Barack Obama

Just Say No to Big Government

It's OK to oppose government policies without offering an alternative.

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One of President Obama's favorite rhetorical tricks is to insist that his opponents cannot just say no. If they dislike his proposal regarding X, he often says, then they have an obligation to submit their own.

"Tell me how we get to yes," the president said the other day in Idaho. "It is perfectly fair for them to say 'we have a better way to meet these national priorities.' But if they do, they have to show what those ideas are."

This makes the president sound as though he is perfectly willing to compromise, and would work hand-in-hand with Republicans if only they would quit acting like such dogs in the manger. It's a neat trick — but that's all. And when he uses it, Obama is about as sincere as a televangelist.

For one thing, the rhetorical device implies that Obama and Congress share the same priorities. When he couches them in sufficiently general terms — e.g., "helping the middle class" — that might be true. But government doesn't work at such a sweeping level of generality. And as soon as you get any more specific, priorities begin to diverge.

Obama would like to help the middle class receive more government benefits. Congressional Republicans would like to help the middle class keep more of its hard-earned money. Washington can't do both.

Second, exhorting Republicans to propose their own ideas implies, misleadingly, that Obama might actually go along with them. Doubtful.

"I want to hear specifically from them how they intend to help kids pay for college," Obama said in Idaho. OK — suppose Republicans propose that, rather than further inflate college costs with yet more tuition subsidies, Washington drive down college prices by (1) slashing student aid, (2) mandating that colleges charge tuition by the credit hour, and (3) canceling any programs that cannot pay for themselves on that basis. Would Obama go along with such a market-oriented approach, or would he just say no?

The president certainly didn't mind delivering a flat no to the GOP about a bill restricting abortion. Before Republicans spiked it for their own reasons, Obama threatened to veto the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would have banned elective abortions after five months of pregnancy. Almost two-thirds of the public, including 59 percent of women, support such a measure. Yet the White House says the administration "strongly opposes" it, because it would "unacceptably restrict women's health and reproductive rights." Women, the White House says, "should be able to make their own choices about their bodies and their health care."

But if the president doesn't like the Republicans' plans to restrict abortion, then by his own reasoning he "should put forward some alternative proposals." The White House claims the administration will keep trying to "minimize the need for abortion," but that's different. How, specifically, does Obama propose to stop those abortions some pregnant women consider necessary?

He doesn't. Nor should he. Since he does not share the objective, he need not suggest alternative ways to achieve it.

The president also felt no obligation to propose alternative ways to move oil from Canadian tar sands when he threatened to veto a bill authorizing the Keystone XL pipeline — because he thinks oil from Canadian tar sands should be left in the ground. Does that make him an obstructionist naysayer, or a principled defender of the environment? And are those two mutually exclusive?

Sometimes the president and Congress do agree on the objective despite disagreeing over tactics. Nobody in Washington wants Iran to build a nuclear arsenal, for instance. To prevent that from happening, Republicans want to impose new sanctions. The White House threatens to veto any such measure because the president prefers the diplomatic approach. The two sides differ over the means, but not the ends.

Yet often political disagreements concern both means and ends. E.g., most people who object to a giant fence on the Mexican border don't do so because they have a better idea for how to keep foreigners out. They do so because they want to let foreigners in. Those who object to higher inheritance taxes don't think there's a better way to "spread the wealth around," as Obama once put it — they think government shouldn't do that in the first place.

Everyone can agree if you're willing to get vague enough: We all want things to be better rather than worse. The trouble starts because people have very different ideas about what, in practice, those terms mean.

 

 

 

A. Barton Hinkle
Editorial Department

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  1. If big government isn’t the solution, then what is? Be specific! I want to know who will be centrally planning the solution! What? You say central planning isn’t the solution? Well then what is? Be specific! I want names! What? Emergent order? Who the heck is that? You say central planning isn’t the solution, well then what is your centrally planned solution? What? You say force isn’t the solution? Well then, who is going to force the solution onto everyone? Be specific!

    1. Here’s the funny thing about freedom, you can’t predict the results. You can’t know the future. You can only make decisions based on logic and morality. Freedom is preferable to being violently controlled and taxed by governments. The abolition of government is the specific solution you seek.

