Sunday, November 23, 2014

Patient BHO and the Post-Legislative Order

 Dr. S: Aren't you concerned by your current .... predicament. Haven't you alienated your allies?

Patient BHO: You don't get it? I should be your life coach. Don't you see? I finally have my allies. I've cut out all the hacks and old men who have kept me from the people. The hacks have been destroyed, all of them. They just don't know it. They're running around, but what can they do to me, or for me? Nothing. But I have the people, the people on the outside who are hollering to get inside.

Dr. S: What about the other people? Some would say you have more enemies than friends.

Patient BHO: That's why I talked about the two-thirds who don't vote. I'm not saying they would have voted for Democrats. They don't trust them, either. And why should they? The parties, the politicians, they just get in the way. The two-thirds who don't vote, they're voting against voting. They say refugees vote with their feet. The people who don't vote do the same. And they vote against the system, the hacks, the old men and women. The colorless, weak hacks. Those weren't votes against me, they were votes for me -- or at least for a bold leader who knows what the outsiders have endured. And who knows more than me? Sixty-four percent of the people said: This system is phony, outdated, obsolete, biased, boring, corrupt. Sixty-four percent said they wanted something else. I just happen to be the something else.

Dr. S.: Don't you need a majority? Wouldn't it be, at least, helpful?

Patient BHO: There are no majorities. Don't the right-wingers read their own guys? Take Hayek. The right-wingers just read the Cliff's Notes, I think. I read the book. There never are 51 percent majorities -- I mean, stable ones. Sure, for one vote you might get 51 percent. But that's like some nuclear substance, that exists for a few moments then collapses into more stable elements.

You look at when Congress votes 51 percent for X. But only, say, 10 percent really believe in X. Maybe another 10 percent believe in it that day, but tomorrow they believe in Z. Ten percent only voted that way because their party said to, and the next time they'll go the other way. Ten percent just got bribed. And 11 percent didn't really like it, but they thought it was the lesser of two evils, but then they'll see a better one, just like your girl might find a better-looking guy! And all of them will run like scared cats if there are problems. That's why legislatures always kill good ideas. They can't really muster a real majority. All they votes are cobbled-together messes. People make fun of the Affordable Care Act, but all legislation is jerry-rigged. That didn't bother me at all.

They say I didn't get a majority. They should read their own Hayek. It's right there. There are no majorities. He says representative bodies always fail. That's why. So that's why I didn't sweat voting in the Illinois Senate. The Illinois Senate! Every damned bill was a stinking pile of crap! Anybody with any sense would vote "present" all the time! Who the hell would want to be associated with all that!

Dr. S: But isn't that the idea -- for representative government.

Patient BHO: There's no majority, there's no representatives either. They just represent themselves, or the power structure.. There are the people themselves. The Others. And I am them. I'm the Other. I've always been the Other. am the Other. I have always been the Other. Don't think I don't know it. Their applause -- they don't see me, they don't know me.

Dr. S: It sounds to me as if you were always surrounded by people who wanted to help you

Patient BHO: They thought they wanted to help. In high school and at that hippie college in California. They were so smug, so self-assured. But they had no idea, about me. Or about the outsiders.

Take the old folks. I'd come in each morning and see that horse-faced old man and his wife, pale and old. Trying so hard to please me. Failing, of course.

Especially the old man. I felt sorry for him. But that's when I saw it. They are losers. Just like Mitch and Harry and Nancy and John are losers. They're all full of themselves, but they're like blacksmiths watching the first Model T chug down the street. Did I say that already? The hell with it, it's true.

Dr. S: Don't you, in your business, have to work with people, regardless of their failings?

Patient BHO: You mean politics. I used to be in politics. I had to be a politician. But now I've graduated. Now I'm beyond politics.

Dr. S: Then what?

Patient BHO: (a noticeable pause, which is unusual for this patient.) I guess we'll all find out.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Client BHO and the Second American Revolution

Dr. S: Aren't you concerned you might need the cooperation of some of these people?

Client BHO: Why?

