Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | January 20, 2010

He Drives a Truck

The truck-driver

When P.J. O’Rourke used to go trolling through Massachusetts (which for all I know he still does), he wrote about Massachusetts liberals as an eclectic collection of uptight Vineyard types and uncanny creatures from the darkest depths of the sea, the kind of wild-looking bottom-feeders who seem to blink painfully in the sunlight, and have carapaces that are supposed to adapt to their surroundings but that simply can’t make the adjustment in, well, the Land of Bean-Filled Bonhomie and Sanctimony.

I mention this because I just saw on Fox the shots of Brown giving his victory speech and Coakley giving her concession speech, and frankly, the people lined up behind them looked pretty interchangeable.

Which is interesting.  Brown has a distinctive-looking family, but other than that, it was the usual collection of appropriately presentable, hyper-groomed political types.  The men’s suits probably looked just a skosh more lived-in than they do when you see similar gaggles in Manhattan, and the women all seemed to have picked up their silver business-attire necklaces from a box at the door, something the chic Manhattan gal would avoid.  (She’d take the thing off and stuff it in her purse, if necessary, to elude fashion cliché-dom.)

What strikes me is how similar is the estate of most of the Americans who are in politics, at least in the blue states or the major blue urban areas.  The Republican and Democrat party honchos all look pretty much the same in urban Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, Illinois, Texas, and California.  I bet you every last one of the folks arrayed behind today’s Senate competitors climbs into an SUV or a geriatric’s ocean-liner sedan tonight, to leave their respective assembly halls.  The Democrats will fret over the damage the proles are doing to the planet with their SUVs, and the Republicans will wish the proles well with their SUVs, but hope they’ll stop pushing to reverse the state court’s gay marriage decision and other uncomfortably confrontational stuff.

From what I’ve learned about Scott Brown in the last few weeks, he’d pass for a kind of fence-sitting legacy Republican or a suspicious Democrat with blue-dog potential, in Alabama or Oklahoma.  He has to be a self-made victor, in a state with a GOP even more feckless than ours here in the Golden State.  He’s obviously got energy, and is, so to speak, clean and articulate, and has that inherently Irish Massachusetts-pol look to him.  Somehow he gets away with having a Playgirl centerfold to his credit, from back in the silly days when someone in publishing thought that was a good idea.  Has a daughter who’s been on American Idol – hard to compete with in the prole-cred category, I know – and who would apparently wear a spaghetti-strap sheath to a snowstorm.

Has a law degree and has been in state government since the 1980s – he’s not any sort of political outsider, except that he’s not an anointed Democrat.

Except that he’s not an anointed Democrat.  I don’t know that Scott Brown could have won this contest in 2010 if Obama hadn’t been elected with a 60-seat Senate majority in 2008.  Taking nothing away from Brown, because he sure could have lost this race if he’d been a Standard-Issue GOP Feckless Boy, my analysis is that he won it largely because there is, in fact, a groundswell of revulsion among the voters against the Democrats’ shenanigans on overall spending, crony payoffs, back-room dealing, constituency-tending, and, of course, health care.

We knew this already with the Tea Parties.  But the phenomenon has now translated into an electoral dynamic, not just in Virginia, and not just in New Jersey, but in the unassailable Democratic citadel of the Bay State.

I am encouraged to see this evidence.  I hope Bay Staters will remain engaged and hold Brown accountable.  He’s the candidate who has been convincing about driving a pick-up truck, and who looks like he knows what team Curt Schilling made his name playing for, and wouldn’t have had to bone up on it with index cards provided by the staff beforehand.  (Poor Martha Coakley seemed doomed from the second the Schilling gaffe began circulating.  Seriously?  A tip, ladies:  if you know sports, go ahead and whack the folksy allusions outta da park.  If you wouldn’t know the Red Sox from the Patriots, just smile and look benignly approving.)

But Brown has his work cut out for him, both to buck the GOP establishment and to keep in mind, as the days turn into months and years, why the people of Massachusetts are sending him to Washington.  The glimpses tonight of the uniform political types in ranks behind the two politicians remind me that the revolution hasn’t penetrated those ranks yet.  There’s a political class in America, and it has been entrenched for a long time now.  A sense of entitlement and complacency has settled over it, in both parties, and tends to affirm the political class in its big-government-friendly inertia.  It remains to be seen if fresh elected officeholders with Brown’s obvious talent and personality can rise above that inertia.

But Brown has real promise, and he’s not Martha Coakley.

And he drives a truck.

Cross-posted at Zombie Contentions.