  2. If I am made to walk the plank by a pirate, it is vain for me to offer, as a common-sense compromise, to walk along the plank for a reasonable distance.

    G.K. Chesterton

  3. I did say no. They won’t listen.

  4. If they dislike his proposal regarding X, he often says, then they have an obligation to submit their own.

    No.

    1. Not that this is generally true of Republicans, but at least in some areas, their answer is that the government shouldn’t be involved or as involved as it is. Because Obama sees everything as being about and for the benefit of the state, saying “Let the people manage this” is heard by him as “We have no solution.”

      What’s particularly pathetic is that the government fucks up almost everything it touches, especially in the marketplace. How many gigantic bubbles do we need the government to create before that’s generally acknowledged? Heck,they’re doing it again with housing. Holy shit!

      1. “Let the people manage this” is heard by him as “We have no solution.”

        Well said.

        1. Even that answer is flawed, as the best answer is, “That’s the people’s business. We don’t have the power to intervene.”

          1. “Ah, but we *do* have the power to *not* intervene! *** winkwinknudgenudge ***”

      2. “How many gigantic bubbles do we need the government to create before that’s generally acknowledged?”

        As many as it takes to bring everything toppling down. At least for starters..

  5. Romney would agree. “Repeal and Replace!”

  6. “It is perfectly fair for them to say ‘we have a better way to meet these national priorities.’ But if they do, they have to show what those ideas are.”

    Fuck You, Cut Spending. Satisfied?

    1. It is perfectly fair for them to say ‘we have a better way to meet these national priorities.

      Leave people alone. If it truly is a national priority, it will get taken care of. If people, acting of their own free will and using their own judgment, don’t get it done, then apparently it really wasn’t a priority.

  7. We all want things to be better rather than worse.

    Yeah, I’m not completely convinced this is true. I know it’s cliche but some people really do just want to watch the world burn.

  8. I had a history class on Roosevelt and the Depression in college. When the Prof talked about how FDR tried everything – I chimed in that he never tried cutting spending and taxes. Blank stares ensued.

    1. But, but, but wealth destruction makes us wealthier!

    2. When Roosevelt told Morgenthau he was thinking of raising the price of gold by 21 cents, his entourage asked him why. “It’s a lucky number”, Roosevelt said. “Because it’s three times seven.” As Morgenthau later wrote, “If anybody knew how we really set the gold price through a combination of lucky numbers, etc., I think they would be frightened.”

      The genius technocracy, hard at work.

      1. Morgenthau was the one who admitted that the New Deal was a failure in 1939.

        He said something to the effect of “We have spent all this money and it does not work”.

        The usual reaction I get when pointing this out to some leftist is a flat out denial that he ever said any such thing.

        1. So we entered WWII completely broke.

  9. Tell me how we get to yes,” the president said the other day in Idaho.

    “Mr. President, all you have to do is agree with me. There you go: Yes.”

    1. What’s funny is that line is a total used car salesman kind of statement. We can’t get to yes, because your question insists on a no.

      If Obama is the used car salesman, who is the repo man?

      1. *meekly raises hand*

        Is it Jesus?

        1. Well, Jesus’ life was intense, which qualifies him in that regard.

        2. No, it’s Hitler. The answer is always Hitler.

          1. What? Hitler knows nothing about the fine art of car repossession. There is no historical record of him ever engaging in the profession.

            1. It was hard to tell your beetle from anyone elses, so repo got to be a confusing occupation, and boring.

  10. All of Obama’s rhetorical tricks are designed to do one thing: fool everyone possible, especially his base, into thinking he isn’t a moronic malignant narcissist who cares about nothing but himself and his own self-aggrandizement. That’s it. There’s nothing else going on here.

    1. You know, if there’s any justice in the world, I hope he is (1) forced to resign from office for one or more of his illegal and unethical acts, and (2) turns to running a chain a strip clubs across America called Mandate.

      1. Sorry, but any chain called ManDate is going to have to be gay bars.

        1. Oh, I didn’t mention that it was a transsexual chain?

          1. Transsexual daisy chain?

  11. Unless it’s a government big enough to force you to vaccinate all your children, amiright?!

    (BTW- all my children are vaccinated because I’m not retarded.)