Dr. S: Everyone needs help.

BHO: Oh, I'll get help. The people need me and want me. To hell with the parasites and the timeservers. This is the real American Revolution. It started out as a real revolution, but they quashed it pretty fast. But what if Shay's Rebellion had won? What if they had had a real leader?

Dr. S: Explain

BHO: Look, did you know the original American Revolution wasn't directed against the king, but against parliament? Well, what if this so-called Congress is just another parliament -- a clique of out-of-touch aristocrats who don't know anything about the people? I mean, the real people, the oppressed people? A Revolution doesn't have to be bloody or violent. The English had their Glorious Revolution because no one died. What if we just had one? What if people will celebrate Nov. 20 in years to come, because it signaled the toppling of the old order and the triumph of a new one.

Dr. S: Did we talk about adjust the dosages of your medication?

BHO: We were all laughing at how they must look. All those flabby old white men -- no offense, Dr. S -- when I just took it away from them. They must be like blacksmiths watching the first Model T chug down the road. Doctor, I know you think I need help. You ought to go work on Mitch and John and even Harry. They're like the coyote in those old cartoons. There's a shadow over them and it's an Acme safe coming down, and they know it. People want action, they want it now, and they want to hear it from someone cool and alive, not these old mumbling farts. The old America is gone, and good riddance! There's a new America today. And it isn't bogged down in these droning debates by these tired old men. And women, to be fair.

Dr. S: Are you sure you're right?

BHO: Look, they don't have the guts to do anything. And they can't. All they've ever done is argue and compromise and moan. There's a poetry to action they'll never understand. People today want to do things and they want to do them now. They don't have time for this crap.

Dr. S: You sound very confident.

BHO: You can't fight logic, doc. If it's OK to stop prosecuting 5 million people because most of the time they are ordinary people, well, if they are just ordinary people, why is it OK to deny them health care or welfare? Why is it OK to deny them the right to be citizens? Once Mitch and those other poor dumb bastards buy the premises, they have to buy the conclusion too. Hell, what about ten million, or 15 million? They're the people of energy, of vibrancy, of the future. All those poor dumb old men and women, they're in the dumpster already, and they don't even know it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Client BHO and Why He Has a New Spirit

Client BHO: They want me to lead them. A newspaper said that "far from being rendered irrelevant or subservient,"  I have "a new energetic spirit." And I do. Don't you think so?

Dr. S: Well ....

BHO: I've been cut loose. You a sports fan? They call it "addition by subtraction." You trade a malcontent, and the team is better. I've gotten rid of the deadwood, the game-players, the parasites. I'm free of them now. Now I can do what I want. I've always felt connected to the people. Don't tell me I'm not, I can feel it, people can see it. Now I understand. It was all them getting in my way. Now they're gone, and I can finally connect to the people. 

And that's what they've always wanted. Just read what they're saying. They feel it too. They know all those hacks got in their way. They can finally be connect to me. And I can feel them. I can feel them down to the favelas and the barrios. I can feel their courage and energy. Not dried up and old and tired like all these hacks all around here. And now we've found each other.

Read more here:

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Why Client BHO Wants to be the Loneliest

Dr. S: It sounds as if you are a little lonely.

Client BHO: I may be alone, but I'm not lonely.

Dr. S: You'll have to explain that.

BHO: First of all, I may be alone in one sense, but I have great masses of people with me. Think of all the people who have lost their jobs. Who slave away at jobs for some jerk. Who have lost their houses. Who live in a favela. Think of that, living in miles and miles of cardboard shacks, drinking dirty water, and looking up at us. I think of them, looking at me. And they do look at me. They look up from their shacks and see me. Of course they want to come here. Think of all the people in the ghetto who are with me. They want me to lead them. They don't trust Yertle the Turtle, they don't trust Mr. Man Tan. They are with me.

Dr. S: You sound very confident.

