Here in Florida every popular joke seems to involve a doctor. The latest one is about Sam, the freshly insured Obamacare patient who goes to see the new doctor assigned by his plan. The medic checks him top to bottom and then steps out for a moment. He comes back in with the blood-pressure cuff, saying: “The only thing I need to recheck is your pressure which read dangerously low the first time.”
While fastening the cuff, the doctor tells Sam that because of his new policy there would be a higher co-payment, 200 dollars. The mechanism now adjusted, the doctor takes Sam’s blood pressure. Good news! It is no longer low… if anything, a little on the high side…
That about describes my attitude toward the State of the Union message each year. I approach it so bored and jaded that my pulse is barely perceptible. I make sure to be busy with four other things, so I don’t have to listen with more than a fifth of an ear. Unless the President announces plans to nuke Moscow tomorrow, I figure I can count on the same old same old. In fact, if anyone around me will sit still long enough, I generally treat them to a lecture about how we need to amend that annual farce right out of the Constitution. It states nothing and it does not unify.
More specifically, it neither educates nor edifies nor informs nor inspires nor enlightens nor ennobles nor encourages nor enthuses nor energizes. More like enervates. So why bother with the whole rigged rigmarole?
There, I feel much better now.
BUT MY YOUNGEST SON, Abraham, he of the 11 tender years and the innocent heart, was actually paying attention this time around. At the end he turned to me and asked: “Dad, is it true there are eight and a half million new jobs over the last few years?”
My first instinct was to avoid confronting the President’s absurd claim. I could say something vague along these lines: “Well, I have not really examined the official statistics. Sometimes these numbers can be unclear. I need a trained economist to give me an exact analysis before I can comment one way or the other.”
That was the kind of thing I heard from the adults around me growing up and even if they knew the President had a weak case, they always gave the benefit of the doubt to the big man in the Oval Office. They figured it was more important to inculcate into a child the right sense of awe. The dignity of the Presidency was the medium and the message, while the details of this or that policy were here today and gone tomorrow. Perhaps I should act the same way, sparing my son the spectacle of the sartorially challenged emperor.
I could not do it anymore. I immediately told him that the jobs lost, the citizens dropping out of the workplace, the people bumped down from full-time to part-time, the swelling ranks of those granted “disability” and food stamps, all these dwarfed whatever flimsy job gains Obama can legitimately cite. And of those jobs really added, all too many were cushy government work at redundant agencies listlessly managing bloated giveaway programs or bloodthirstily squeezing the entrepreneurial private companies they regulate.
The despair that drove me to “lay this whole heavy scene” on the sweet little guy was spawned not by the particular lies but by the culture of falsehood. Years ago I naively believed that modernity would be the death of the lie in this world. With television cameras everywhere, with computers calculating nonstop, with instant communication over the Internet, the one thing we could easily establish would be the clinical fact, the critical detail, the clerical number.
Once we would be free of the burden of serving as triers of fact, we could save our discernment skills for the forensics of analysis. We could make informed judgments and the world would perforce be a better place, transgression transplanted by transparency. This was the vision, not so very long ago.
Now I am forced to tell my son he still has to live up to his namesake and fight his way through the thicket of chicanery and the petty fog of pettifoggery. It is a sad picture I have to paint for him, that in the highest office of the most powerful land in the most prosperous era of history there are a group of men and women sitting around in what amounts to a sales conference. They decide what they can sell us and that is what they tell us.
Is there hope for the young? Will they ever get to know what truth really looks like, up close and personal? My mind is churning, my blood is racing; there, Obamacare cured my low blood pressure.