system is a perfectly reasonable, understandable alternative to working with wicked poor-hating Republicans, or to admitting the truth about anything related to Obamacare, which is still essentially what your argument comes down to.

By the way, Democrats on Capitol Hill know darn good and well what the actual implications are of the Republicans' recent move with respect to food stamps (hint: nobody's going hungry). They know that it has nothing to do with hating the poor and wanting to see them starve. They know these Republican lawmakers personally, work with them every day. Whatever their anti-GOP rhetoric might sound like, it's largely just rhetoric. So that's really no excuse for their intransigence on Obamacare, which the record will show was actually passed a long, long time before the food stamp proposal to which you refer. To the extent that liberals do not "trust" the GOP to craft some sort of bipartisan health care reform, it's because Democratic lawmakers encourage them to believe the GOP is simply the devil incarnate, and have been so doing since before Obama was sworn into office--it's not because of some recent move the Republicans made on food stamps, for heaven's sake.

Great compliment to Lydia's post -- "Fantasy Despot Syndrome":


P.S. Great answers to NM, Sage -- because we all know that that the massive expansion of the federal food stamp program over the past six years is absolutely vital to the poor's well-being and self-sufficiency!!!

Sage, I could not possibly improve on your comments.

I wanted also to go back to something Matt said, above:

It would all be much easier if conservatives/republicans actually had some idea of their own of what to replace Obamacare with.

Now, maybe this is just a mild-mannered, matter-of-fact comment: This would all be easier if...

But I often encounter, "You got a better idea" as if it were a serious response to criticisms of leftist policies. To which the obvious answer is, "Yes. Since this policy is doing more harm than good, it would have been much better, all things considered, to do nothing, even though the previous system was imperfect."

This shouldn't even need to be said where there are serious criticisms of the policy in question. "You guys didn't have a comprehensive of your own" is so manifestly lame in response to serious criticisms of a bad policy that it does leave one gasping. Compare: Mr. A has a house that is too small for himself and his family. His wife is pregnant, and altogether his family is in tight straits. While his neighbors and friends wonder how to help him, along comes Mr. B with a wrecking ball and knocks down Mr. A's too-small house, leaving him with nothing whatsoever. Mr. C loudly criticizes this outrageous pretense of "helping," to which Mr. B replies, "Well, you didn't have a good plan with which to replace mine! At least I did something!"

That sort of thing is government by crisis, and it always makes for disastrous policy.

Again, I'm using Matt's comment somewhat opportunistically for this rant, but I do think the "You gotta better idea?" response needs to be seen for the crazy irrelevancy that it is, because it is indeed rather common.

In fact, to mention Sowell again, he already long ago analyzed governing by crisis, the Something Must Be Done Right Now,It Doesn't Matter What It Is, Support My Plan Or You Don't Care approach to policies.

Not even a whole month after the federal government shutdown tantrum and flirting with catastrophic debt default (no manufactured crisis there) in which the Party of Personal Responsibility blamed literally everyone else besides themselves, you think we should trust you to enact reform that conveniently makes routine care more expensive – when the preventative and early detection effects of that routine care are one of the many reasons it was enacted? This is like a hostage taker asking their victim why they don’t trust her.

Again with the "trust you." So Mr. B pulls down Mr. A's house and responds to C's criticisms of the obvious stupidity of this "helpful" move by saying, "I don't trust you to give me a better idea. After all, on my theory it was your policies that caused Mr. A to have such a small house to begin with." Y'know, the more I work with this metaphor, the better I like it. These absurd responses from the left fit into it so perfectly.

By the way, Step, you may not have noticed, but if a whole lotta people just decide not to have any insurance at all, because the coverage they liked got canned and they can afford the fine better than the new, higher premiums, this isn't exactly going to increase their access to routine care. Just a thought. It also won't help part-time faculty at some community colleges who have been scraping together a living by teaching at several different part-time jobs to get better routine medical care if they're having more trouble paying the rent because their work hours got cut below thirty.

