Obama: Ideology's Just Another Word for My Opponents' Motivation

Miss the big speech tonight? Congratulations; I don't think it's going to move many people off their posts. My quick take is that President Obama evinces zero understanding of the concept of economic incentives. He can add serious new requirements on insurance companies, force healthy young people to insure themselves, and force companies to pay for the health insurance of their employees, all while claiming, apparently without irony, and definitely without accuracy, that his "guiding principle is, and always has been, that consumers do better when there is choice and competition." He also thinks that he can once again get away with claiming that "I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits – either now or in the future. Period." We've heard that one before, ya know....

For my money the crucial section, containing both the president's tantalizing oratorical promise and the seeds of his fundamental con, came after he dramatically read a letter from the late Ted Kennedy:

I've thought about that phrase quite a bit in recent days – "the character of our country." One of the unique and wonderful things about America has always been our self-reliance, our rugged individualism, our fierce defense of freedom and our healthy skepticism of government. And figuring out the appropriate size and role of government has always been a source of rigorous and sometimes angry debate. 

For some of Ted Kennedy's critics, his brand of liberalism represented an affront to American liberty.  In their mind, his passion for universal health care was nothing more than a passion for big government.

But those of us who knew Teddy and worked with him here – people of both parties – know that what drove him was something more. His friend, Orrin Hatch, knows that. They worked together to provide children with health insurance.  His friend John McCain knows that. They worked together on a Patient's Bill of Rights.  His friend Chuck Grassley knows that. They worked together to provide health care to children with disabilities.

On issues like these, Ted Kennedy's passion was born not of some rigid ideology, but of his own experience.  It was the experience of having two children stricken with cancer.  He never forgot the sheer terror and helplessness that any parent feels when a child is badly sick; and he was able to imagine what it must be like for those without insurance; what it would be like to have to say to a wife or a child or an aging parent – there is something that could make you better, but I just can't afford it.

That large-heartedness – that concern and regard for the plight of others – is not a partisan feeling.  It is not a Republican or a Democratic feeling.  It, too, is part of the American character.  Our ability to stand in other people's shoes.  A recognition that we are all in this together; that when fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand.

A belief that in this country, hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play; and an acknowledgement that sometimes government has to step in to help deliver on that promise.

This has always been the history of our progress.  In 1933, when over half of our seniors could not support themselves and millions had seen their savings wiped away, there were those who argued that Social Security would lead to socialism. But the men and women of Congress stood fast, and we are all the better for it.

In 1965, when some argued that Medicare represented a government takeover of health care, members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, did not back down.  They joined together so that all of us could enter our golden years with some basic peace of mind.

You see, our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem.  They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom.

But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, and the vulnerable can be exploited.

And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter – that at that point we don't merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges.  We lose something essential about ourselves.

Other reactions?


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  • ||

    "Some people say that Ted Kennedy's polices were the road to Hell. But let me remind you, he always had Good Intentions."

  • Jordan||

    In 1965, when some argued that Medicare represented a government takeover of health care, members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, did not back down.



    Now please shut up and allow me to expand Medicare to the entire health care sector.

  • Hugh Akston||

    John Thacker wins it in one.

  • ||

    In 1965, when some argued that Medicare represented a government takeover of health care, members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, did not back down.

    They just lied about the cost to get it passed.

  • ||

    He completely lied about the costs. He dodged the CBO again.

  • ||

    My immediate facebookery reaction:

    How do you calculate a premium if the gubmint mandates a maximum out of pocket and unlimited coverage for everybody in all categories of health? Also, the cost analysis stinks to high heaven. When they say 900 billion will come out of reform efficien...cies, ask yourself how many times that has ever happened before. And OMG he invoked a ghost letter from Ted Kennedy! Maybe Mary Jo Kopechne needed better insurance?

  • MJ||

    That's some fine whining by Obama.

    Don't mention that MediCare is becoming hideously expensive and still not paying the full cost of the heath care it provides. Don't mention that Social Security is on the edge of being undone by the unworkable demographics of 21st century America. To the extent those programs have "worked" it's been by brute force, but the economy is rapidly becoming a world of cardboard and such policies will do more damage.