  1. Good observation re the political class. I think that being elected is some sort of disease — like malaria, perhaps — that just changes you forever.

    Only a few seem immune. Ironically, Barney Frank — whom I detest on many levels — is, in some respects, one of the immune. He often speaks his mind, as outrageous as that is.

    But to return to the matter at hand. Please don’t overvalue Brown. I won a $50 bet by betting on his victory, so I know he’s worth that much. But I wouldn’t want to bet on how much more he’s worth that that.

    Brown won because he is a means for the average Joe and Jane to say: enough, you elitist, far leftists. We don’t like how you’re running things — an example of which are the Saturday midnight “debates” on terribly important (and terrible) bills. And we don’t like the Jimmy-Carter foreign policy. And we don’t like some low-life jihadists flying into our country. And we don’t like a President who is cold, arrogant and off-putting. And we don’t like the fact that this country’s economic growth is clearly in stall mode, with no progress in sight. So we’re running you (and a lot of your Republican colleague incumbents) out of town.

    That’s it. No call for a new conservative approach. That’s going to be forced on us by our faltering economy, anyhow. No love-fest for Republicans, who will probably only screw up this opportunity by trying to compromise with Obama (that’s you, Olympia, and Susan, and you too John McCain) — that bad boy will just take all you Repub bozos to the cleaners.

    With luck, the Dems wll almost, but not quite, lose control of the House. And the R’s will gain 5 seats or so in the Senate, so that the filibuster can become a reliable cudgel. But the Dems will remain in control of both houses, until 2012. During which time the Dems will be scared witless to do anything.

    Alternatively, the Dems will insist on “passing” their health industry destructo act, thereby sealing their fate for 2012. And then what nonsense will they move on to? Cap-n-Tax for a non-existent AGW? A job killer, quickly and surely. Or perhaps the Dems will pass immigration “reform.” If they do, they will become the party of the past in 2012.

    So, with luck, this upcoming year will be good, if negative, times. The Dems in Congress will define themselves as a combination of political hacks and Banana Republic legislators. Obama will reveal himself to be the Manchurean Candidate and come to wish that folks would focus on his birth certificate, rather than on what he did in the 20 years since college when he was in his mole state.

    Soon, we will all be serenading Obama with this masterpiece:

    “Call yourself a cool cat
    Lookin’ like a fool
    Walkin’ downtown with your pants on the ground”

    Barry: your pants aren’t are the ground yet, but they’re slipping quickly past your knees.

  2. What I like about Brown is that in this race he has had the courage to start from the ground up with a message untempered by political correctness. On terrorism, on Obamacare (or Senatecare or whatever it is), on teaxes and the economy, he has come out with a commonsense set of distinctions and conclusions. Terrorists are not citizens, therefore the Constitution doesn’t protect them. Taxes take money out of the economy, therefore to really stimulate the economy we should cut taxes. Obamacare involves government control of health care and many special interest concessions, therefore it should be scrapped.

    This directness of thought takes some intellectual strength, and the willingness to state it directly takes a lot of political courage. Very good attributes for a politician.

  3. I agree with Margo.

    Sleepless’ 2010 prognosis is plausible and therefore may turn out to be correct. Yet I suspect 2010 will be far more volatile than just more of the same.

    The democrat’s ‘moderates’ now know they are facing political suicide if they acquiesce to Obama, Reid and Pelosi’s leftist dreams. They now have far more leverage than they had before the Brown victory and a coalition of them and republican moderates is likely. Brown, who may give the republican response to the President’s State of the Union speech next week, will have a ready made platform from which to air his views, which will get national attention.

    Next month, the Tea Party convention is going to have a real impact among conservatives and will greatly affect the republican leadership, who will make the decision to get out in front of the movement, by embracing it.

    Yet the leftists know that this may well be their last chance, in this generation, to advance their agenda, so gridlock will be the likely result.

    The electorate is fresh out of patience. By November, heads are going to roll and, they will mostly be ‘blue’ ones. Unemployment is going to stay in the double digits and may rise yet further still. Inflation is eagerly anticipating its entrance.

    And Al Qaeda is likely to attack, again and again. Even if not successful, multiple attempts are going to further erode confidence in the administration’s competence.

    All of this leads me to predict that come November, we shall witness the single greatest loss of political power ever by an incumbent party. Not only will the republicans take back the House but quite probably the Senate as well.

    It’s going to be a political Tsunami of truly biblical proportions.