Step2, this is "I know you are but what am I?" stuff. And you're literally just recycling Presidential stump speech material. In fact, I'm positive I could write a Python script that would generate something close to your comment by parsing some of the Jim Moran spam mail in my Inbox (catastrophic debt default...preventative care...hostage-takers...).

To reiterate Lydia's point, there isn't a single word of your comment that constitutes a serious defense either of the policy in question, or the endless lying about it by its chief sponsors. If you want to just froth at the mouth about the awfulness of Republicans (and again, recycle inanities about the wholly imaginary risk of a "catastrophic default"), that's fine. But don't pretend you've made a case against any actual conservative idea, much less any conservative ideas respecting health care reform, and least of all conservative ideas respecting the disaster that is Obamacare.

Incidentally, while we're on the subject, my company's new policy options are out. Guess what that looks like?

Well, the monthly premium I used to have on offer was around $700. It's now $1500. Feel the savings! My deductible used to be $250 per person, which in my household this time last year came to $750. It's now a flat $9000 for any policy, regardless of the number of dependents. Let that sink in for a second. Bending the cost curve right on down, aren't we? So I may not be able to afford to travel to see my family or whatever else next year, but at least I can sleep soundly at night, comfortable in the knowledge that Step2 really hates Ted Cruz a lot and doesn't trust those stupid Tea Partiers. Because that's the really important thing when evaluating a Democratic President's policy initiatives and their consequences.

It's probable that, since my wife's company is a K-Street non-profit that lobbied hard in favor of Obamacare (they're all liberals), they're going to have a somewhat better deal for us, but only because they're desperate to cover as much of the cost as possible to hide it from their employees, who have been saturated with propaganda from the higher-ups about just how wonderful this bill was going to be for everybody. Of course that won't last forever--once the midterms are over next year, we'll feel the pinch again, just as sure as I'm sitting here. I have another family member whose employer is doing the same--that is, forking over millions of dollars to help keep the full reality hidden from their employees until after the elections next year--but only out of fear from the Feds, who closely regulate their industry. The responsible regulatory and oversight agency has a history of launching little "compliance" crusades against firms who offend the Obama administration, and the suits are absolutely scared stiff. So they're paying their danegeld, at least until 2015.

So this is the context in which these lame complaints about the trustworthiness of Congressional Republicans are taking place. The endless lying, broken promises, incompetence, corrupt special deals, legislative and regulatory chicanery, political double-dealing, arm-twisting, open intimidation, and outright thuggery that is the history of the "Affordable Care" Act, and all these liberals can think to say is that Congressional Republicans are untrustworthy. As if it's a matter of trust, rather than on weighing a proposed policy on the merits.

I suppose, though, when you actually fall in love with politicians and believe what they say, as leftists the world over tend to do, the idea that they just have to be "trusted" to do the right thing overmasters the more small-d democratic idea that we should just examine their proposals (and honestly assess the consequences thereof).

~~To the extent that liberals do not "trust" the GOP to craft some sort of bipartisan health care reform, it's because Democratic lawmakers encourage them to believe the GOP is simply the devil incarnate, and have been so doing since before Obama was sworn into office--it's not because of some recent move the Republicans made on food stamps, for heaven's sake.~~

No, of course not -- that's only the most recent example of GOP dumb-assedness. Again you miss my point, so I will be as blunt as I can: Obama sucks, Obamacare sucks bigtime. But this bigtime suckage does not give the GOP a pass on its own suckage. The stupid party cannot possibly present an honest face when it comes to these matters, as it has demonstrated time and time again that the primary thing it gives a sh*t about is corporate America. The liberals are mostly wrong, but when they say that the GOP cares more about Wall St. than Main St. they are onto something.

Note: this in no way is an endorsement of anything the Dems do. Both parties are rotten and are controlled by special interests. That they are different special interests is immaterial.

"we all know that that the massive expansion of the federal food stamp program over the past six years is absolutely vital to the poor's well-being and self-sufficiency!!!"

