Pessimists are usually right

The WSJ’s Daniel Henninger recently wrote an opinion piece urging opponents to simply let ObamaKare collapse under its own weight of failure, but I think this reader from Austin has it right: entitlement programs don’t go away, they just continue to grow. In fact, I’ll go the WSJ reader one better: nothing in the government goes away, ever, no matter how badly it fails. Progressives believe in the perfectability of man and society (see Marx, e.g.), so when a program doesn’t work, they don’t look at the inherent cause and inevitability of that failure, they just tinker with it, pass more regulations and allocate it more money to “get it right, this time”. Witness, just off the top of the head, the EPA, OSHA, Headstart, and the departments of Energy, Education and Homeland Security.

I would like to share Daniel Henninger’s confidence that ObamaCare is a doomed entitlement that will collapse under its own weight (“Let ObamaCare Collapse,”Wonder Land, Sept. 26), but historical precedents for an orderly dismantling of welfare-state benefit programs are very hard to find. Mr. Henninger’s forecast of ObamaCare’s demise hinges on public abandonment of the entitlement as its catastrophic effects unfold. Public disgust is destined to rise, according to Mr. Henninger, because the technological core of a centrally managed health system will be overloaded by a mind-boggling array of parties involved (i.e., federal agencies, state and local governments, employers, insurers, health-care providers and patients).

Many of us might agree that ObamaCare’s overreach will force change but question whether dysfunction was baked into a plan to blame greedy insurers and push for a single-payer solution or if the number of voters who have ObamaCare buyer’s remorse will exceed the number who are partially or fully dependent on government benefits.

Many U.S. companies have been rushing to drop bare-bones health plans and to steer employees, particularly part-timers, into insurance exchanges. An employer stampede out of health-care administration means that far more Americans will be dependent on government-sponsored plans in the next year or two. Once dependence and entitlement settle into a nation’s psyche, abandonment of social progress is unheard of, absent impending financial collapse.

As a general rule, progressive steps forward into entitlement minefields are usually followed by stubborn and expensive stomps to the finish line, not by retreats or surrender.

John Gardner

Austin, Texas




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32 responses to “Pessimists are usually right

  1. LMNOP

    Witness further craziness to the progressive agenda: NJ announced yesterday it has increased price of school lunches to $1.75, unless of course you are poor. Used to be poor kids paid on a scale of what they could afford. Now their meals are scot-free while kids whose parents are above poverty line pay more. Seems to me the first prize to any progressive is abject poverty. And to be proud of it. Sickening.

  2. EOSredux

    A blog I follow, Hooked on Houses, has a great article on the history of a Greenwich home, Otter Cottage. Well done.

    • Interesting to note that the family quarters on the second floor shared one bathroom, the size of a closet. It’d be a wonder if the children who grew up here didn’t go on to lives of criminality and failure.

      • Inagua

        Most people didn’t wash much until relatively recently. For example, Teddy Roosevelt’s home in Oyster Bay had one bathroom with one bath tub on the second floor for the entire family and staff.

  3. housecat

    Somewhat OT: This op-Editor doesn’t discuss ObamaCare as such, but essentially advocates Marxist ideals without ever mentioning the dreaded “S” word, or the Big Thinker himself. The author claims that resolving say, income inequality is “simple”: just raise taxes on the “rich” and dole out more money to lower income workers. That’s it, nothing more – on to the next topic, please.
    Is socialism so popular amongst the left these days because people don’t remember what the Soviet Union was like (or the Eastern bloc, or China, pre-capitalism)? Even those who are old enough to remember it, by and large, were never able to visit these countries thanks to visa restrictions. Is that the problem? Any idealistic feelings I had on the subject were squashed about 30 minutes into my stay in East Berlin circa ’84.

    • Inagua

      Housecat – Socialism didn’t work in Russia or China for the average person in part because there wasn’t enough wealth to redistribute. America has huge wealth ripe for redistribution, and the Democrats are working hard to do it.

      I thought the most revealing section of the article was the author’s take on college. He says that because college grads make more money we must send more poor kids to college. He totally overlooks the possibiity that the kids in college might be there and might earn more money because they are smart, motivated, disciplined, hard-working, and understand delayed gratification. He just assumes that if you put say, Rachel Jeantel (Trayvon Martin’s girlfriend) in college that she will succeed, without any consideration to her so-far demonstrated work habits. In fact, a liberal radio talk show host offered to pay for her college. I applaud this rare liberal who puts his money where his mouth is, but having seen Rachel on the witness stand and in TV interviews, I think she is very unlikely to ever develop good work or study habits.

