Hard to avoid the good news these days. A few days back we learned that the war in Iraq was over. Well, sort of, anyway. The President explained that U.S. troops were done with combat but would remain in a support and advisory capacity. This, of course, could change if they came under fire which, not very much later, they did.
So, no more combat in Iraq for U.S. troops. Except when there is.
Then, a few days after we got that happy news, Washington hit us with another cheerful report. The recession is over. In fact, it ended months ago. On the economic front, it has been all singing birds and blooming flowers since June of 2009. Pay no attention to the unemployment rate that is hanging around 10%. Ignore the rise in foreclosures. Disregard the record number of people living below the poverty line.
Those, you see, are just details.
Washington evidently believes that too many Americans simply don't know good news when they see it. So they have to be told how good they have it and if they don't get it the first time, then they have to be "re-educated."
This, anyway, is the view of Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, who is the Washington enforcer in charge of running health care and making sure you like the way she is doing it. Asked about the majority opinion in opposition to the new health care system she is putting into place, she explained, sweetly, that, "… we have a lot of re-education to do."
Ms. Sebelius is grimly purposeful about making sure you get the good news and learn to appreciate it and, presumably, to love Washington for its generosity, compassion, and etc. etc.
Should anyone have the temerity to disagree, well, for them Ms. Sebelius promises, "zero tolerance." She made this plain when some insurance companies told customers they would be raising rates in response to cost increases that were a result of the new health care legislation. The law compelled companies to insure more people for more things and even people in government, in Washington, ought to understand that this might make their operations just a bit more expensive.
Ms. Sebelius, though, wasn't buying. She is the government and she knows best and she is not going to let anyone rain on Washington's good news narrative.
Elsewhere on the good-news front, we learned, not long ago, that General Motors was paying the government back some of the money that had been taken from taxpayers and spent to keep the company running, some union members working, and others with their pensions topped off. (Bond-holders, meanwhile, got nothing.)
As it turned out, there was some bad news to go with the good news. The bad news was … well, that the good news wasn't true. The cash GM used to pay back the government was also government money. These bailouts are devilishly hard to understand. They are almost as complex, for that matter, as the health care legislation that Kathleen Sebelius won't let anyone talk ugly about. Still, the new CEO of GM says that the company will pay back all the money. Just as soon as it can. Maybe even in a "couple of years."
And that's good news, isn't it?
One wonders, inevitably, "Why is Washington doing this? What are they up to?"
This is always the question because there is so often a second and third motive to any action coming out of Washington. This is why we have Sunday morning talk shows on television; so "experts" can explain what is "really" going on to those of us out in the provinces who are too dim to understand these things.
Does Washington really think that nobody will notice how hard it is to get a job or sell a house?
Possibly. And, if true, it is proof that the governing class believes that the rest of are to be treated like children. If we should ask what happened to the dog, you explain that it went to live at a "nice home in the country."
That those in charge should feel this way about those they govern is unsurprising. It is one of the satisfactions of belonging to the ruling class -- you get to look down on people. Before she began bullying insurance companies, Ms. Sebelius took it upon herself to instruct people in the proper way to cover a sneeze.
But what if the political class is peddling the hollow, good-news narrative not to fool the people in the provinces but to reassure itself? Washington has spent all the money it could get its hands on and borrowed a lot more and the economy is still stalled in its tracks. It has tried schemes so clever that only Washington could come up with them. Cash-for-clunkers, for example. It has bailed out everything in sight, to include the car companies, profligate state governments, and Wall Street banks but still …
When the truth is unbearable, you console yourself with lies.
"Don't worry. It's all okay. The war is over. The recession ended last year. We're on top of it and everything is just fine."
The sad part is … they may even believe it.
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