A close friend of mine is a single mom on disability, due to a considerable number of health issues. (She is in her late 30s but is on more medications than my 88 yr. old father.) She has a 15 y.o. son who, among other things, has Asperger's Syndrome, and several add'l health issues of his own. Her food stamp allowance has just been cut by $36/mo., never mind that it was barely enough as it was to get the two of them through the month, even with weekly trips to the food pantry. And lest you think that $36 isn't much, I tell you that it will buy a lot of stuff if you shop at Aldi, or Bottom Dollar, or Save-A-Lot, which she does.

Oh yes, and before the aspersions start to be cast, she's a single mom due to divorce (her ex-husband had substance abuse problems and was abusive). Welfare queens exist, but she isn't one.

Man, Sage, you are on a roll here, my friend. (Though I am sorry and indignant to hear of what occasioned your outrage.)

We might also simply ask Step2 to cite one actual example of someone at this blog recommending the trustworthiness of Republican politicians.

Lydia's demolished house analogy and I intend to use it myself at the nearest opportunity.

But NM, whatever the merits of your particular complaint--and again, I think this idea that reducing expenditures to what they were six years ago hardly heralds a Dickensenian apocalypse for the poor--everybody hates the Republicans, either from the left or from the right. And while you may not be offering a defense of Obamacare [EDIT: It's my fault, not the fault of any lack of clarity on your part, that I haven't been clearer in acknowledging what you've said in that regard], you do seem to be saying that it is at least reasonable for liberals to refuse to accept Republican critiques, ideas, or even just observations of fact! It's not clear what you think ought to happen now, or next year, or for that matter what should have happened in 2009 when the bill was being debated. Should everybody just have tuned out completely and said, "You know, this Obamacare thing is just as horrible as the day is long, but hey--Congressional Republicans are bad people, so what can you do?"

This isn't just a counsel of despair, it's a counsel of indifference--or maybe it's just a counsel of endless, impotent, and totally undifferentiated outrage, which adds up to much the same thing. I mean, we may as well just stop passing bills, repealing bills, or doing anything at all. We may as well just stop paying attention. After all, the Republicans are bad, the Democrats are bad, so hey, a pox on both their houses.

This attitude may feel good, and it may serve as a convenient cold water bath on any particular instance of righteous indignation (by someone other than ourselves, naturally), and it may stop people from actually trying to do anything, since after all, the opposition "can't be trusted." I'm not sure what else it's good for. Being a traditionalist I have no illusions about politicians in general, or the Republicans in particular. But I don't draw the conclusion that the left is being reasonable, even from their own point of view, in refusing to engage seriously with the issues we're being presented with here.

I guess we need to ask NM to supply the example as well, as he, too, appears to be under the impression that people come to W4 to gird their partisan loins for GOP apologias.

Personal examples have a limited utility in these arguments. Otherwise I might just ask NM to defend all the securities traders who spent the first few months after their layoffs living the highlife on the unemployment dole.

A more fruitful approach might be to ask NM when NPR became a stalking horse for dirty Republicans: http://apps.npr.org/unfit-for-work/ and their nefarious agenda to crush the poor.

In the end we come back to it: of the two national parties, only one proposes even the most mild and fractional reductions in the size and scope of government, and that only reluctantly, under intense grassroots pressure that it would be thrilled to be rid of. The other party and its apologists invariably present these mild, fractional reductions (often only a reduction in the speed of government expansion) as, at best, callous indifference to misery and suffering.

Meanwhile, under the cover of this caricature, along with some other, even more malicious caricatures under the heading of "war on women," legislative advances for liberalism are, among other things, eviscerating the principle of religious liberty, establishing opposition to the gay agenda as tantamount to segregationism, and coercing the consciences of faithful Catholics across the country.

NM doesn't endorse anything the Dems do. Oh no. Not at all. But at least McAuliffe's win in Virginia insures that Wall St. and crony-capitalism gets its comeuppance. Oh, wait.