      • Socialism didn’t work in Russia or China for the average person in part because there wasn’t enough wealth to redistribute. America has huge wealth ripe for redistribution

        No room to consider cause and effect here? Why does socialism fail? Von Hayek and others say it is because of its very nature: a system of voluntary exchange will produce efficient allocation of resources, an economy run by apparatchiks will produce, as it did in the Soviet Union, 100,000 pairs of size 10D, and only size 10D mens shoes, because that was the easiest way to meet quotas. Socialism doesn’t produce wealth because it can’t.

        And as for all this accumulated wealth that’s available for the apparatchiks to confiscate and give to other, more favored people, what happens when it’s gone, as it surely will be? What then? Marx says the greedy rich will be transformed into new human beings, fishermen in the morning, poets in the afternoon and always, all day, concerned about striving their hardest to serve their fellow man. That’s why socialism always fails: it’s based on the false premise that man can be perfected, ego and self interest destroyed.

        If someone as smart as you can’t see that, Inagua, we are truly doomed. You just ruined my day.

        • housecat

          I don’t know that Inagua was advocating for that redistribution, per se. (But, of course, he is in a much better position to clarify that than I am.) I saw the preferential distribution first hand: for ordinary people there were long lines and long wait times for even basic things (clothes, food, housing, etc); for the party members: easy access to everything (housing, schools, food, cars – you name it.). People are greedy, I am sorry to say. No system of government can overcome that.

        • Inagua

          Relax, Chris. I said “in part” as the predicate for the sad fact that our free market accumlated wealth and living standards are ripe for plucking by today’s liberals. The failure of socialism as a wealth producing system is so obvious that it needs no comment.

          Where I do disagee with you, however, is “what happens when [all the accumlated wealth] is gone, as it surely will be?” I do not think the Liberals will necessarily get it all. They are ascendent now, and will continue to be so for a long time, but I do not think forever. I hope and believe that there will be a reawakening of individualism, self-reliance and love of freedom. It might not come in our lifetimes, but it may come.

          But I admit that this is a hope only, and that you may be correct. And if you are correct, then the answer to your question is: We will have become Europe — slow growth, high unenployment, lower living standards for the masses, but a very good life for the administrators at the top and their crony capitalist favorites. Europe has vastly greater gaps between the rich and poor than America, and that is the direction in which the Redistributionsts are taking us.

          An off topic question: FF frequently refuses to respond to posts that disagree with or question him. Does behave like this in person, as well?

      • Anonymous2

        You might be right there was not enough money to redistribute but having had some personal, up close experience with the USSR I firmly believe if there was too little money it was because a lot of people quietly refused to produce. They hated the State and referred to the government as “them”.

        Redistribution goes against the grain of human nature. In the USSR it produced a credo of “Do as little as possible, demand as much as possible and steal the rest”.

        Coming to a neighborhood near you. Therein lies the danger. You think things will end better here?

        • Inagua

          “Redistribution goes against the grain of human nature.”

          Oh, that it were so. It is a sad fact that most people like getting free stuff from the government paid for by their fellow citizens.

          The aspect of communism that goes against human nature is the forced sharing of resources, as exemplified by the tragedy of the commons.

  4. Anon2

    Head Start. Every study says it’s a colossal waste of money but Dems tout it all the time and that person in the WH naturally wants to expand the failure.

    Even Republicans hope HS would work and turn the subjects into productive members of society, but facts show they just wind up being Democrats.

    • Inagua

      Head Start is not a failure. It works perfectly. It provides free day care for little Democrats and jobs for grown-up Democrats.

      You didn’t believe the nonsense about early education helping young minds grow, did you? That was just bait-and-switch campaign rhetoric for the fools like Dollar Bill. The Welfare State is at bottom a power base for the Democratic elites so they can dole out free stuff to the mass of Democratic losers.

  5. sound beacher

    OT: I know how you like to keep up with the Marine police. They did a rescue, but Greenwich doesn’t have a helicopter, like Westchester.

  6. Balzac

    Exciting news: today’s NY Times has an article mentioning that Elizabeth Warren is hesitant to run for President.

    If there is a benevolent god in heaven, he will allow Elizabeth Warren to run.

    • Libertarian Advocate

      Her handlers are certainly aware that the rest of the country is not nearly so naive as the hyper educated denizens of Massachusetts. Her Fuaxcahontas persona has limited portability outside the Rte 128 beltway.

  7. Peg

    The problem with this discussion is that the Republicans are currently really incapable of stopping Obamacare. They can rant and rave all they want – but, it’s a given. So, all the Republicans really can do is attempt to do the most successful public relations to let America know how awful it is going to be, that it is totally owned by Democrats – and that if they want “change they can believe in” – they need to vote these idiots out of office. (Voting in a new breed of Republican might not be the worst idea in the world, either.)

