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Obamacare and the Death of Liberalism

Bob Tyrrell was right.

By 10.29.13

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Bob Tyrrell was right.

The founder of The American Spectator penned -- in 2011, two years ago -- The Death of Liberalism.

In which Tyrrell investigated “the decline and impending death of the American Liberal movement in the United States today.” And said of President Obama that he was a “Stealth Fascist” who was “the pallbearer for American Liberalism.”

Notably, the last chapter of the book was titled: President Barack Obama, Liberalism’s Pallbearer. With considerable prescience, Mr. Tyrrell begins the chapter thusly:

Chairman Mao made the following statement on April 30, 1971, to Edgar Snow in an interview that he hoped would reach the ears of American policymakers. In it he said:

“China should learn from the way America developed, by decentralizing and spreading responsibility and wealth among the 50 states. A central government could not do everything. China must depend upon regional and local initiative. It would not do (spreading his hands) to leave everything up to him (Mao).”

Forty years later, China was on the brink of becoming the world’s largest economy, and President Barack Obama had not a clue about learning “from the way America developed” or about depending on its “regional and local initiatives.” He was lost in the sublime quiddities of his incomparable colleagues from the Ruling Class. That would be the yokels back at academe, drunk on their higher knowledge of “how-to” studies: how to teach (education departments), how to think and analyze (psychology and sociology departments), how to administer and govern (variations of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard State University) -- all the trendy “studies” offered by the modern-day multiversity or whatever they call it. Obama does not have very many classically educated university graduates to call on. In fact, he does not have many educated people to call on.

Think of that.

The Great Leader of the Chinese Communist Party saying 42 years ago that “a central government could not do everything.” And that was 20 years before the Soviet Union, its centralized administrative planning and command economy imploding, finally did one last stagger and crashed onto the ash heap of history -- as Ronald Reagan predicted was inevitable.

Just as Tyrrell predicted, Obama and company, believing the opposite and in denial over the reality of the Soviet lesson, made Obamacare the very face of “Friendly Fascism” and “Stealth Fascism.” Today the entire Great Leap Forward in American health care as envisioned by the liberal “yokels back at academe, drunk on their higher knowledge of ‘how-to’ studies” is a disaster collapsing in on itself faster than a Florida sinkhole.

All at once, the reality of the collective consequences of liberalism is glaringly in the spotlight -- making Tyrrell’s point with an uncanny precision.

The worship of Big Government? The laughably arrogant “we-know-what’s-best-for-you” sense of moral and intellectual superiority? These “smart” people can’t even run a website. The eternal liberal dependence on class warfare and racism? Yes indeed, the party of slavery, segregation, lynching, the Ku Klux Klan, racial quotas and illegal immigration never blinked at the shameful firing of an Obamacare operator -- a black single mom -- for the “crime” of answering Sean Hannity’s questions honestly. And doing so while keeping on a rich white woman named Kathleen Sebelius whose management of Obamacare has been as incompetent as it is dishonest. Sebelius, the privileged white liberal daughter of a white liberal governor and a white liberal governor herself, acceded to the firing of Erling Davis, the black single mother whose only sin was answering Hannity’s questions and with no spin. Hannity, appalled, quickly re-contacted Davis and is picking up the tab for her year’s salary as well as finding her a job. “Are you surprised Kathleen Sebelius still has her job and you got fired for doing yours?” Hannity asked of Davis when he had her on his Fox TV show. To which Davis replied: “Yes sir.”

Well aside from the volumes this incident says about Hannity’s character, the incident speaks volumes about the core nature of liberalism itself and its dependence on both the sheerest, most blatant thuggery combined with a thick veneer of out-and-out racism. Which in turn goes directly to Tyrrell’s point that in reality Obama himself is turning out to be the pallbearer for a philosophy that is in fact unsustainable.

From one end of America to the other, some 16 million Americans are estimated to be losing their health insurance policies because of Obamacare. The Weekly Standard’s John McCormack leads us to health care expert Bob Laszewski, who writes:

The U.S. individual health insurance market currently totals about 19 million people. Because the Obama administration's regulations on grandfathering existing plans were so stringent as many as 16 million are not grandfathered and must comply with Obamacare at their next renewal. The rules are very complex. For example, if you had an individual plan in March of 2010 when the law was passed and you only increased the deductible from $1,000 to $1,500 in the years since, your plan has lost its grandfather status and it will no longer be available to you when it would have renewed in 2014. 