"while you may not be offering a defense of Obamacare, you do seem to be saying that it is at least reasonable for liberals to refuse to accept Republican critiques, ideas, or even just observations of fact"

No, I'm not saying it's reasonable, I'm saying it's not unexpected (which isn't the same thing) partially because the GOP keeps stupidly providing ammunition. The Left, being the Left, is going to do what it does regardless. Such is its ideology. But maybe the Right may want to think about how to stop buying bullets for them.

"I guess we need to ask NM to supply the example as well, as he, too, appears to be under the impression that people come to W4 to gird their partisan loins for GOP apologias."

Mainstream conservatism is the mouthpiece for the GOP and its policies. There is little substantive criticism or even self-evaluation of conservatism presented here. Do the math. Contemporary conservatism's chief failing is in its unwillingness to see that the Leviathan it rightly fears has a rather large quotient of corporate DNA. The omnicompetent state is not just a state, but a market-state, as Philip Blond and others have put it.

"A more fruitful approach might be to ask NM when NPR became a stalking horse for dirty Republicans"

No idea. I don't listen to NPR.

"The other party and its apologists invariably present these mild, fractional reductions (often only a reduction in the speed of government expansion) as, at best, callous indifference to misery and suffering."

Really, though -- food stamps? And linking it to the Farm Bill? Surely there were other things that could have been looked at in terms of reductions?

Interested conservatives could do worse than starting an honest self-evaluation here:


Contemporary conservatism's chief failing is in its unwillingness to see that the Leviathan it rightly fears has a rather large quotient of corporate DNA.

Contemporary libertarianism's chief failing is in its persisting in peddling this line in the face of endless examples to the contrary. If there has been one very refreshing move in the last six years within mainstream conservatism, it is has been in its denunciations of corporatism, crony capitalism, and so forth. It is one of the very few areas in which mainstream conservative commentary has moved steadily in a healthy direction, and I'm willing to give credit where credit is due. Of course, W4 does not speak for mainstream conservatism, so your gripe is largely with mainstream conservatives, but this site also has hosted plenty of content that would run against your claim.

Critiques of mainstream conservatism do not predominate here, and of course they are not as common as they used to be at W4. But this does not, as you seem to suggest, implicate W4 in the sins of mainstream conservatism, whatever they may be, and it's not something that invalidates what is being written, so I'm not sure what to say to that. In fact your criticism is of the "Why aren't you writing about what I think is important?" variety, and not germane to the subject at hand.

Well said again, Sage.

It could be added that the recent revitalization of Republican fortunes has emerged precisely from an outside force (the Tea Party) that evidences a strong strain of populist skepticism of corporate capitalism, alongside a desire to see families, churches, communities, in a word, civil society strengthened. Is NM aware of Sen. Mike Lee's recent speeches on these matters, or his very interesting tax reform proposal? The ideas elaborated there dovetail nicely with Prof. Deneen's piece.

In fact, given that Deneen's piece declines to call Republicans heartless bastards bought and paid for by corporations, I left to wonder why NM is actually recommending it.

Paul, I also would ask this: if Sarah Palin and Andrew Breitbart (not to mention the National Review) don't speak for red meat, mainstream conservatism, who does?


The more I think about NM's behavior over the past couple of months, the more this comment seems to hit home:

"Why aren't you writing about what I think is important?"

Could it be that W4 has it's first home-grown troll?

A couple weeks ago on another thread I posted a review of a book by George Scialabba by G. Russello. I remembered the name Scialabba from somewhere, but couldn't quite place it. After a bit of digging I found this:


...which must've been one of Maximos's last posts here. At that time I was more of a lurker and commented only infrequently, but I did read a lot of the posts. Anyways, this is actually well worth a re-read, as it touches upon this very discussion, and with that I will bow out, since he says things better than I ever could.

Not a troll, by my way of thinking, but definitely not preoccupied with the same things in the same degree as Lydia, or you, or me.