  4. Well, using the OC’s premise that the same crowd stood behind the Dem candidate as stood behind the Repub candidate , I still think the US has plenty to come in shock waves from the person currently the legal commander in chief of the US Armies. When he won there was no one on the stage but ” the one”. I thought that was the weirdest campaign ending I’d ever seen. At least both sides in Mass. thought it was O.K. to have other humans on the stage with the winner person.

  5. Yes, Orcas, the One is really Unique–way off the charts in arrogance. The idea in Chicago as I understand was to avoid giving support to any locals before they had proved their value by putting some skin in his game.

    For JE’s main point, behind all the nice suits I see legions of scruffy public employees, members of public employees unions, who already own most of the state’s budget in unfunded pension obligations. From Illinois that helped drive support for the stimulus bill–the state needed to have its public service jobs “saved or created” in order to delay bankruptcy a few more years. Our governor’s race is starting to heat up with arguments about how to cut expenses and raise revenues. But I haven’t heard a word about the pension problem.

  6. “But Brown has his work cut out for him, both to buck the GOP establishment and to keep in mind, as the days turn into months and years, why the people of Massachusetts are sending him to Washington”

    I’ve been thinking about a couple of issues that tend to divide parts of the R party and alienates many Independents. The what I consider “social issues” like abortion and gay marriage. Would the R party be able to get more voters inside the proverbial tent if R’s went the more libertarian route and pushed to have those issues decided at the state level and not the federal level?

    If a national R candidate was asked his views on these issues, he could say that he didn’t think that these issues should be decided at the federal level, that they should be decided at the state level. If MA wants to have abortion legal, the voters of MA could vote to have abortion (with whatever caveats MA deems appropriate). If TX doesn’t want to have legalized abortion, the TX voters can vote as such (with their caveats).

    This would, I think, be palatable to virtually all R’s and it would eliminate a big issue that keeps many I’s away from the R party. For all the social conservatives out there, wouldn’t they love to have the chance to influence the abortion/gay marriage/etc issues at the state level rather than the federal level? Especially abortion, where Roe v Wade has blanketed the whole country with one law?

    For state and other local R politicians, perhaps the push should be to have ballot questions to decide these matters. It’s hard for a voter to oppose the opportunity to decide a social issue in the most democratic of ways as opposed to having the politicians decide the issues for you. (The next best way to do it would be for the electorate to decide such issues through their elected state reps, but the ballot route seems much more democratic and less prickly for the R pols).

    I tend to think that if the R party could adopt this idea for their party platform, the R’s would generate a whole new group of voters, while at the same time managing to keep the social conservatives on board. It would have the added benefit I think of appealing to the Tea Party movement in this new anti-govt climate.

    On a separate note, do you former Contentions commenters remember a jerk named “Democrat” who was a frequent commenter in the weeks/months leading up to the Presidential election? He/she was probably an Axelrod appointed “troll” and was particularly nasty and unpleasant. I was just thinking that I’d love to be in the same room as “Democrat” when the results of the Brown/Coakley election were rolling in. I’d bet he/she was in a rage.

    • A friend of mine,still registered as a Democrat, has always said that the libs most fear having social issues decided at the state level. Some states would adopt much narrower life styles than other states. This would totally kill the lefts use of identity politics. The only way to get enough people interested in buying into the identity labels is to go across the entire nation. It’s the left that would fight the localization of identity politics issues.

      • I can think of no better reason to promote a platform that presses for state resolution of social issues. Let the left fight the rest of the country on that battleground. And if disgraceful identity politics becomes mortally wounded because of it, then we’ll all be better off for it.

  7. RE and O4P, I agree with both of your points. Most of these issues should be decided at the state level, and were before SCOTUS began to overreach. And the overreach was fueled by liberals’ conviction that citizens had to be protected from the backward proclivities of states on social issues.

    • didn’t citizens need that protection, Margo?

      • One person’s backward proclivity is another’s idea of normality.

  8. and when most of the population refuse to accept that the rest of the population is fully human and use state power to enforce that normality, chuck?

  9. In an open society people freely relocate to communities of shared values. The land mass of the current US was populated in the 1600’s by transplanted Europeans many of whom who came for resettlement in communities of people of shared religious values. One of the great things about the males who signed the Declaration of Independence was the diversity of religious views of those male signers. Madison and Jefferson are going to bring in ideas on religious diversity into the Bill of Rights based on their experiences from Virginia’s legal system. Imposing any one’s religious creed on their neighbors is in my opinion tyranny. Perhaps all marriages should be declared illegal if some groups in the US are going to start redefining marriage.No one can be legally married but that would be better than imposing on a population what is a religious norm now disguised by the left as a political norm. Tibetans has both polygamy and polyandry( female with multiple husbands). How a culture defines marriage is a religious statement.

