After one congressman shouted out "liar" during President Obama's speech to Congress the other evening, one of Mr. Obama's cheerleaders at The New York Times intoned gravely that even if one disapproves of a given office holder, one ought to show respect for the office. Well, not really, not any more. (Read more...)
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When a system is as deeply mired in corruption as ours is, then these calls for "respecting the office," occurring at the very moment it is being abused amounts to a con game designed to achieve the sanction of victim - a needed part of this con game.
The thugs have hijacked the offices and wear them as a disguise. That which we can and do respect are the principles that once guided us politically, and those intentions embodied in our constitution. But when the structures have been highjacked, it will be the thieves that are calling for unearned respect, and their motives are obvious. --------
I only question what Tibor implies when he says, "The U. S. Constitution, with its Bill of Rights and separation of branches, was intended to keep politicians and their power in check. Alas, this intention has been thoroughly subverted over time, if it ever had a chance in the first place." [my emphasis]
That intention was new in history. And it represents a shining moment. But it would be naive to think that in one short period everything would be set right, for once and for ever. The flaws in our founding father's philosophical positions, and the bad premises in Western culture as a whole would of necessity reassert themselves. Tens of thousands of years of tyranny are not going to totally disappear at once. And no form of checks and balances or any written document will be sufficient to contain corruption when bad philosophies are dominate in a culture.
We are at another turning point in history where the forces of corruption are greater than we have ever seen them in this country. But it is having the effect of bringing forth a better reaction against statism than we have seen in modern history - protesters in the streets, numbering thousands, and many with signs advocating capitalism. That heretofore hidden reservoir of Ayn Rand's intellectual effects is showing. My only objection to what Tibor says is what might be implied by the phrase: "if it ever had a chance." Tibor is himself proof of the kind of spirit that tells us yes it does have a chance. It can be discouraging to realize that it might not be soon, or not even in our lifetimes, but it is more discouraging to believe it could never exist. And I see no reason to support that view.
The cuckoo, characterized by dispassionate ornithologists as a "brood parasite," lays one of its own eggs in the nest of its victim, the industrious warbler. The cuckoo's egg hatches first, and the cuckoo's chick instinctively pushes the other eggs or the young warbler hatchlings from the nest to their certain deaths. The cuckoo chick grows and grows, soon outsizing the adult warblers that haplessly continue to feed it. And all the while the cuckoo chick emits its characteristic call, "Respect the office!" "Respect the office!"
I don't see much difference between contemporary politicians and their corruption with what may have existed decades or centuries past. What seems to be different now is public perception. When the Nasdaq was over 5,000 people didn't care much about political corruption, even when the MSM bothered to investigate or report on it. Today people are pissed that they're either unemployed or that their homes and 401ks have lost half their values. They can't stand to see anyone making easy money anymore. Politicians are an easy target. Unfortunately, this attitude may also lead to increasing public criticism of successfully productive individuals and companies that profit in perfectly legitimate ways. Wilson's outburst during Obama's speach simply reflects what is already going on in the rest of society. He is just as likely to be treated similarly by the voters in his own district (like what we're seeing by the behavior of the crowds at some of the recent town hall meetings across the nation). Any criticism Wilson may be getting from fellow politicians and media types likely isn't over what he said (they all lie and they all know they all lie), it's likely because they fear that if the public perception of them gets bad enough the gig will be up for ALL of them. He broke an unspoken rule that is meant to protect the legitimacy of the entire political establishment.
Wilson, who just got a web presence, has just brought in within the last two days the same amount his challenger has brought in over the last year. Wilson won by 8 points in the 2008 election. He will not win by less in the coming election. Of course I don't know anything about the guy. Maybe he's another Rick Santorum, but I doubt it.
The problem is that the Republicans need a new Contract with America. Think how far they could go by repealing the stimulus, blocking the creation of any new programs, firing the "czars" and allowing all health insurers to compete across state lines.
[Obama] Some of people's concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but by prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Now, such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple. (Applause.)
There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms -- the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: You lie! (Boos.)
Obama was giving a dictator's monologue, and had just dragged the office down to the gutter by characterizing the words of those who disagree with him as 'lies.' Ie, by calling the people who disagree with him 'liars.' (Please, these is no no meaningful difference between calling someone's words 'lies' and calling someone a 'liar.')
It was Obama who dragged the office down into the gutter of 'liar' politics, and Obama who owes the nation an apology.