But you know, to be fair, WWWtW has always encountered the same problem. No criticism of the left in general, or the Obama Administration in particular, is ever allowed to stand on its own terms because, you know, neocons exist and stuff, and we can't get their cooties by agreeing with them on something. It's frustrating. It shows absence of perspective. It shows distorted priorities.

The entire Obama presidency can be summed up with the words, "Vote Obama. Because George Bush." This mindless partisanship, and President Reasonable's bottomless willingness to exploit it, is a big part of the reason I was so dispirited by the last general election. It just validated this entire approach to national politics, that any violation by "my guys" or even just "the guys in Washington" is defensible (or at least irrelevant) because, after all, the Other Side is the Other Side. Forget the economy, because abortion. Forget Obamacare, because Rich White Guy. For that matter, forget the IRS, because Tea Party.

As a great illustration, take the present thread.

If NM is a troll, he's a concern troll. I suppose concern trolls can be a little better than other kinds of trolls, but they're still a nuisance. He is also a champion thread-jacker. It's an obsession. He's incapable of commenting on anything whatsoever that doesn't happen to hit his talking points without thread-jacking. The Dems _ram_ through a crazy program that is hurting people all over the place, and NM _drags_ in whatever he wants to talk about (corporateAmericaheartlessnessGOPfoodstamps) and calls it "giving them ammunition" and implies that these irrelevancies have some explanatory power concerning the left's intransigent refusal to see that their policies are trash from a pragmatic point of view.

As far as I'm concerned, NM does this because

a) he really is just obsessive about what he wants to talk about, which he believes we don't talk about enough, and

b) in this particular case the left's blindness is a distinctly economic blindness and denial of reality, and NM would rather die on the rack than actually talk about the left's distinctively economic blindness in any detail whatsoever.

Deneen proposes this:

However, what this argument overlooks is that the greatest analysis of American democracy—Democracy in America, published in two volumes in 1835 and 1840, a full half-century before the flowering of Progressivism—already perceived the seeds of Progressivism’s major tenets already embedded in the basic features and attributes of liberal democracy as established at the Founding. Of particular note, while the major figures of Progressivism would directly attack classical liberalism, Tocqueville discerned that Progressivism arose not in spite of the classical liberal tradition, but because of its main emphasis upon, and cultivation of, individualism.

Individualism is a distinctive phenomenon arising in liberal democracy, notes Tocqueville. The idea of the individual is at least as old as Christianity, but individualism is a new experience of self that arises with the passing of the experience of embeddedness in a familial, social, religious, generational, and cultural setting that is largely fixed and unchanging—the basic features of an aristocratic society.

I haven't read Tocqueville recently, so I can't speak to whether Deneen mis-characterizes him. I would say in response, though, that (a) it is logically deficient to oppose aristocracy with "liberal" anything, as if the liberal attribute is what makes or breaks the issue. Democracy is of course opposed to aristocracy. Liberal democracy is opposed to aristocracy because of the democracy, not because of the liberality.

(b) The embeddedness in family and other communal settings is not specific to aristocracy, and it's loss is neither special to nor an inherent part of the "liberal" part of liberal democracy. One can have a liberal state that does not destroy intermediate communities. One can have other things than aristocracy that present a cultural setting that is largely fixed and unchanging.

(c) Whatever "the Founders" meant by the founding documents, not all of the Founders were admirers of Locke and Rousseau, and not all of the ones who agreed to the foundational events (such as the Declaration and the Constitution) did so from a "contract theory" view of the state. Before Locke came along, Robert Bellarmine was propounding liberal concepts about the state, not based on contract theory of the state. It is possible for a liberal democracy to not be founded on contract theory.

(d) Therefore, one can safely say that the existing progressive version of individualism came forward as one version of the possibilities available in democracy, but not that it is inherent in liberal democracy as the flower is inherent in the seed. What one cannot decide, on the basis of the evidence presented, is whether the unfolding of progressive individualism is the natural flowering of the inherent meaning of liberal democracy, or a degeneration of liberal democracy as such. It is entirely possible that what Deneen (and even Tocqueville) note is the underlying current of degeneracy visible even in early growth, because man himself is degenerate and given to evil. One can do the same thing with the Roman Republic, which carried its own seeds of failure within it's early stages because men are fallen, not because republicanism as such is the root cause of those degeneracies. Or in any other state.