    Sorry, I crossed streams…

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  13. Women, the White House says, “should be able to make their own choices about their bodies and their health care.”

    That’s funny because the White House doesn’t believe any such thing. That would imply that they understand the principle of self-ownership, something they categorically and angrily reject.

    1. Self-ownership, to progressives, is a weird amalgamation of subservience to the state and disassociation of action from consequences.

    2. Women, the White House says, “should be able to make their own choices about their bodies and their health care.”

      If they meant that, we would be looking at an unprecedented wave of deregulation.

      Because its flat-out illegal to make many choices about your body and your healthcare.

      1. They left out the part about it only being the ‘choices that we’ve decided are ok’. IOW, you can do anything you like so long as we approve.

    3. Abortion is the only subject that liberals believe “choice” applies to.

      Every other aspect of existence is within the realm of government to dictate.

      1. Well, they’re wrong about that also. When the progressive utopia finally arrives, the government will decide the whether, who, and when of abortion along with all other decisions.

        1. Indeed. One thing I remember from reading a social history of life behind the Iron Curtain (IIRC it was Anne Applebaum’s book on the subject) is that, not surprisingly, many artists in Eastern Europe were leftists who supported the Communist takeover. They expected that the new regime would support their artistic freedom. Oops, no such luck. The Communists imposed very strict guidelines on the arts (e.g. requiring paintings to be in the style of Socialist Realism) and enforced the guidelines harshly.

          I think that many of today’s leftists will experience a similar wakeup call.

      2. What’s funniest is the way they try not to even use the word “abortion”, and instead act like the word “choice” or “choose” means that.

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  15. Dickface says this with one breath, and then with the next breath goes on and on about how he’s going to veto every bill that comes out of this Congress.

    How is he able to away with such brazen lying? Oh right, the scum in the media worship him, that’s how.

  16. “Obama would like to help the middle class receive more government benefits. Congressional Republicans would like to help the middle class keep more of its hard-earned money.”

    If you think either really care, you’re delusional.

    That said, I don’t see the point. Obama argues that we shouldn’t tear up vast wetlands and risk aquifers that give us drinking water for oil tycoons from Canada. That’s not an agreement to begin with- he sees no issue with them continuing to just supply the US as is.

    On the other hand, everyone agrees that healthcare is a mess. If you think Obamacare is bad, then suggest an alternative.

    I don’t think either side is worth much of anything but honestly, it’s mostly politics. To suggest he plays one end and the other doesn’t is just false.

    1. Obama argues that we shouldn’t tear up vast wetlands and risk aquifers that give us drinking water for oil tycoons from Canada.

      Uh-huh.

      On the other hand, everyone agrees that healthcare is a mess. If you think Obamacare is bad, then suggest an alternative.

      The “mess” we had before Obamacare was better. No “alternative” needs to be suggested to claim that Obamacare sucks (it objectively does) and then proceed to dismantle it.

  17. “We all want things to be better rather than worse. The trouble starts because people have very different ideas about what, in practice, those terms mean.”

    Said another way: We each develop our own, individual definitions of “happiness,” which the Declaration of Independence acknowledges we have the right to pursue.

    It is widely agreed that our government should act to punish criminal wrongdoers and force both them and unintentional, perhaps merely negligent wrongdoers to make restitution to their victims. If, in such cases, the government constrains the behavior, or takes the property, of the wrongdoer, thwarting that person’s “pursuit of happiness,” we can still accept the remedy as “just,” as long as it is in keeping with the offense or damage.

    On the other hand, our government betrays its founding principles, when it thwarts the pursuit of happiness of those whose actions have not caused damage or harm and are not reasonably likely to do so. If we each have a right to the pursuit of happiness, then, in order to secure that right, the government must necessarily operate on the basis of the presumption of (individual) liberty, guaranteeing to each person the widest possible scope of action and decision in his or her own life, without the need for prior permission or later justification. In areas where people can disagree about what makes them happy or not, our government must back off, or else be seen as antithetical to the people’s pursuit of happiness.

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