    • Anonymous2

      Quite right. In fact, defunding or delaying Obamacare right now would be the greatest thing to ensure its survival. Low information voters need to get totally whacked by this monstrosity to shock them out of their stupor and turn them into soldiers for repeal.

  8. Anonymous

    Again, the idea of defaulting on our national debt –not just govt shutdown, but welching on our bills, and the catastrophic potential, and permanent damage that could wreak in the credit markets –is mindboggling. That the GOP could indulge in this game of Russian roulette with the livelihoods of tens of millions of people at stake — all in order to deny the implementation of a law passed by both houses if Congress and upheld by the Supremes — is breathtakingly radical and irresponsible. Especially for a party that CF always trumpets as the party of fiscal responsibility, the cynicism of this move just shows how decayed the GOP is.

    And no, CF, just because Ted Kennedy attached a rider to a debt ceiling Bill 40 years ago on campaign finance — that scoundrel ! –doesn’t make this current exercise in hostage taking right. Leaving aside the completely inapt comparison, aren’t you the one always railing about tu quoque arguments! That’s tu quoque through and through.

    As Mann and Ornstein have said, there is no other way to say it: the core of the problem in DC lies with the Republican Party. It simply doesn’t recognize the legitimacy of its political opposition, it is ideologically extreme, it rejects any form of compromise, and like CF, it rejects conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science.

    • A tu quoque argument seeks to deflect an argument and evade answering the specifics. Pointing out that Teddy Kennedy engaged in the same behavior, when offered to illustrate that liberals who now claim obstructing raising the debt ceiling are “terrorists” thought it was appropriate behavior when done by one of their own is not a tu quoque evasion, it’s an argument in its own right, positing that the outrage of liberals is feigned, and political, not a genuine concern that the government is in peril.

  9. Anonymous2

    Gee, Inagua @ 11.52, the people to whom you refer aren’t having the fruits of their labor redistributed, are they? They’re getting other peoples’ money.

    Most of us who have a history of producing tend to have this antiquated notion that what we produce is ours, and it is not to be stolen by slimy politicians to be redistributed to their parasitic clientele.

    PS what the hell is “the tragedy of the commons”?

    • Inagua

      >>PS what the hell is “the tragedy of the commons”?<<

      Did you try Googling it before you exhibited your ignorance of something covered in any decent Econ 101 course?

  10. Toonces

    Anonymous2 12:27: Here is a pretty good definition:

  11. Anonymous

    Anyone who thinks, as you do, that defaulting on US Treasuries is “NOT putting the US government in peril,” in short that it is no big deal, clearly is too far gone for rational argument. If you think liberals are “merely feigning concern” about the real-life consequence of govt shutdown, and debt breach., rather than showing genuine concern, then you are just part and parcel of the unthinking Tea Party gottadamerung that is ruining our country. That you and many of your commenters can so blithely wave away the consequences of this GOP vandalism demonstrates the utter depths to which you have sunk.

  12. Peg

    Is Anonymous DB in drag? Try to stop hyperventilating for a minute or so, Anon, and look at the facts about government shutdowns of the past. Tip O’Neill (a Democrat, last time I checked) was involved with many shutdowns – and at times, with full Democrat Congress and president – Carter, to be exact.

    I’m SURE that this is somehow GWB and the Republican’s fault – but – love to hear you explain exactly HOW it is utterly the end of the world NOW – yet wasn’t back then. (And yes, somehow, our nation survived….)

    • Inagua

      Peg – This hyperventating fool Anonomous is exactly what Obama wants. As you pointed out above, the Republicans have no chance to defeat Obamacare, and can only hope to highlight its adverse effects. But fools like Anonymous, of which there are many, are resistant to complex facts, and are easily swayed by emotional Obama Speak.

      I fear Obamacare is here to stay. It may be revised, but it will remain as a permanent drag on the economy. There will be a few winners, many losers, and health delivery overall will suffer, but that it what a majority of our fellow citizens voted for.

      Still, I hugely admire Ted Cruz for attempting to educate an inattentive public to the dangers that this law poses. It was a worthy and noble effort.

      But the effect might be politically adverse in the short term because the mainstream media, which is essentially the public relations arm of Obama and the Democratic party, will spin a shut down, however short in duration as a Republican caused national catastrophe. Obama is hoping that this spin will restore Nancy Pelosi to the Speaker’s Chair, and thus let the Democrats borrow, spend, and redistribute again without restriction. It all depends on how many of our fellow voting citizens are as emotional, ignorant, and stupid as the poster Anonymous.

    • Libertarian Advocate

      Yes, Peg, it is Dullard Bill (or one of his Cylon duplicates).

