Friday, April 2, 2010

Healthcare Hangover, Part Four: The Silent Majority Has New Tools To Make Noise--and to Make Change. But Both Parties Need to Listen Carefully.

So was Obamacare really a wealth-distribution scheme? As we have seen, here at SMS, the obvious reality that healthcare spending is still going up calls into question whether Obamacare was ever sincerely cost-control effort as its proponents claimed, at least some of the time. Indeed, it now appears all the more likely that cost-control was just "boob bait for the Establishment," to freely adapt the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan's arch line about, certain conservative policies being "boob bait for the bubbas."

The Establishmentarian business community bought into Obamacare, thinking that maybe, this one time, the healthcare cost-cuts would be real. You know, as in the "Peanuts" comic strip: Lucy (the political power structure) would actually hold the cost-control football so that Charlie Brown (the fiscal-hawk Establishment) could kick it through the goalposts of a balanced budget.

But now, the morning after, healthcare costs seem destined to rise, just like always--the "doc fix" is fixed, the culture of medicine is still the same, and the trial lawyers are still impeding everything.

And now that the bill is signed into law, why not admit what the real plan was? What's the harm of a little feel-good credit-taking, basking in the admiration of liberal opinion-makers and history-book writers?

This video, from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, speaks the language of liberal victory lap, not cost control.

So now the message-discipline of austerity is starting to break down. Byron York, writing in The Washington Examiner this morning, pulls together a string of revealing quotes--from Sen. Max Baucus, ex-DNC chair Howard Dean, from New York Times economics writer David Leonhardt--all suggesting, with satisfaction, that a huge income-transfer has been engineered. Of course, these days, big income transfers do not go from the rich to the poor, they go from the middle class to the poor.

That point was made by Lloyd Green, a former Justice Department official in the Bush 41 administration, last summer. Green raised the point in opposition, but OMB Director Peter Orszag and all the other putative curve-benders were so persistent that they, and their arguments prevailed. Or, just as likely, the Establishment, searching for some piece of common ground, was an easy mark for the Orzsagians.

But now, we're starting to see the backlash, not from the Establishment, but from ordinary people. The millionaires and billionaires who fund Establishment deficit-control groups might not be affected, at least in the short run, by the fiascoes of Obamacare, but ordinary people are, and they know it.

And now we are starting to see the power-source behind those polls that show most Americans are not happy with the healthcare bill, or with the people who enacted it. The Silent Majority, to revive a term first used by Richard Nixon in 1969, is getting stirred up. (That's Time magazine's "Man of the Year" cover from 1969 pictured above--the "man" of the year being "Middle Americans."
Even back then, the Silent Majority was a force to be reckoned with--Silent Majority votes gave Nixon one of the biggest landslides in US history in 1972.)

But today, the Internet has further empowered the Silent Majority--given ordinary people new tools for raising their voices. On the front page of The Washington Post this morning, Anne E. Kornblut reports that the White House is starting to realize that Barack Obama is a political campaign asset in only a dwindling number of states.

Meanwhile, inside the paper, the Post's Perry Bacon Jr. and Sandhya Somashekhar write of one angry voter, whose words contain a big warning to Democrats, and a small warning to Republicans:

"I grew up in the '50s," said Hugh Pearson, 63, a retired builder from Bakersfield, Calif. "That was a wonderful time. Nobody was getting rich, nobody was doing everything big. But it was 'Ozzie and Harriet' days, 'Leave It to Beaver'-type stuff. Now we have all this MTV, expose-yourself stuff, and we have no morality left, not even by the legislators."

As we can see from this quote, Mr. Pearson doesn't appear to be in love with redistributionist and avant-garde ideologies of the left--he just wants people to behave, with a decent respect for patriotic and moral norms. But there's a warning, there, for the right, too: the 1950s were not a libertarian epoch for America. The welfare state of the 50s was smaller, but in addition, it was run by moderates and conservatives, not left-liberals. It was 60s liberalism that voters rejected, beginning with the 1966 midterm elections, which saw among conservative winners that year, the gubernatorial election of Ronald Reagan. And then, as we have seen, Nixon won national election twice.

So the question: Which party will give Mr. Pearson--and all the other Mr. Pearsons across the country--what they want?

And so the question moving forward: repeal or reform?


  1. Well Jim, it’s “Good Friday” and you have really written a ‘Come to Jesus’ column for “We the Choir” because the “Hill People” aren’t going to help us, just like the soldiers didn’t help Christ on Calvary, except for a sponge of vinegar! Yuk!
    “Repeal or Reform?”
    Either will do; so long as we can ‘rise again.’
    Happy Easter to all; Lehaim, not abortion funding.

  2. I am almost Mr. Pearson's age and I remember those "Ozzie and Harriet" days very well. I guess we'd all like to be young again and I'd love to have my parents alive. Thats what was good about the 60's, for me. Otherwise, I know we had a lot less back then and we were a middle class family. I think we just didn't see how the other half lives as much because there certainly was pleny of poverty and sadness back then. We have much better healthcare now; no way would I want to go back on that. My father was sick for years and the doctors were groping in the dark for a diagnosis. Now, they have much better tools and treatments.

  3. stuck in the middle with youApril 3, 2010 at 9:10 PM

    David Frum says, mathematically speaking, that this law won't be repealed. If Republican candidates run on this platform in midterm elections, they are destined to fail at fulfilling at least one of their campaign pledges....the numbers won't be there. So that means, at minimum, that there will be 2 1/2 years for citizens to make up their own mind (disregarding the influence of politically biased media). As President Obama himself said, if you don't like the job [he's] doing you can vote against him in the next election.
    Though, really, it's too bad the Republicans chose to try to "stick it to" the Democrats rather than work to influence the construction. This article refers to "the language of liberal victory lap, not cost control." but fails to note that the results of the fruitless Republican tactics, at the very least, imply that they were far more interested in their own victory lap than crafting the best legislation possible.
    Perhaps not the best of the Hill on either "side".