    • Orcas, If you haven’t read “Founding Faith” by Steven Waldman, you should. It’s a great book detailing the thought process of some of the most influential Founders in regards to religion and how it should be addressed relative to the founding of the nation and it’s relation to the state. Franklin, Adams, Jefferson & Madison are the main focus (Madison is the biggest hero in this book for this topic. He wisely pushed for separation of church and state because it would be *better* for religion if the state kept its meat hooks off. The common belief was that state sanction would promote religion).

  10. A great, wide-ranging discussion, as usual. RE, I do remember “Democrat,” although I can’t say I spent much eyeball time on his oeuvre. He was one I quickly learned to just scroll past.

    On the issue of letting the states decide the controversial social issues, I think you’d find that most Rs in the political ranks are just fine with that.

    It’s actually a misrepresentation used by the left, to claim that there’s a big R movement to impose social conservatism by the use of government, at the federal OR state level. I confess to getting annoyed with Rs who buy into this false picture of their fellow Rs, and go around complaining about it. It’s a convenient way for the left to keep the right divided, not an accurate representation of reality.

    The great majority of Rs can coalesce around the principle that there should not be a recourse in the federal court system against majority votes of the people of a state, to place restrictions on abortion, or affirm traditional marriage. Many Ds would also agree to this principle.

    It’s the left that is well out out of the mainstream on these matters. Most people favor some restrictions on abortion — first trimester only, no partial-birth abortion, parental notification requirements — and when the people have voted, they’ve voted to restrict but not prohibit abortion. It’s the left, and the US court system, that has refused to tolerate the restrictions on abortion that state after state has voted in favor of. The leftist position that absolutely nothing can be allowed to interfere with the abortion option is an extremist, minority position. Social conservatives and ambivalent moderates are much closer to each other on this matter than the left is to either, yet the ambivalent moderates will more often than not accept the misleading picture of conservatives sustained by the left.

    There are indeed some conservatives who would like to prohibit abortion absolutely. But they are in a minority; most seek two things: the reversal of Roe v. Wade as bad law — law that read a whole alien population of penumbras into the Constitution, and usurped the authority it gives the states in these matters — and the opportunity for the people of the states to vote into law the restrictions they have repeatedly favored.

    People who think of themselves as moderate conservatives should ask themselves if it would really be a problem for America’s future, and the maintenance of civil liberties, if partial-birth abortion were prohibited; if elective abortions could not be obtained after the first trimester; and if minors had to have the consent of their parents to get abortions.

    Are these “freedoms” really unalienable and necessary to civilized life? Consider that the authors of the health care bills that floated around Congress last year are planning for the state to interest itself, with financial consequences, in how you eat and whether you exercise — the left has no problem invading your privacy in that regard, but somehow it’s intolerable fascism for voters to want to place restrictions on abortion.

    Bottom line: I think the big tent GOP already exists, and it doesn’t have to actively disavow the political positions of some of its members to retain others. My personal opinion is that it’s the social moderates who are afraid of the non-existent bugaboo. Too often, they have accepted the misrepresentations of the left about what their conservative fellows on the social right are up to.

    Consider that no one on the right is trying to get a socially conservative agenda imposed by the courts. The socially conservative right is prepared to accept the verdict of the people, and that makes it inherently unlike the left. It’s the left that is the opponent, and the left that poses the threat of coercion in social matters by judicial fiat.

  11. C’mmon OC, don’t be a party pooper. This development (as you mention – almost in passing) is real cause for optimism that enough people in this country get it and that with some talent, initiative and political skill, there is a chance, if an ever so slight one, that we may generate a political configuration that might, just possibly, get this country on the right track. The preponderance of a very hard left formal political power in Washington is so much at variance with the sensibilities and opinions of so many Americans that something had to give and its very gratifying that it gave not in Oklahoma, not in Virginia, not in Ohio but in Massachusetts. That Scott Brown may not be a second coming of Jim Inhoff or John Kyl does not diminish the success he achieved running on what in most respects was an explicit and forcefully articulated conservative platform.

    By the way it seems that OC is bidding fair to become the fashion correspondent of the Weekly Standard or Commentary. (And incidentally with the ongoing START renewal proceedings isn’t it time they have you right something on that as well?).

  12. Have you checked “contentions” today, cavalier? A piece on START and one on the Patriot missile battery to be deployed in Poland.

