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The Difference Between Change and Reform Obama and the Liberal Freeloader Culture

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Who Is The Smartest of Them All?

by Christopher Chantrill
March 06, 2009 at 11:27 am

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YOU ALL remember the old German folk tale of Snow White and the Seven Conservatives. Every morning the liberal policy wonk gets up and looks at The New York Times online.

Mirror, Mirror on the wall;
Who is the smartest of them all?

And The New York Times always responds in the same way.

You, my wonk, are smartest of all.

Sometimes our liberal friend can’t get enough of these comfortable words and turns to the op-ed section.

Mirror, mirror on the wall;
Who is the dumbest of them all?

And The New York Times columnists always respond:

Bush is the dumbest of them all;
Reagan is the amiable dunce of them all;
Ford the stumble-bum of them all;
Ike the syntax challenged of them all;
Coolidge the weaniest pickle of them all.

Those Republican presidents! They sure can pick ‘em!

One thing you can say about the Obama Budget Overview. (By the way, you can see the headline charts at usgovernmentspending.com.) It is smart. The critical Table S-6 in the summary section is chock full of administrative smartness. Here are the smart initiatives that will tweak the health-care system into shape. The numbers are the annual savings projected by the time things really settle down in FY 2015.

Hospital quality incentive payments.......... $1.5 billion
Medicare Advantage competitive bidding... $21.6 billion
Medicare efficient acute care................. $1.9 billion
Cost-effective Medicaid drug purchase..... $2.0 billion
Improved Medicare home-health payments. $4.1 billion

All these efficiencies will add up to $40 billion a year by 2015. But the real number to look at is the limitation on itemized deductions of rich people. That’s what is going to fund health-care reform from the revenue side, and it comes in at $37 billion a year by 2015.

Actually this is chump change. The real money is in the “tax cuts” to Democratic voters, a total of $94 billion a year by 2015. The biggest item is the Making Work Pay Tax Credit, at $65.1 billion a year by 2015. That’s a $400 tax credit for each worker or $800 per working family, for now. It works out to about $43 billion in tax cuts a year and $22 billion in checks to people that don’t pay income tax.

Don’t be misled though. If you strip away the emergency spending from President Obama’s budget, the scary $1.75 trillion deficit and the $3.9 trillion outlays for FY 2009, then you are left with a new ratchet upwards in the welfare state, and all the smoke and mirrors that it takes for smart people to persuade themselves that the nation can afford it.

If you strip away all the smartness, President Obama’s budget is just returning to the Clinton program of health-care nationalization. He is going to fix the leaks in the creaking health-care distribution network and hope that the increased pressure doesn’t burst the pipes elsewhere.

If you strip away the smartness, President Obama’s budget is merely extending the reach of government education, both in early childhood and in early adulthood. Judging from the tone of his speech last week to the Joint Session of Congress, he’s planning to increase the degree of compulsion.

And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of... community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option.

You can see what comes next. If the youth of America don’t stop dropping out of school, firmness will be required. But given the dismal record of educational compulsion over the last century, it won’t make any difference.

If you strip away the veneer of smartness President Obama’s energy program is a reprise of the 1970s synfuels program. Only now the magic elixir is not synthetic fuels but renewables like solar and wind.

There’s a problem with this cult of smartness. Smartness just isn’t enough. There’s a host of reasons why. There’s Hayek’s rule that the government in Washington just doesn’t have the bandwidth to run health care, education, and energy. There’s the fact that government can only legislate genuine reform in a government program about once in a generation, while the free market is reforming itself every day. There’s the fact that government programs always end up serving producers, not consumers.

Then there is the other little problem with smartness. There comes a day when the mirror on the wall tells you the awful truth. Or maybe it gets bought out by a Mexican telephone monopolist.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall;
Who is the smartest of them all?

We don’t yet know who Snow White is, or the names of the kindly conservative dwarfs that protect her. But we know one thing. She is not just smart. She is wise.

But, Schneewittchen! (That’s German for Snow White.) Don’t go eating any apples, hon.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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Action

The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness... But to make a man act [he must have] the expectation that purposeful behavior has the power to remove or at least to alleviate the felt uneasiness.
Ludwig von Mises, Human Action


Chappies

“But I saw a man yesterday who knows a fellow who had it from a chappie that said that Urquhart had been dipping himself a bit recklessly off the deep end.”  —Freddy Arbuthnot
Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison


China and Christianity

At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity.
David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing


Churches

[In the] higher Christian churches... they saunter through the liturgy like Mohawks along a string of scaffolding who have long since forgotten their danger. If God were to blast such a service to bits, the congregation would be, I believe, genuinely shocked. But in the low churches you expect it every minute.
Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm


Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust


Class War

In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, “The Scientist as Rebel”


Conservatism

Conservatism is the philosophy of society. Its ethic is fraternity and its characteristic is authority — the non-coercive social persuasion which operates in a family or a community. It says ‘we should...’.
Danny Kruger, On Fraternity


Conservatism's Holy Grail

What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph


Conversion

“When we received Christ,” Phil added, “all of a sudden we now had a rule book to go by, and when we had problems the preacher was right there to give us the answers.”
James M. Ault, Jr., Spirit and Flesh


Democratic Capitalism

I mean three systems in one: a predominantly market economy; a polity respectful of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; and a system of cultural institutions moved by ideals of liberty and justice for all. In short, three dynamic and converging systems functioning as one: a democratic polity, an economy based on markets and incentives, and a moral-cultural system which is plural and, in the largest sense, liberal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


Drang nach Osten

There was nothing new about the Frankish drive to the east... [let] us recall that the continuance of their rule depended upon regular, successful, predatory warfare.
Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion


Education

“We have met with families in which for weeks together, not an article of sustenance but potatoes had been used; yet for every child the hard-earned sum was provided to send them to school.”
E. G. West, Education and the State


presented by Christopher Chantrill

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