There are those on the left who believe that the only way to fix the system is through a single-payer system like Canada's, where we would severely restrict the private insurance market and have the government provide coverage for everyone. On the right, there are those who argue that we should end the employer-based system and leave individuals to buy health insurance on their own. I have to say that there are arguments to be made for both approaches. But either one would represent a radical shift that would disrupt the health care most people currently have. Since health care represents one-sixth of our economy, I believe it makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesn't, rather than try to build an entirely new system from scratch. And that is precisely what those of you in Congress have tried to do over the past several months.
Does it take a thousand pages of legislation to not "disrupt one-sixth of our economy"? The reality is that the proposals he advocates would create a vast new bureaucracy from scratch, with sweeping powers to regulate private health-insurance plans—eventually including employer-provided plans—and forcing individual health-insurance plans to be offered on a government-controlled "exchange." It is a plan for the comprehensive restructuring of the health-insurance industry—but Obama wants you to think that he's not really doing anything. Which makes you realize that he doesn't want to you notice or think too hard about what he is doing. 2) Obama's plan is bipartisan. This is another attempt to deflect scrutiny by claiming that everything he is proposing is safe, bland, anodyne. Thus, his plan "incorporates ideas from many of the people in this room tonight—Democrats and Republicans." Which explains why Obama has so few Republican votes that his allies in Congress are now talking about ramming the bill through, in a dubious parliamentary maneuver, on Democratic votes alone. Obama's one token concession to Republicans gives you a flavor for his actual "bipartisanship." Citing Republican arguments that curbing excessive medical malpractice awards would help reduce "defensive medicine," i.e., extra tests ordered to avoid a lawsuit, the president offered to authorize "demonstration projects in individual states to test these issues"—an ineffectual, symbolic measure the Bush administration tinkered with because it couldn't get Congress to pass real tort reform. 3) You can keep your existing insurance. This is the central claim of Obama's speech: "First, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have." Notice that this is already a minor change from his previous statements on this issue, in which he made the same assurance for all "private health insurance plans." The change acknowledges the fact that individual plans would be swept into the government "exchange." But notice that, while claiming he won't change your existing coverage, Obama goes on to detail a whole set of changes to that coverage that will be mandated by government:
What this plan will do is to make the insurance you have work better for you. Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition…. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses…. And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care.
And notice what each of these regulations would do: it would increase costs for private health-insurance companies. They would have to pay more to cover people with pre-existing conditions; more for people who go over their yearly or lifetime caps, more to make up for the limits on your out-of-pocket expenses, and more for routine checkups. Oh yes, and later on, Obama explains that his bill will be paid for by increased taxes on drug companies and insurance companies. There is no way to increase all of these costs for the insurers without causing a corresponding increase in health-insurance premiums. So you can keep your health-insurance—except that its cost will be driven up by all of the regulations imposed by Obama's bill. This is a well-documented phenomenon. In fact, the states in which health-insurance is most expensive—places like New York—are those which have the greatest number of "mandates" dictating benefits that insurers have to provide. That's why most of us grasp that the "public option" is not really an option, in the long run. Obama's bill is designed to drive up the costs of private insurance, making it even more unaffordable—and thereby herding all of us into a government-managed insurance plan as the only remaining alternative. And that brings us to the next implausibility in the speech. 4) The "public option" will not be subsidized by government. President Obama would have us believe that a government-run insurance company would be less expensive than private insurance because it avoids "some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits, excessive administrative costs, and executive salaries." Does anyone actually believe this? Obama himself acknowledges that the "public option" leads to less efficiency when it comes to delivering mail. Why should we believe the government is suddenly going to become a model of efficiency in the health-insurance market? It is obvious what is actually going to happen. Since the whole purpose of the "public option" is to provide a cheaper competitor against private insurance, the government will do whatever is required to ensure that this is the case—including subsidizing the public option. After all, weren't Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac supposed to be self-supporting enterprises, too? Why should "affordable health-care" end up any differently than "affordable housing"? 