Over at Kaiser Health News the reporting says:

Health plans are sending hundreds of thousands of cancellation letters to people who buy their own coverage, frustrating some consumers who want to keep what they have and forcing others to buy more costly policies.

… An estimated 14 million people purchase their own coverage because they don’t get it through their jobs. Calls to insurers in several states showed that many have sent notices.

Florida Blue, for example, is terminating about 300,000 policies, about 80 percent of its individual policies in the state. Kaiser Permanente in California has sent notices to 160,000 people -- about half of its individual business in the state. Insurer Highmark in Pittsburgh is dropping about 20 percent of its individual market customers, while Independence Blue Cross, the major insurer in Philadelphia, is dropping about 45 percent.

In Laszewski’s words? “This is a fine mess.”

Indeed.

Which brings us back to Bob Tyrrell and his sharp-eyed analysis on The Death of Liberalism. Tyrrell cites a figure offered up by Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute in Brooks’ own book The Battle, Tyrrell saying:

Conservatism has steadily spread throughout the Republic since its larval days in the 1950’s, and Liberalism has declined to its present need for a proper burial.

The reason is that the vast majority of Americans favor free enterprise and personal liberty. Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute, in his book, The Battle, offers a figure that roughly approximates other studies:70 percent of Americans who favor free enterprise and personal liberty versus 30 percent of Americans who do not favor such freedom.

Time after time in American history political arguments are made to seem ephemeral -- until, with massive impact, they slam into the body politic with the force of a vast and violent tornado. Debates about slavery were just that for millions of Americans -- until the abrupt arrival of the Civil War. Millions of American families were directly and permanently affected by the sea of clashing blue and gray armies that left behind one battlefield after another strewn with the brutalized dead bodies of over 600,000 husbands, sons and brothers. Likewise the distant voices of Adolf Hitler and Japanese war lords were nothing more than radio rantings and newsreel footage -- until Pearl Harbor and the explosion of World War II. Over 400,000 Americans died on far away beaches, jungles and oceans, changing America and Americans forever.

Political change isn’t always about violence, either. The rise of the automobile and interstate highways, cable TV, talk radio and the computer, to name but four, brought sweeping change to America and its political habits. And in each instance they have in their own way, as Tyrrell notes, steadily spread conservatism throughout the Republic.

Now comes the utter disaster that is Obamacare. What once was a political debate mostly attracting the attention of activists is now slamming into the everyday lives of millions, as both Kaiser and Laszewski have documented. As with the Civil War or World War II and the other agents of change, Obamacare is having a political impact -- and a big one.

The other day, the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel in a must-read column titled “Democrats Run for ObamaCare Cover” wrote:

Jeanne Shaheen doesn't sound like a Democrat who just won a government-shutdown "victory." Ms. Shaheen sounds like a Democrat who thinks she's going to lose her job.

The New Hampshire senator fundamentally altered the health-care fight on Tuesday with a letter to the White House demanding it both extend the ObamaCare enrollment deadline and waive tax penalties for those unable to enroll. Within nanoseconds, Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor had endorsed her "common-sense idea." By Wednesday night, five Senate Democrats were on board, pushing for… what's that dirty GOP word? Oh, right. "Delay."

After 16 long days of vowing to Republicans that they would not cave in any way, shape or form on ObamaCare, Democrats spent their first post-shutdown week caving in every way, shape and form. With the GOP's antics now over, the only story now is the unrivaled disaster that is the president's health-care law.

Strassel went on to note the problem causing this wave of panic among Democrats:

Hundreds of thousands of health-insurance policies canceled. Companies dumping coverage and cutting employees' hours. Premiums skyrocketing. And a website that reprises the experience of a Commodore 64. As recently as May, Democratic consultants were advising members of Congress that their best ObamaCare strategy for 2014 was to “own” the law. Ms. Shaheen has now publicly advised the consultants where they can file that memo.

What Strassel is describing here is the real world political effect of what Tyrrell described as (bold print for emphasis added):

Liberalism’s distinctive trait: overreach. At times Liberals promise too much. At times they attempt too much. Occasionally they actually achieve too much, leaving many Americans fearing for their liberties and the contents of their wallets.

The Obamacare overreach is nothing if not a story of lost liberty (promises you can keep your doctor are up in smoke) and the contents of American wallets are being emptied to pay for skyrocketing premiums.