    I actually don’t feel like I’m pooping (out on) the party at all by recognizing that Scott Brown has lots of pluses, but isn’t necessarily what a lot of the Tea Partiers and Other Dissatisfieds are after.

    The more realism there is about that now, the less disappointment there will be later. I think it remains to be seen how much reason for disappointment there even may be. It’s very possible the answer will be “not much,” or even “none.”

    What I predict is that Brown’s voting record will look pretty much like McCain’s. If Brown can refrain from joining Senatorial “gangs,” he’ll be a big step in the right direction. Meanwhile, he’s serving an important function already by denying the Democrats a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. That’s huge.

    • START:

      I did see the posts at Contentions and that’s actually what prompted my comment. The analysis there is excellent as far as it goes, but what’s needed is a much more comprehensive review. Just what is the current strategic situation in respect of nuclear weapons at this time and how is it likely to develop in the short and intermediate future? What does the U.S. need in terms of number, type and reliability of warheads and redundancy and type of delivery systems to address this situations? What role does, can and should missile defense, in its various forms, play? What range of possibilities exists under the current administration? To what extent will their activities constrain us going forward? These are always important questions, of course, but seem especially so in the context of the START negotiations. It would seem the conservative magazines should look to offer some long form (probably print) analysis and OC would certainly be a terrific source for one of them to tap. Alternatively (or concurrently) an analysis here, on tOC, might be considered. I realize there are significant time and other constraints inhibiting such a project but anything that you could do, in multiple posts, over time would be very much appreciated.


      (I apologize if I’m repeating something or failing to address points raised in the comments above. I haven’t unfortunately had the time to look at them carefully but will certainly try to do so this weekend.)

      The election of Scott Brown would seem to give conservatives many reasons to be realistically optimistic. Its immediate effect is almost certainly to kill ObamaCare in anything like its current form. While one should never overestimate the Republicans, even they would be hard pressed to snatch defeat from the jaws of this victory. This development alone is an unadulterated good. *

      Further, it is almost as or perhaps even more important as a harbinger of conservative victories going forward. At a technical political level it is likely to attract the best Republican candidates and discourage the best prospective Dems candidates in the current cycle. More importantly, it is a tangible, and indeed, ostentatious indicator of the capacity and willingness of the American people to broadly embrace conservative principles. If they were to do so one could look with much greater confidence to the future of the country. In previous comments I have expressed confidence in the prospect of conservatives (Republicans) regaining considerable power but also considerable skepticism of weather they could do so in sufficient numbers and with a sufficient mandate to adopt the policies needed to improve the nations prospects. That Scott Brown could win, in Massachusetts, running on that platform, is the most tangible indictor in a long time that the answer to that question is almost certainly yes.

      Now, a great deal of caution is certainly called for, and that seems to be what OC is driving at. The cautious, establismentarian mindset of the GOP is, as OC suggests, a very serious reason for concern. She is correct to note that Scott Brown was very much part of that establishment in Massachusetts but was helped in this case by the fact that, as a Republican running for the U.S. Senate in that state, he had virtually not realistic chance of winning and nothing to loose. Still, he demonstrated terrific political instincts, charisma, displayed (per OC) impressive energy and discipline and was thus able to capitalize on a favorable confluence of circumstances to win. This of course, broaches the necessity of identifying a candidate of this calibre on the national level, for in the absence of such a candidate the hopes of generating a conservative mandate or even a Republican victory in 2012 (as it is Barry can’t be much less than even money for reelection at this point) would be severely diminished. The current GOP prospects are all seriously flawed and this, naturally, brings us back to Scott Brown.

      Here OC’s caution is, indeed, well warranted for a number of reasons. First, after Barak Obama, experience might be at something more of a premium, and he will clearly not have accumulated enough by 2012. Further, his “conservatism” is, perhaps, somewhat suspect. That he is magnificent for Massachusetts is beyond doubt.** Indeed, as I say above, his victory in that state is one of the principal reasons for optimism. There would certainly be a great deal of room to the right on the national level and weather Scott Brown will be able to get there is at best indeterminate at this point.

      Still, in general, both in its immediate impact and as herald of future prospects, it is hard not to be more optimistic than many conservatives have been for a long time.

      *There would, of course always have been the prospect of repealing ObamaCare. Unprecedented, to be sure, but never had so large a program been enacted in the face of such popular opposition and in the unlikely even the Republicans would have had the wit and courage to push for repeal the prospects for such were not completely trivial. To this end, of course, Brown’s victory might give the cowardly lions a little heart.