It should not be surprising to discover that the evils of today are rooted in the evils of the 1960's which are rooted in the evils of the 1900's which are rooted in the evils of the 1860's which are... Evil is all of a piece, not least because of the father of lies.

One doesn't have to think that the republicanist form of democracy instantiated by the Constitution of 1789, is a perfect form of state to think that it has a better claim to soundness than our current state of affairs would justify. The casual disregard for that Constitution by numerous parties and agents (not just the judiciary) rather strongly indicates that a great many of the evils that are current must be charged to sources distinct from the Constitution itself.

Contemporary conservatism's chief failing is in its unwillingness to see that the Leviathan it rightly fears has a rather large quotient of corporate DNA.

Insofar as there is a "contemporary conservativism" rather than a smorgasbord of factions that vie for the name of "conservatism" and only have a few tendril's in common: the main thing contemporary liberalism hates about contemporary conservatism is its constant insistence that Rose of Gold Economics don't work. Oh, and (in the few cases where liberals are forced to admit it) for being right about the matter. The doctor is saying that the little boy who blurted out "the emperor has no clothes" is responsible for the emperor getting a cold. In any case, pro-corporate conservatism, especially pro-big-business conservatism, represents only one faction of conservatism's promotion of the free market. And you cannot lay on promotion of the marketplace as such the charge of being pro-big-business. Most of the theoretical promotion of big business (as opposed to practical promotion by executives just pursuing money, which has nothing to do with political ideas in any form) comes from thinkers who trash the idea of real economics being tied to the nature of man, which is quite a distinct subset of thinkers than "conservatives."

I have been critiquing agrarians for 20 years now, and I swear their reaction seems to be that unless you are an agrarian you want big corporations to take over everything. But whatever the current failings of the Republican side of politics (as a very rough approximation of contemporary conservativism, sort of, kind of, if you squint some) in the current state of affairs, it is impossible that the same GOP-ish failure to move the counrty in a better direction is at one and the same time due to a Tea Party influence away from responsible government and due to a Tea Party push away from spending money we don't have and a Tea Party distrust of big corporations and big government. And then to say that the failures of these GOP concerns on spending etc. is due to giving liberals bullets by pursuing these very things is somewhat logic-challenged as well.

"he really is just obsessive about what he wants to talk about, which he believes we don't talk about enough"

Nah, just trying to do a little dot-connecting for some folks who apparently wear Coke-bottle lenses, at least on this issue.

"NM would rather die on the rack than actually talk about the left's distinctively economic blindness in any detail whatsoever."

All the conservatives here, including myself, agree that the left is economically blind. How is that a sustainably interesting subject?

You agree that the left is economically blind, NM? Well, stone the crows.

I would find it quite interesting, and surprising, to find that you even *know what I mean* by the phrase which I coined and used above--rose of gold economics. Your attempted use above does not inspire confidence. At all. If you also were to go waaaaay out on a limb and say, in your own voice, that the disastrous failure of the present policy is due to the fact that the leftists believe they can make goods and services free or low-cost and can make everybody economically equal simply by fiat and that these beliefs are out of touch with reality, I for one would find that even more interesting.

If you wanted to present some plausible conjecture as to why they insisted on a policy *this stupid*, rather than something more minimal, some conjecture more plausible than "because the GOP is composed of Big Meanies," that would also be interesting.

But quite frankly, your arrogance is amazing, NM. Get your own blog, for crying out loud, if you think that blatant thread-jacking is the only way to talk about anything "interesting."