      Sorry, my son got me hooked on the new series. It’s really good.

  13. Anonymous

    Actually, Peg, this is a false analogue to our current crisis. In those examples, Democrats balked at raising the debt ceiling, to make a point, then caved to the President. More often, they just voted to raise the ceiling. Between 2006-2008, Dems never held the ceiling hostage to the most unpopular president in recent history. Not once.

    Here’s the difference, Peg: John Boehner’s Republicans have only agreed to raise the debt limit if they won major policy concessions from the president. So, no, Peg both parties don’t do it. One party does it, and It’s yours!

    • AJ

      “… balked at raising the debt ceiling, to make a point, then caved to the President …” That’s what’s known as deception.

      “… have only agreed to raise the debt limit if they won major policy concessions from the president …” That’s what’s known as negotiating. BTW asking for something isn’t negotiating, it’s asking for something with no expectation of having to give something in return, and goes something like this: please, pretty please, pretty please with succotash on top.

    • Peg

      Barack Obama, Senator, 2006:

      “Mr. President, I rise today to talk about America’s debt problem.

      The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. Over the past 5 years, our federal debt has increased by $3.5 trillion to
      $8.6 trillion. That is ‘‘trillion’’ with a ‘‘T.’’ That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan, borrowed from American taxpayers. And over the next 5 years, between now and 2011, the President’s budget will increase the debt by almost another $3.5 trillion.

      Numbers that large are sometimes hard to understand. Some people may wonder why they matter. Here is why: This year, the Federal Government will spend $220 billion on interest. That is more money to pay interest on our national debt than we’ll spend on Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. That is more money to pay interest on our debt this year than we will spend on education, homeland security, transportation, and veterans benefits combined. It is more money in one year than we are likely to spend to rebuild the devastated gulf coast in a way that honors the best of America.

      And the cost of our debt is one of the fastest growing expenses in the Federal budget. This rising debt is a hidden domestic enemy, robbing our cities and States of critical investments in infrastructure like bridges, ports, and levees; robbing our families and our children of critical investments in education and health care reform; robbing our seniors of the retirement and
      health security they have counted on.

      Every dollar we pay in interest is a dollar that is not going to investment in America’s priorities. Instead, interest payments are a significant tax on all Americans—a debt tax that Washington doesn’t want to talk about. If Washington were serious about honest tax relief in this country, we would see an effort to reduce our national debt by returning to responsible fiscal policies.

      But we are not doing that. Despite repeated efforts by Senators CONRAD and FEINGOLD, the Senate continues to reject a return to the commonsense Pay-go rules that used to apply. Previously, Pay-go rules applied both to increases in mandatory spending and
      to tax cuts. The Senate had to abide by the commonsense budgeting principle of balancing expenses and revenues. Unfortunately, the principle was abandoned, and now the demands of budget discipline apply only to spending.

      As a result, tax breaks have not been paid for by reductions in Federal spending, and thus the only way to pay for them has been to increase our deficit to historically high levels and borrow more and more money. Now we have to pay for those tax breaks plus
      the cost of borrowing for them. Instead of reducing the deficit, as some people claimed, the fiscal policies of this administration and its allies in Congress will add more than $600 million in debt for each of the next 5 years.

      That is why I will once again cosponsor the Pay-go amendment and continue to hope that my colleagues will return to a smart rule that has worked in the past and can work again.

      Our debt also matters internationally. My friend, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, likes to remind us that it took 42 Presidents 224 years to run up only $1 trillion of foreign-held debt. This administration did more than that in just 5 years. Now, there is nothing wrong with borrowing from foreign countries. But we must remember that the more we depend on foreign nations to lend us money, the more our economic security is tied to the whims of foreign leaders whose interests might not be aligned with ours.

      Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘‘the buck stops here.’’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.

      I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit”

  14. Anonymous

    You have to ask yourself: when was the last time your local school ever removed an emergency levy after receiving taxpayer money for it? These “emergencies” last forever and each year the schools sell them to the dumb voter schmucks as “renewals”-trumpeting that there are “no new taxes”. It works like a charm year after year. Honestly, if schools can’t fix these emergencies after 2+ years, heads need to roll.
    The only effective way to dismantle any program is to never let it get enacted in the first place (because once it’s in place, it will continue to grow like a cancer tumor). This is where the conservatives have lost the battle. In my opinion, it no longer matters if there is a D or R next to a name because they have become the same–all about enriching their own pockets and not representing the people who put them into office. Just call one of your “representatives” and you’ll understand immediately. As for the American public, it’s far easier to sit on your butt collecting your government handouts than actually working so don’t expect a turnaround until the checks completely stop.