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The Myth of the Expert Obama and the Upchuck Factor

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Healthcare and the Resourceful Poor

by Christopher Chantrill
August 14, 2009 at 4:32 am


EVIL POLITICAL wizard Karl Rove seems to be tasting blood. His analyzes the president’s stuff for Obamacare in the Wall Street Journal and concludes that the pitcher is in a jam.

There are no polling data or focus groups on earth that can help Mr. Obama out of this jam. He has set in motion events he appears unable to control and commitments he cannot keep.

It can’t be that bad. With his stratospheric intelligence (especially compared to the notoriously deficient President Bush) the president’s supporters can still be confident that he’ll pull a rabbit out of a hat.

The good thing about the Obama administration is that its intelligent blundering will create a new opportunity for practical conservative reform. And since the essence of liberal politics is patronage—of the kind that advanced people considered corrupt a century ago in the heyday of the urban political machine—the essence of conservative politics must be to discredit the crude vote-buying that characterizes liberal politics and that supports liberal power.

But the minute that you propose to touch a penny of the trillions of our money that liberals spend on their patronage state, the cry from the modern Tapers and Tadpoles goes up: You are balancing the budget on the backs of the poor!

Everyone knows that the poor are helpless, and that without government programs the poor would go to the wall, or worse.

But are they helpless? We have seen James Tooley in The Beautiful Tree describe how the Third World poor pay for the education of their children when the government schools are no good. Then there is Dr. Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh and his Off the Books: The Underground Economy and the Urban Poor. He describes the urban poor African-Americans of Maquis Park on Chicago’s South Side. They appear to be anything but helpless.

Although tinged with the usual liberal asides, the story Venkateah tells is a narrative of resourcefulness. Life is challenging for the Maquis Park folks. They do not get to work in regular jobs with benefits. Instead they earn a living in off-the-books labor and off-the-books buying and selling. Because their activities are semi-legal or illegal they must usually pay someone to look the other way. Here’s how James Arleander, an off-the-books auto mechanic, puts it.

First, you are doing something illegal, which means police must be involved. You have to deal with them, and you can either hide [from them] or pay [them]... And you are probably upsetting people... [so] the entire community is a problem. Again you can hide or pay, and you pay in many kinds of ways.

The big problem of the modern poor is that they can’t afford to go legit. The system is set up to force them outside the law. For the employer, it’s the tax bite that cranks up the costs of labor. For the would-be employee, a legitimate job in the private sector would terminate welfare or disability payments.

The same problem was faced by the school entrepreneurs in James Tooley’s Beautiful Tree. The only way they could keep their schools open was by bribing the city inspectors.

Here’s a concept. The real problem holding back the poor in the world today is not discrimination and racism; it is the tax bite and the regulatory bite and the credentials bite of the liberal welfare/regulatory state. The poor are resourceful and they have the will to make it. But they can’t afford to pay full freight on all the bells and whistles that the modern state hangs onto every product sale and every employee labor hour. When you insist on all that stuff then the poor have to go off the books. Then they become victims of the police, the politicians, and the gangs.

Taxes, regulations, licenses, credentials: these are the building blocks of liberal power. It’s a pity that each block knocks a rung off the ladder of opportunity for the poor.

Yet our liberal friends are even now straining every sinew to increase taxes, regulations so they can give us health care. It’s a pity that the increased bite will make it even more difficult for the poor to go legit.

Here’s a mad conservative vision. Imagine a world in which the poor got a few breaks. Imagine an America where the cost of government was radically smaller, and they didn’t have to go off the books to hide from the liberal tax bite, the liberal regulation bite, and the liberal credentials bite.

Then maybe they could support themselves instead of living as wards of the state on the liberal plantation.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.

Buy his Road to the Middle Class.

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presented by Christopher Chantrill

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