      **A senator from Mass voting anything like McCain (indeed it is worth noting that he explicitly ran on support for waterboarding – very much unlike the Senior Senator from Arizona; it is interesting that he even brought this up as there seemed not apparent reason to do so and to note that it at the very least did not hurt him, if it did not indeed aid his cause) or even slightly to the right of Susan Collins would in and of itself be nothing but cause for celebration. Here realism is certainly called for. What is much more frustrating is the prospect (now diminished) of a Crist in Florida and the reality of a Lindsey Graham, excellent in many respects, to be sure, but highly problematic given ideological latitude his constituency affords him.

  13. You guys are all a lot more sophisticated in your analysis of the Brown election than I. To me, it’s kind of simple. With the election of Obama, I was really starting to worry about what our country was turning into.

    The tea parties were the first hint that there were people, regular people, who still cared about the basic principles behind our country’s founding.

    For the last year, as the Dems unveiled more and more of their agenda, all the polls have shown a consistent slide against the Democrat agenda – healthcare, cap and trade, etc. But polls are polls and only worth so much no matter how good.

    Commentary from the right has gotten more and more strident in opposition. But face it, the right suffers from an echo chamber just as much as the left.

    The Governor elections in Virginia, New Jersey were an additional teaser. But Governors are very much local elections.

    So it was hard for me to get a real feel and understanding of where the rest of the country stood on all this.

    Well, that changed with the Brown election. Granted to some degree local again, but still, in Massachusetts for Christ sake.

    I am much more optimistic now about my fellow countrymen. Maybe individualism and freedom isn’t totally dead yet and it can be shocked back to life.

  14. Greg, I agree with your optimism. One of the reasons I used the happy, inspiring picture of Brown’s victory pose with the Herald cover was that I wanted to convey being upbeat about him.

    I think we have to be realistic about the fact that he doesn’t have a principled objection to state mandates regarding health care, however. He endorsed the MA health care program during the campaign and said he had no interest in getting rid of it. He just understands the necessity to control costs.

    Controlling costs in MA will mean the same thing it would with nationwide ObamaCare: denying treatments to old people. MA is already hemorrhaging red ink on its “universal” coverage, and insurance premiums have skyrocketed, particularly for the young and healthy. Businesses and workers are taking it in the shorts. The cost of “insuring” lower-income citizens is being kicked down the road as debt. MA wasn’t in good fiscal shape before the universal coverage program started, and now it’s on a fast track to rivaling CA for business-and-worker flight, unsustainable entitlements, and basically being a Bad Debt State.

    How many CAs and MAs can America afford? If you’re kind enough to read my posts at contentions, you know that I wrote a couple of weeks ago about CA’s clever 2008-era plan for universal health insurance: make all the other states pay for the cost of it. CA can’t afford it for Californians, any more than MA can afford it for Bay Staters.

    America can only afford a few states being shining examples of health care collectivization — we can’t ALL implement “universal coverage” plans; somebody has to pay for it. The Louisiana Purchase and the Nebraska Kickback were just the shot across the bow in the game of musical chairs over who gets stuck with the bill for “universal coverage.”

    I realize Scott Brown couldn’t have gotten elected in MA if he had made a point of wanting to undo state-mandated “universal coverage.” That’s a very important indicator of where a substantial segment of Americans are. They consider ObamaCare too much, but they don’t understand the error of their thinking that MACare is just right.

    I certainly don’t join the ranks of curmudgeons in harrumphing over this impurity as evidence that the sky is falling — but this DOES have to change. Being for a MA-type plan is being for the unsustainable: entitlements that kill business and initiative, drive up debt, and rob us of freedom.

    Brown got away, in the campaign, with not having to explain how it’s better to oppose ObamaCare while favoring MassachusettsCare. This isn’t because it’s an explicable position, in terms of either civil liberty, market freedom, or fiscal responsibility. It actually doesn’t make sense. As long as the GOP is in a minority in Congress he won’t ever have to explain the position — but if Republicans can actually take Congress back this fall, it will suddenly matter a lot where GOP legislators really stand on all this stuff.

    I’ll tell you exactly what I want to hear candidates for national office saying about it. I want them to say they favor opening the insurance market across state lines, not just so that people can tote their insurance around from state to state but so that customers can be offered a broader selection of deals. The states can suppress competition as things stand now, and they shouldn’t be able to. We would all pay less for the same coverage if there were nationwide competition for our business.

    I’d like to see tax-free contributions to health savings accounts expanded. HSAs should be conveyable as tax-free gifts too.

