If I owned a grocery store and, through a special incentive to sell milk, offered to me by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, I was able to reduce the price of milk to the point that my customers emptied my shelves, and still clamored for more, would I think that it was a failure? Would I accuse the government of having not thought out the program that resulted in my selling more milk than ever? Or would I wish that they would put some additional price supports in place so I could keep all the kids in strong bones and white teeth (and me in high cotton)?
That’s similar to what happened with the “cash for clunkers” program. The most wildly successful tax rebate in history, one that actually resulted in measurable outcomes, is being labeled as a terrible failure, as if no one actually took advantage of it, as if all that money were just piled up in the in the nearest Chevy dealer’s parking lot and burned.
It’s what’s happening on the health care reform debate. Congressman and Senators, all of whom are covered by the type of health insurance that none of us could possibly afford (paid for with our tax dollars), are stirring up large crowds of people, many of whom are also covered by socialized health care (Medicare), to cry that they are against socialized health care.
It’s what happened when Bill Clinton flew off to the Worker’s Paradise of Pyongyang and brought home two kidnapped American journalists. Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton called the mission a failure, as if Clinton landed in California empty-handed.
What is going on here? Why are people accepting things are so obviously untrue (notice I haven’t even mentioned the “birthers” whom even Ann Coulter thinks are mad as hatters)? Why are so many people in this country so quick to believe that black is white and white is black? (Forget the subliminal racial message there.)
I was talking with a Republican friend the other day (Why do I have more Republican friends than Democrat(ic) ones?) who insisted that “Obamacare” would mean European style-socialism. I asked him what was wrong with European-style socialism and he launched into a long tirade about Stalin. I was talking about Sweden and Spain, Germany and Greece and I told him so. I asked him if he knew that European health care costs were lower than ours. I asked him if he knew they lived longer and led healthier lives. Their teen birth rates are lower than ours, and abortion, while legal, is far less prevalent than in the U.S.A. He was silent. And then he brought up Obama’s birth certificate and the firing of the AmeriCorps Inspector General.
And a few minutes later he had the answer for me. Red wine. Europeans drink a lot of red wine, he said, that’s why they’re healthier than we are in spite of having a terrible government-run health care system. Red wine. I should have known.
The Obama Administration has made a lot of mistakes in its first eight months, including having sold much of its integrity to the Wall Street Mafia. If anything, Obama has been far more Bill Clinton (Reagan’s true disciple) than FDR. He is a firm believer in the Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand, even for health care, taking a true European solution off the table. Single payer is not even under discussion.
That’s a mistake. Just like it was a mistake not to institute serious, aggressive reform of the financial system. Obama’s problem is not that he’s a socialist. It’s that he’s a capitalist, and he believes in the same capricious market god that the GOP worships. But he gets things right, more than occasionally. Cash for clunkers, for instance. Or letting Bill fly off to up-stage Hillary in North Korea. Or today’s announcement in Elkhart, Indiana, of the competitive grants to go to American manufacturer’s developing batteries for hybrid cars.
But truth has disappeared in the United States of America, so don’t expect the GOP to acknowledge any of that. Tax rebates for buying a new car? A failed experiment in socialism. Freed American hostages? Pandering to dictators. Investment in new American manufacturing technology and jobs? Did you know that he was born in Kenya?
Pass the chianti, please.