5) The health-care bill will pay for itself with cost savings. The president continues to make a series of false claims about the "savings" that will supposedly come from all of the regulations he is imposing. Thus, for example, it is clear that requiring health-insurance companies to pay for "routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies" will increase spending—but Obama claims that this will "save money" because we'll be "catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer before they get worse." This is a demonstrated falsehood. Congressional Budget Director Doug Elmendorf makes this bluntly clear: "Researchers who have examined the effects of preventive care generally find that the added costs of widespread use of preventive services tend to exceed the savings from averted illness." A related lie: "we've estimated that most of this plan can be paid for by finding savings within the existing health care system—a system that is currently full of waste and abuse," another claim that's been debunked by the CBO. The far more plausible way to cut Medicare spending is to begin rationing or denying care. And that leads us to Obama's next big lie. 6) There are no death panels. Obama attacks the "bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple." But what is Obama's most plausible recommendation for cutting Medicare spending? "[A]n independent commission of doctors and medical experts charged with identifying more waste in the years ahead." How will they identify waste? By deciding which procedures are "cost effective" and should be covered by Medicare—and which procedures are "wasteful" and should not be covered. Britain's National Health Service already has such a commission, established on precisely the same rationale. They call it the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, known by the Orwellian acronym NICE. It is becoming notorious for rules that deny care to older patients because they don't have enough "quality adjusted life years" left to justify the cost of their treatment. If you read the British newspapers—and if you're concerned about what greater government control of medicine might look like, you should—then you might have caught the latest development: a letter by a group of distinguished British doctors complaining that the Liverpool Care Pathway, a NICE-endorsed system for determining the care given to severely ill patients, is causing doctors to abandon care for patients who still have a chance of recovery. If that's not a "death panel," I don't know what is. Yet it is precisely the system Obama advocates to cut costs under his plan. 7) Obama doesn't want a government takeover of medicine. Here's a tip: when Barack Obama says, "So let me set the record straight," he is about to lie to you about his past. Thus, in rebutting the claim that he wants a "government takeover" of medicine, he assures us that "My guiding principle is, and always has been, that consumers do better when there is choice and competition." So how is it that he was recorded only six years ago describing himself as an advocate of a Canadian style "single payer" system—the very opposite of "choice and competition"? Hasn't the overall theme of Obama's administration—from the auto bailouts to cap-and-trade—been the relentless expansion of government power at the expense of individual freedom? During the Jeremiah Wright affair, the American people gave Obama the benefit of the doubt because they couldn't bring themselves to believe that such a respectable, clean-cut, well-spoken man could be such a brazen liar—and because they liked the inspirational, post-racial illusion he presented. They wanted to believe, and that's the kind of audience a sharp operator like him needs. But now the spell is broken, his audiences are beginning to ask the tough questions—and Obama's credibility will continue to dissolve as his lies are exposed.
The fact is that there is a finite supply of health care at any given time and price point. If you are going to try to claim that you are going to provide 100% for everyone - or even make that a goal - you are doomed from the start, as it would take infinite resources. All that will happen - and is happening now, as our health-care system has hardly been a model of a free market for a LONG time (recall that the AMA is basically a legally sanctioned monopoly that excluded most other forms of health care by getting laws passed.) - is that you will end up with enormously expensive treatments for whatever group has enough power to raise hell - meaning threaten a vote margin - while preventative care, personal responsibility, early childhood health assessment, etc., will suffer.
This is the same problem as occurs when the state rations "justice," BTW. Perfect justice would be infinitely expensive, so the criminals, such as most city councils, count on the lack of funding to get away with murder (literally in some cases). Thus, I make the case that a profit-run government is just as necessary for real, economically optimized, justice as profit-run medicine.
Congressman Joe Wilson's outburst was a breach of etiquette. It was rude. If it had been a Democrat shouting at President Bush, we here on RoR would supply an ample inventory of denunciations of the Congressman, the Democratic party, James Dewey and Immanuel Kant.
Sad to say, Prof. Machan's rejoinder here validated the 19th Century Tory critique of democracy as mob rule.
Joe Wilson is a Representative of the people and they sent him to Washington to speak for them. He did. Good for him.
The House as a whole can censor a member if they feel the need.
Obama lies almost constantly. I don't think I've heard him make it through even a short addresses without lying. I just wish the media would join in with Congressman Wilson in pointing out that the Emperor is naked.
Letting this man's lies go unchallenged and pretending that he is deserving of respect out of dignity for the office makes no sense. After all, he is only in office because of how convincing his campaign lies were.
If a Democrat had yelled "Lie!" when Bush was giving the State of the Union I'd have called him rude if he was wrong, but I'd have cheered him on if he was right. And this man isn't one who shows respect for others - remember the disrespect he showed the Supreme Court Justices sitting in front of him?
If we ever want to reclaim our liberty we need to demand not political correctness, or decorum, or giving dignity to an office held by a liar, but rather honesty. The more tolerant we are of liars the more of them we'll get.