The Civil War produced an unbroken string of Republican presidents, broken only twice -- in 1884 and 1892 -- by the election and non-consecutive re-election of Democrat Grover Cleveland. Not until 1912 was another Democrat allowed inside the White House as occupant -- the war producing 44 years’ worth of GOP presidents. World War II steamrollered considerable pre-war isolationist sentiments, with every Democrat and Republican presidential candidate from 1944 on until Democrat George McGovern’s anti-Vietnam War candidacy in 1972 producing internationalist candidates on both sides.

The automobile mass production of Henry Ford combined with the later interstate highway system of Dwight Eisenhower to speed up the move of millions into what we now call the suburbs -- and giving conservative candidates a boost as the American population shifted from the urban Northeast to the South and West, producing the presidencies of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and both Bushes. Cable TV birthed Fox News, which, combined with the advent of talk radio, broke the Left’s media monopoly. And, of course, the arrival of the Internet has changed everything in terms of how politics is discussed and money raised for candidates both Left and Right.

Obamacare is hitting the American Left with another body blow. To some this is doubtless ironic, not unlike Frankenstein turning on his creator. Yet the real question is simple: how else could Obamacare possibly have turned out?

There is no accident that Mark Levin’s books Liberty and Tyranny, Ameritopia,  and the recently released Liberty Amendments have not only soared to the top of bestseller lists but made a major impact across the country with the Tea Party and well beyond into the halls of Congress and state legislatures. These books are the tip of the intellectual spear that are providing the grounding for the rising tide against not simply Obamacare but the larger move to reject the nation’s founding principles of liberty and freedom in a last desperate drive to socialize America, to make statism the real American religion.

In his book, Tyrrell cited this from Victor Davis Hanson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution who was writing in National Review Online on July 4, 2011: 

Here in the United States, we await the imposition of ObamaCare, despite the fact that the public does not want it, the nation cannot afford it, politicians regret it, and companies seek exemption from it. Our current pace of $1.6 trillion annual deficits, for all the talk of Keynesian gymnastics, is unsustainable -- and even acknowledged as such by those who are most responsible for the latest round of fiscal irresponsibility. As we near fifty million Americans on food stamps, another year of 9-plus percent unemployment , and the third $1 trillion-plus budget deficit, even statists are beginning to see that statism does not work.

Tyrrell thought that last line was a bit over the top, yet two years later the sight of frantic Democrats running to keep from being run over by Obamacare as Strassel and others have noted is nothing if not a confirmation of both Tyrrell and Hanson. In fact, Hanson’s mention of “9-plus percent unemployment” understates. While the unemployment rate is technically listed at 7.2%, in fact, as is noted in Forbes back in July:

But the “official” unemployment rate doesn’t count men and women like G. — discouraged workers who have settled for part-time jobs or have given up looking altogether. Tracking those individuals, under what’s called the “U-6″ rate, gives a very different measure of the nation’s unemployment rate: 14.3%.

There are political consequences for things like this. The mistake too many people make is that in seeing no political consequences pop immediately in this or that election, they ignore the looming disaster that -- whether it takes years or decades to appear -- eventually and inevitably does hit. Debates over slavery had been ongoing since the Constitution was approved in 1787 -- a full 74 years passing before the Civil War erupted at Ft. Sumter in April of 1861. A full two decades -- plus had passed between the end of World War I and the attack on Pearl Harbor. These changes do not occur overnight. But when they arrive, they can change the country so thoroughly Americans find themselves looking backwards in wonder at a country they once knew well and no longer exists.

Tyrrell runs the list of progressive entitlement programs and their mind-bending costs speeding the country to bankruptcy. Medicare, estimated at its start to cost “no more than $12 billion by 1990” -- and in fact cost $110 billion. Medicaid -- $4 billion in 1966, $41 billion in 1986, $423 billion in 2010. All of this before one counts entitlements like public housing, food stamps, day care, home-heating assistance, sex therapy, and more -- all unfunded.”

Collectively, this has left the United States with a $17 trillion debt and almost $90 trillion in unfunded liabilities.

An entitlement disaster looms, in the words of Harvard’s Niall Ferguson in the Wall Street Journal -- and Mr. Ferguson is right.

Which brings us back to Bob Tyrrell and the Death of Liberalism.

It may have taken eight decades, but the self-destructiveness of what Tyrrell called a “strange and meretricious ideology” that was once quaintly labeled as “tax and spend” liberalism is finally overtaking its obsessive utopian addicts. “The nation has arrived at a great reckoning,” he wrote.

The tidal wave approaches, with Obamacare the leading edge of the wave.

And when it crashes, it will swamp American liberalism, with major political consequences.

Of which the Death of Liberalism will almost certainly be one.

Photo: UPI

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.