    I’d like to see the different tax treatment of individually-purchased insurance and employer-purchased insurance evened out. Today there is a tax advantage with employer-purchased insurance. That should be eliminated. Tax law should be neutral as to whether your insurance is employer-purchased or purchased directly by you. I can see phasing this to tax neutrality over a period of 3-5 years, as was done with eliminating the income tax deduction for consumer interest back in the 1980s.

    I agree with federalists who don’t want the federal government stepping in and changing state tort law — i.e., intervening in malpractice lawsuit policy in the states. But that’s not the only measure the feds could take. This concept applies to state policies across the board: there is no obligation on the federal government to FUND them. When states back themselves into economic and fiscal disaster, the feds should not be there to “enable” their dysfunctional policies.

    I don’t see it as problematic in terms of federalism, for the federal government to decide that outlays from it to support state health-care programs (“matching funds”) will be contingent on certain state policies. One of those could be tort reform. If states can pay their own way — fund their own dysfunctions — that’s their choice. If they start asking for federal help to avoid the reckonings inevitable with their dysfunctional approaches — No. Implement reforms. No federal funding for state dysfunction.

    The strictest federalists would be unhappy with what I’ve outlined here, because as radical as it might seem to today’s population, conditioned as it is to federal big government, it’s only an incremental step back to smaller government, and the degree of federalism originally envisioned by the Founders. I don’t think the steps I list above are enough myself. I think we have to go further — but these steps are pragmatic and incremental. I think they have a chance to resonate with people as they are today.

    What we really need to do is get the federal government out of the insured-health-care business entirely. And I mean entirely: no Medicare or Medicaid. That doesn’t mean government doesn’t have any role in providing care for the indigent. It does mean that we don’t pretend it’s “insurance,” and build a big bureaucracy around it to hide what it really is, when government IS providing care for the indigent.

    Medicare is not, in theory, care for the indigent. In practical fact, however, it’s a method of making the working taxpayer pay for the care of the aged. The better practice would be to phase out Medicare — over time, and without leaving today’s seniors high and dry — and tax-advantage the salary that goes to interest-earning HSA contributions during people’s working lives. Combine that with more-affordable insurance, and virtually all working families would be able to take care of their own old-age medical needs.

    There should be no Medicaid at all. We should not be pretending the indigent are “insured,” with the deceptive practice of processing their financial reckonings for health care as if they are. That just creates expensive bureaucracies, and breathtaking opportunities for gouging the actually insured, paying patients.

    I favor public hospitals and clinics maintained by cities and counties, with supplemental income from the state level if necessary. Many private hospitals will voluntarily provide a certain amount of their care to the indigent as well. Doctors have a longstanding tradition of performing pro bono work for non-profit hospitals and clinics. The ability to provide care for the indigent is very much present, by these methods that make the services available, but do not institute open-ended entitlements that accrue to individuals.

    There will always be a small minority of people hit with medical problems too big even for their insurance, state-level public services, and charitable support. This is where I can see maintaining a federal-level pool to provide assistance in such extreme cases.

    And even these ideas, which I suspect are impractical to campaign on today, are too impure for many of our fellow voters. I can understand their arguments.

    One of the disadvantages the right always has is that we’re not excited about government. It’s a necessary nuisance. It’s not going to transform mankind or save our souls. It can’t change the weather or the stately progression of plate tectonics. It’s mostly stupid, ridiculous, and annoying.

    The real part of life, the things that matter, happen in families, in churches and synagogues, at work, on the land, in the home, in our businesses, in community activities: charity, sports, education, science, the arts.

    We don’t see government as something to be wielded against life or our fellow men. It’s overhead. It’s like buying insurance and paying the electric bill. Just keep the bills small and leave us alone. Our satisfactions in life come from a fun, welcoming, exciting smorgasbord of other things.

    But for the left, government is an end in itself, and it IS something to be wielded, with all the thrill of a fun-house ride, against life and their fellow men. The right will usually put up with the left doing a lot, if there’s a way to keep the bills from spiraling out of control.

    Public debt has been the relief valve that has postponed a feeling on the right that it absolutely must bestir itself against the destructive statist zeal of the left. I think the sense people have at this moment that the right is bestirring itself is entirely valid. No qualification on that endorsement: the right IS bestirring itself.

    But there’s a tipping point we haven’t reached yet, and if we don’t reach it, the bestirring will be for naught. We have to understand that government-mandated health programs are government-mandated health programs, regardless of the level of government at which they are imposed. There is no level of government at which they will be economically, fiscally, or socially neutral. They automatically generate debt, usurp the public purse, discourage economic growth, and require curtailment of services to the people who need them the most.