  • Wicks Cherrycoke||

    "Obama said the changes he wants would cost about $900 billion over decade, "less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans" passed during the Bush administration."

    Since when does a tax cut count as an expenditure?

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "Obama said the changes he wants would cost about $900 billion over decade"

    And of course that is a lie to begin with.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "That large-heartedness - that concern and regard for the plight of others - is not a partisan feeling."

    Yes old Teddy magnanimously volunteered everybody else's money for everything.

    Of course that "large-heartedness" never seemed to include giving up the trust fund he was living off of for any of his pet causes.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "For some of Ted Kennedy's critics, his brand of liberalism represented an affront to American liberty. In their mind, his passion for universal health care was nothing more than a passion for big government."

    And those people were 100% correct.

  • ||

    You see, our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem. They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom.

    Yeah, the phrasing makes pretty clear that he considers roughly 95% govt / 5% private sector to be about the optimal ratio. The domain of the private sector is to be only "instances" rather than the lion's share of the economy.

  • ||

    without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, and the vulnerable can be exploited.

    I think he means "leveling", but that still doesn't make any sense. Word calibrator needed in Aisle 16!

  • pmains||

    I think he means "leveling", but that still doesn't make any sense. Word calibrator needed in Aisle 16!

    I think Nick Gillespie nailed it when he said that Obama is a mellifluous speaker. He just doesn't necessarily know what he's reading. I'm Ron Burgundy?

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  • Ben P.||

    Actually, 'leaven' can be used metaphorically to mean 'lighten'. I think the President was trying to say that the Invisible Hand can often come down heavily, and given the language in that sentence which seems to be all about how without it, things can be crushed and stifled -- these are things we associate with clumsy, ponderous, weight that would be well-served by a little bit of metaphorical leavening.

    But for what it's worth, I had to think about that for a bit.

  • Joe M||

    I think he means "leveling", but that still doesn't make any sense. Word calibrator needed in Aisle 16!

    I think Nick Gillespie nailed it when he said that Obama is a mellifluous speaker. He just doesn't necessarily know what he's reading. I'm Ron Burgundy?



    That's exactly how I felt, especially when he said, "Go fuck yourself, America."

  • Justin||

    I was surprised he touched tort reform.

  • ||

    "Obama: Ideology's Just Another Word for My Opponents' Motivation
    Posted on September 9, 2009, 9:47pm | Matt Welch

    Miss the big speech tonight? Congratulations; I don't think it's going to move many people off their posts. My quick take is that President Obama evinces zero understanding of the concept of economic incentives. He can add serious new requirements on insurance companies, force healthy young people to insure themselves, and force companies to pay for the health insurance of their employees, all while claiming, apparently without irony, and definitely without accuracy, that his "guiding principle is, and always has been, that consumers do better when there is choice and competition." He also thinks that he can once again get away with claiming that "I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits - either now or in the future. Period." We've heard that one before, ya know...."

    Didn't he garner your vote?

  • MJ||

    "Since when does a tax cut count as an expenditure?"

    Since about 30 years ago. Remember to the Dems way of thinking every dollar of GDP belongs to the federal government, that you are allowed to keep any of your income is only through the government's wise and generous benevolence.

  • Jim Treacher||

    Ted Kennedy gave about 1% of his income to charity each year. His large-heartedness was a side effect of all that Chivas.

  • ||

    ...without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, and the vulnerable can be exploited.

    With the leavening hand of government policy we get bubbles - see the recent one created by the Federal Reserve - we also get monopolies as companies game the system in their favor and the vulnerable are exploited by the state (e.g., the drug war).

  • Matt Welch||

    Didn't he garner your vote?

    No.

  • Ben P.||

    "With the leavening hand of government policy we get bubbles - see the recent one created by the Federal Reserve - we also get monopolies as companies game the system in their favor and the vulnerable are exploited by the state (e.g., the drug war)."

    Seward, I don't disagree. I perhaps should have included a disclaimer in that earlier post noting that I don't agree with Mr. Obama on this one, I just understand the reason for the metaphor. My bad.

  • ed||

    the leavening hand of wise policy

    Let's see...we have a wise Latina in the highest court, a wise black man in the highest office...but aren't there supposed to be three? Who is the missing link?

  • ||

    ME NOT MISSING LINK!!