To respond to your thoughtful comment on Deneen (a rare paleo writer I find interesting), you ask "whether Deneen mis-characterizes him." In a response to Dennen over at the blog "Postmodern Conservative", Peter Lawler had this to say:

I think (as usual) that Patrick is overly dramatic. He forgets that Tocqueville, in DEMOCRACY’s volume 2, distinguishes between democratic trends and American realities. He spends a lot of time talking about the various ways Americans combat individualism. Two of those ways are religion and the family. It is quite the exaggeration to say that “individualism” has completely emptied out the content of American faith or the American family, although I worry as much as the next not-libertarian conservative guy about our indispensable relational or associational institutions becoming too Lockeanized.

NM, I remember that thread very well. It was interesting for what it showed about the divisions that exist on the traditionalist right, but illuminated too little for my taste, beginning as it does with an examination of conservatism that was rather egregiously not effected on conservatism's own terms. This predictably distracted from what was supposed to be the point of the discussion.

In that spirit I'd recommend Jim Kalb's latest, which seeks to answer the same question from a more definite point of view.

Getting back to Lydia's topic . . .

I'd say that some of liberal intransigence can be ascribed to pure laziness, or insolence, which issues in the same unwillingness to wrestle with facts; and which is hardly confined to the Left. I can't tell you how many times folks just don't want to read the key documents, arguments and articles.

Twice in the last year I've been in the presence of a bunch of proud liberals in a social circumstance (very social: these were both bachelor parties, in fact), who were quite stupefied to learn two facts whose general accuracy can be easily confirmed empirically, merely with enough careful reading in the periodical press:

(1) Far from growing more dependent on "foreign sources of oil," our country has made an astonishing turnaround that no one but a bunch of wildcat gamblers predicted; she has gone and set herself on the road toward energy independence and even a substantial sustainable business in energy exports.

(2) Far from the vulgarly portrayed picture of catastrophic overpopulation, the world (the world, mind you: not just America and Europe) has slammed on the brakes of procreation in a massive way. Underpopulation looks to be the more likely trend.

Now these very smart and sophisticated young men (both grooms are doctors) were positively struck dumb when I made this claims.

The thing is, either one of these claims can be assembled a perfectly defensible body of evidence with a Google search or two. I kept saying, "I can cite liberals source only for ya, in order to prove these propositions!"

Both propositions can also be shown, incidentally, to relate quite closely to questions of welfare state entitlements, public finances, the social state of America, which are the wider subjects that everyone seems to want to talk about.

Sometimes people just can't be bothered to do the homework.

It would all be much easier if conservatives/republicans actually had some idea of their own of what to replace Obamacare with.

It's probably better to say that Republican opposition to Obamacare would be better received/more effective had they an alternative reform. The status quo was not working, so returning to it is not an option. The Democrats, whatever the faults of Obamacare, are still in the lead on this because they are perceived as caring about the general populace and willing to reform.

Step2's comments about trust are pertinent. It doesn't matter that Step2 doesn't trust the Rs, because he isn't going to vote for them anyway, but he isn't alone by any means. The average guy on the street no longer trusts the Rs, and the Ds have become the default "responsible" party. This really annoys conservatives, but they ought to take note.

Along the same lines, food stamp reductions don't have anything to do with Obamacare directly, but they contribute to the perception of the Rs as a party of the rich that doesn't care about the poor or their fate.

Well, the monthly premium I used to have on offer was around $700. It's now $1500. Feel the savings!

Well, that's because you are subsidizing others. Obamacare is a case of the Ds trying to do too much, by combining reform (cost lowering) and welfare (everyone insured). The cost savings were always in the aggregate, and as is usual with any forecast are all phony anyway.

Paul, just this morning my brother was relating a similar story. A very liberal fellow of his acquaintance, who also happens to be a financial planner--a financial planner, mind you--was positively incredulous when my brother described for him the differences in the numbers of workers per retiree from the birth of the New Deal to now (hint: something less than a tenth of what it was), and the change in the average duration of retirement to now (hint: retirement for Social Security purposes used to average about two years). His friend was flabbergasted and, predictably, insisted my brother must have heard it from Fox News or something.