    Massachusetts voters don’t understand that yet. I’m not sure enough California voters understand it. It’s great that Scott Brown got elected, but which way this political reckoning goes will matter tremendously.

    • I never realized that the left regarded governments as ends and not as means.

      When did you find this out?

      • Well, since any objective observer would be compelled to concede that government action rarely comes closes to accomplishing its supposed ends one is left with the conclusion that such action is the end regardless of the more often than disastrous consequences.

  15. Care to point out any objective observer around here, cav?

  16. Perhaps the evidence that the left sees more govt as an end in an of itself is embodied in the mortally wounded “health care” bill. Of all the intricate and complicated facets of the bill, the idea of permitting people to buy insurance across state lines was never entertained. Why is that? Who would be opposed to it? One can understand why the left wouldn’t want tort reform as it kills the golden goose trial lawyers. But buying insurance across state lines? Whose ox is gored?

    One can (must?) conclude that liberals are opposed to such an idea because the free market will prosper and squeeze out the govt run “health care” options. Perhaps even more ominously for liberals, such free marketism here may well start to discredit the *idea* of govt run domestic programs. Scary stuff for the left I imagine.

  17. Give us a break!

    He is a lawyer. (This ex-member of the same class of reptile sometimes drives a big Mercedes flat-bed truck to deliver yachts).

    What I see when I look at the crowd who stood cheering while this guy offered up his daughters as trophies is a lot of folks who enjoy a healthcare regime which is rather more “socialist” than the modest proposals now before the House. And our hero, lest we forget, repeatedly told the voters of Massachusetts that their universal, compulsory, state subsidized healthcare was safe in his hands. (Reminds me of Thatcher and the British NHS a quarter of a century ago). He didn’t come out and say (as you might have expected of a guy who is committed to opposing the Obama reforms on a point of high principle) that if elected he would work to abolish their anti-American “socialist” health-care. He didn’t rail against the “death committees” and other horrors that the unfortunate people of New England must be labouring under by having as near as be-damned universal health-care. Guess what would have happened had principle rather than expediency being his guiding light?

    And of course, this isn’t about healthcare as such. Or principle. This is about fear hatred and resentment. The people who have good healthcare – whether socialist like the elderly and vets, state subsidided and universal like Massachusetts, or provided by their employer – resent the idea that they might have to contribute a bit towards healthcare for the “underserving” poor. And we know who the latter are. Many of them are people who are described by right-wing commentators with coy code-phrases like “welfare mums” (A term, I understand, that doesn’t encompass economically dependent teenage mum, Palin jnr). In fact, many of those without decent health-insurance are people who have worked all their lives and have lost both employment and healthcare due to the catastrophic consequences of the Regan-era banking de-regulations and the financial mismanagement of the previous Administration. But that’s a mere detail when your real agenda is to make the US ungovernable by a President who has stolen your country.

    Hypocracy is rank, and rank hypocracy is nauseating. I recently saw a photo of a gathering of “tea-party” folk. One of the many colorful placards on parade proclaimed the person holding it as a military veteran. I wonder if this recipient of taxpayer largess in the form of totally socialzed medicine realizes the irony of his position. I wonder why this good person thought why he, like other government and retired public employees, was deserving above other citizens of such priviledge at the expense of the taxpayer?

    Probably not. Insight isn’t a quality I associate with the hard right. We are becoming a rather mean and selfish society. There is no better mission-statement of the new right than the response of Rush Limbaugh to the tragedy in Haiti. Read the transcript well folks. It says it all.

    Medanwhile, Lawyer Brown goes to Washington to represent the folks he assured would not be troubled in their universal health care – by helping to block the elected majority from enacting more or less the same plan for their fellow Americans

  18. Rush said that he didn’t see why one would donate to Haiti aid through the federal government (to which we already “donate”) rather than through organizations like the Red Cross. Seems like a reasonable call to me.

    By the way, conservative voters have been shown to donate a far higher percentage of their incomes to charity than liberals.

  19. I don’t know, Margo. I was all set to give to the relief effort in Haiti, but then I heard Rush didn’t want us to, so I spent the money on plastic bags and transfats instead.

    • Your observation is hilarious.

      We just made a small contribution to Medecins sans Frontieres.

      We saved the attempts at wit for something more appropriate.

  20. Must do. . . whatever Rush says. Must do. . . whatever Rush says.

    • But you do.

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