There is an old Jewish joke about the thief who was a long-time member of the congregation. Once Sabbath, after the sermon, this fellow approaches the rabbi and tells him excitedly: "Rabbi, I love your sermons. In fact, I have all your books and all your tapes. I enjoy them thoroughly."
The rabbi humbly acknowledges the praise and is about to walk away when the fellow adds an afterthought.
"All your silver, too."
Something like this applies to the current administration, which admires us and helps us to the point where we are almost flat broke. Much more of this adulation will leave us with nothing but our pedestal. Along with the cash we seem to be losing plenty of other valuable resources: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Another way to put it is the current crop of Democrats will neither allow us to pursue happiness nor to escape from it.
There is a rule by which to judge the long-term impact of bad periods of governmental leadership at any level. It is this: are they merely pouring junk into the vessels or are they damaging the vessels themselves? If the basic institutions built for our protection endure, we can survive episodes of mismanagement. We have tolerated excessive taxes in this country, over ninety percent of the highest incomes at one point, we have seen concerns of environment and species preservation used as bludgeons against private enterprise, we have watched as nuclear power was demonized by rank superstition, but we have emerged largely intact because our constitutional pillars firm up the superstructure. When the checks and balances themselves are cashed and embezzled, then we are in real trouble, bereft of our protective systems.
Now the Obama administration and its defenders have targeted a key bulwark of democratic society, an indispensable prerequisite for debates of policy and politics at any level. Namely, logic. It seems clear that there is a revolution against the inflexible bonds of logic. An effort is being made to convince us that logic is an illusion of sorts and a superior intellect will identify counterintuitive conclusions.
The most prominent example has been the health-care debate. How do we stop higher costs? Simple, by insuring more people. How do we get better care? Simple, by insuring more people. How do we prevent the system from overloading by having too much responsibility? Simple, by insuring more people. But isn't adding people a way of adding cost? No, because we assume the people we add are those who will pay more than they need. But doesn't a bigger system make delivery of care suffer? Not if some central authority determines access. But isn't this gargantuan setup going to be unwieldy and likely to collapse? No, size is less of an impediment to order than the chaos inherent in allowing individuals to determine their own fates.
No business that had to report to stockholders and no employee who had to report to bosses would be allowed to proceed on such premises in matters affecting thousands of dollars. Yet nationally we are being guided by such assumptions in structuring the lives of 300 million people and the expenditure of many trillions.
But to me some of the smaller applications of patent illogic are more telling. The big issues are easier to shroud in wooly fluff; the distortions in simple realms are more obvious. A classic scenario emerged the other day. It seems that immediately upon the passing of the health-care bill, clinics and hospitals began to be overrun by patients expecting free services. None of these citizens across the country were aware that the entitlements established by the bill do not appear until 2014.
So whose fault is this ignorance? Obviously the bill's backers who oversold it to naïve people, promising pie in the sky; right? Wrong, conclude the pundits. It is the fault of those who opposed the bill too hysterically, comparing it to socialism: this led the poor folks into thinking it really was socialism and they lined up to cash in. HUH?
A few weeks before that we had the survey by Public Policy Polling showing Fox News was the most trusted outlet in media. Obviously people believe other networks to be skewed to the left and Fox News to be fair and balanced as per their slogan? Wrong, concludes the president of the polling outfit: "A generation ago you would have expected Americans to place their trust in the most neutral and unbiased conveyors of news. But the media landscape has really changed, and now they're turning more to the outlets that tell them what they want to hear?" Get it? They explain Fox is most trusted because it is least trustworthy.
We still have freedom of speech, I think, but how much good can be done with speaking when it is not founded on thinking?