  • Tony||

    Since when does a tax cut count as an expenditure?



    When there isn't an equal reduction in spending. Face it, that was a pretty good line. $1.3 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthy and what good did it do? The country lost $13 trillion in the housing crash alone. Add the cost of the wars and all of a sudden the healthcare bill sounds cheap. I guess massive amounts of money being spent is only good when it's not for anything useful?

  • ||

    When there isn't an equal reduction in spending.

    So, Tony, if you take a new job that pays $1,000 less than your old one, does that mean you are spending $1,000?

  • Tony||

    R C Dean,

    No, I'm saying that bitching about a $900 billion health care plan whose goal is to save future money and being just fine with a $1.3 trillion tax break that wasn't matched by spending reductions and a $1 trillion war that shouldn't ever have been found makes you a hypocrite and an ideologue.

  • Tony||

    *fought

  • ||

    No, I'm saying that bitching about a $900 billion health care plan whose goal is to save future money and being just fine with a $1.3 trillion tax break that wasn't matched by spending reductions and a $1 trillion war that shouldn't ever have been found makes you a hypocrite and an ideologue.



    And bitching about the $1.3 trillion tax break and the $1 trillion war but not bitching about the increased agricultural subsidies, ethanol subsidies, TARP, auto bailout, SCHIP and everything else Obama voted for during GWB's presidency makes Obama a hypocrite and an ideologue, right? And for that matter, pitching the $900 billion (but $200 billion per year in year 10, since the spending starts in year 4 or 5 and ramps up) health care plan after complaining about the debt before makes Obama a hypocrite and an ideologue, right Tony?

    It just underscores a point. No one actually cares about the deficit. They just care about government spending, and whether it's more or less efficient than what would happen to the money from private investment. Democrats tend to love any government spending, which they think is more efficient that what we stupid citizens would invest in with our own money, except for wars. Republicans tend to think that anything that people would invest their own money in is more efficient, except for wars.

    This thinking by the ideologues is actually better supported by economic research than the green eyeshade deficit thinking. The American government pays an extremely low interest rate on its debt. Therefore, the most efficient use of money (whether you believe it's government spending on ethanol, or libertarians believe it's private investment) is going to earn money faster over the long run than the interest the US pays over the debt. Thus, no problem; the American people will grow wealthier faster than the debt will pile up. The only problem is when government (or, as a liberal, private people) make mistakes and do something inefficient with the money.

    That's why "a $1.3 trillion tax break that wasn't matched by spending reductions" is entirely different from "a $1 trillion war that shouldn't ever have been found[sic]" as a criticism. Something that shouldn't ever have been done is definitely a bad use of money, but you haven't even asserted that tax break was inefficient.

    Yes, eventually there's a problem if the debt to GDP ratio grows so large that the US government interest rate increases dramatically, and we lose our Aaa bond rating. That hasn't happened yet, though; our interest payments have even gone down. However, if you're just worried about the debt and interest rates, it's much worse, from that perspective, to propose a $900 billion program when the debt load as a percentage of GDP is much higher, like it is now, than to propose a $1.3 trillion tax cut when the debt load is much lower. We can afford it in the latter case, but not as much in the former. So again, Obama is a hypocrite and an ideologue, according to Tony's own logic.

  • ||

    $900B is a joke. It'll be much, much higher. As is "not a dime of new spending." Obama just ignores the CBO telling him it will in fact require this as if not believing it makes it not real.

    And forget his "spending cuts" trigger, cause wouldn't you know, they aren't automatic, they rest with the president. And, oh yeah, Obama won't be around by then.

    Listen, do whatever plan you think is best, I can respect differing opinions about what the "proper course" is. I might not agree, but I can respect it. But at least don't lie to me. This blatant lying and double talk is what really pisses me off becuase it assumes, as some on this board demonstrate, that we are all half-witted idiots.

    The look on Rep. Ryan's face at Obama's deficiet comment was priceless.

    Oh, and need I remind everyone, Obama promised us a 'net spending cut.'

    I'm still waiting.

  • ||

    I'm still waiting for them to propose the constitutional amendment that gives congress the power to provide, mandate, or regulate health insurance and/or health care services.

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  • jersey||

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