This is someone whose business is retirement, and these very basic facts, essential to even the most elementary understanding of Social Security's fiscal health, he had absolutely no knowledge of, and simply refused to believe.

Sage, the initial ratio of workers to retiree, back in the early first few years, was due to the fact that not many retirees were qualified right off the bat, whereas almost all workers were members of the system. Most retirement plans have that initial imbalance (not that SS is a retirement system, it isn't). The fair ratio comparison would be when the system was more mature, say between 1950 to 1960, and in those years the ratio went from 16:1 to 5:1 or so. It's still a whopping difference to now, of course. It still required massive changes in the SS tax rate, and the future holds new taxes to support the future ratio.

I think political discourse took a step off the path of civility and pragmatism when we began electing politicians based on something other than their stand on the issues. In Virginia, we elected Gov. Douglas Wilder because of the color of his skin.

Actually, Governor Wilder was pretty decent, for a lib Democrat. I'd certainly prefer him in the governor's mansion than the clown we just elected.

Sage, that Kalb piece seems to be a less "academic," more popular riff on what he wrote about here in considerably greater detail:


This essay by Medaille echoes some of what Kalb wrote:


"I have been critiquing agrarians for 20 years now, and I swear their reaction seems to be that unless you are an agrarian you want big corporations to take over everything."

In I'll Take My Stand John Crowe Ransom put the conflict in stark terms as one between agrarianism and industrialism, i.e., industrial capitalism. The rise of big agribusiness (farming based on industrial principles) and the waning of U.S. industry and its replacement by a bureaucratic service economy has changed the game somewhat, but the basic outline is still valid. As Medaille writes in the piece I linked above, either corporate collectives will seek to control the state or government collectives will seek to control the corporations. Big government and big business grow together, since "it is always in the self-interest of the monopolists [and oligopolists and other plutocrats -- NM] to have a large and pliant government that can serve their interests. The higher the piles of capital, the thicker the walls of law and government necessary to protect them."

Medaille's essay starts out with some decent analysis of the relationship between individualism and collectivism, but it quickly descends into little more than duded-up concern-trolling.

The old 91% income tax bracket was fine, the Post Office is oppressed, but today's conservatives of "compete with each other in denouncing the poor."

It's one thing to criticize the Declaration of Independence for its Enlightenment assumptions; Medaille just lumps everything from the Founding into one picture of liberal excess. His treatment of the Constitution and the Federalist is particularly noteworthy for its tendentiousness, as evidenced by the fact that neither James Madison nor Alexander Hamilton is mentioned anywhere.

Next we get a dubious rendering of the supposedly irretrievable Lockean origins of the pro-life movement, culminating in the preposterous allegation that had a drier, more academic traditionalism informed pro-lifers, "the fracturing of economic, social, and political issues, would have been impossible, or at least less likely."

The fact is that there is no conceivable coalition of actually existing American conservatives that Medaille would support. Chesterton himself could rise from the grave and win a seat in Congress, and John Medaille would reprove him as a handmaiden of insolent wealth.

I don't think my blood pressure can handle reading John Medaille concern-trolling the pro-lifers. But it is rather interesting to me: I started by asking why leftists can't see the disastrous failure of their policies even enough to be willing to modify them, why they are so blinkered and intransigent, and where we've gotten to through NM's kind "help" is a set of links to articles telling us how evil corporations are and how bad and Lockean the American founding was. It's rather like some modern short story where the characters start out on different roads and, as fate takes control, all end up at the same place. Any thread in which NM comments always ends up beating the same drum, no matter where it started.

Connect the dots, guys, connect the dots. You're either for the Enlightenment understanding of man or you're against it. The chief difference between Christianity and liberalism, whether of the left or right variety, is the anthropology. Everything else flows from there.

Which is clearly related to the utter failure of Obamacare in common-sense economic terms.

Welp, I think the time has come to close comments on this thread, since no new on-topic ideas seem to be forthcoming and since both I and probably other readers are bored by watching NM and me do the "No, it's not on-topic," "Yes, it is" routine.