BHO: Like everyone else, you think the elections are a big deal. Look, my people trust me. They are with me. They don't think all those people at the polling place are for them. And why should they be? They know Mr. Dumpling and Mrs. Botox Face and all the other phonys will only sell them out. All those blowhards are just smiling fakes you can't count on. You know what? I'm happy I don't have to play their game any more. They always just stab me in the back. They don't have any guts. They aren't really with me. The people in the favelas, they're with me. What's that old song? "When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose."

Dr. S: But don't you ...

BHO: No, I don't. That's the great thing -- I've been set free from all the bullshit, all the pointless meetings. They don't believe in all the hacks, with their doughy faces and simpering talk. They believe in me. They don't believe in all the politicians. That's why they didn't vote. They don't want the politicians to get in the way. They want me. And now they've got me. All the people who get in the way have been swept aside. They think it's a loss for me. What a bunch of idiots. It's a win for me.

Dr. S: I'm a little surprised to hear that.

BHO: No one gets it. I've spent six years clearing away the undergrowth. Now I'm ready to roll. You can't count on them. Now it's just me -- and the millions who are with me. They are with me. I feel their yearnings, their rage -- against the oppressors who have kept them down. Who drive their Cadillacs while they have to walk barefoot. They will support me, they are with me. All the hacks who have dragged me down, slowed me down, they're nothing now. I know what they think of me. Who cares?

Dr. S: But don't you have to work with them?

BHO: They are irrelevant. They always have been. All that crap about representation, that's just a smokescreen for how the machine keeps people down. They don't represent the people, they repress the people. Now I'm ready to roll.

Dr. S: Don't you think there will be people who object?

BHO: They're weak and flabby. They aren't with me, but they don't have the backbone to be really against me either. They'll whine and mope and fret, but they don't have the backbone to do anything about it. That's their real crime, they don't have the nerve to do anything. No, I'm not lonely. I'm too tough to be lonely. I've always been on my own, always. And I've always had the oppressed, angry millions on my side. Fifty-two percent, whatever. A hundred million angry people with nothing to lose will have no trouble with two hundred million whiny, mopey people who are afraid they'll lose their beach house or their 401(k).

Dr. S: You don't usually talk this way.

BHO: Aren't I supposed to talk the way I don't usually talk?

Dr. S: Well, yes ....

BHO: It's all in confidence, right.

Dr. S.: Of course.

BHO: That's why those large men are in charge of the tape. And of course, the Delta team always needs to practice, right? [He laughs.]

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Client BHO talks to Dr. S.

Dr. S: Just think of me as your life coach.

Client: I've got a suggestion: I don't think of you at all.

Dr. S.: [resolutely silent]

Client: I don't know why Michelle and Valerie are so insistent on this.

Dr. S.: They seem to think you are having difficulties.

Client: I've had worse.

Dr. S.: Why don't you tell me about one of them.

Client: I grew up black in a time when black people couldn't drink out a water fountain in Virginia. Without a father, when other people had fathers. And my mother was a great woman, but how many other kids could grow up in Indonesia and survive? Or get raised by grandparents who were always struggling, and who had no idea of what I was going through. And I think I did pretty well.

Dr. S.: No one doubts that.

Client: I could be coaching people. Have you ever gone through what I went through? And what I did? I was probably the only  American kid like me in all of Indonesia. I was the only one out of 250 million people. I had nothing. I didn't have Bush's connections, or John Kennedy's for that matter.

Dr. S.: Let's talk about coaching people. Who would you like to coach? And, remember, it's better not to use full names. I don't really need to know all of what you do.

Client: Sure don't. Otherwise I'd have to have you killed! [Both Dr. S. and Client laugh, Client more robustly.] Okay, 'Mitch' for one. There's a case. I mean, how can he understand anything? He's been a political hack all his life.

Dr. S.: Perhaps you could learn to communicate with him --

Client: Why? What can he tell me? His time is over. It's gone. That time of the mediocre white man is over. It's time for new, more vigorous people to take the helm. He's just a tired old man. "Sock it to them." There's a hip reference to 1968.

Dr. S.: Still, wouldn't it behoove you to listen to him.

Client: Why? He's obsolete. He's like Betamax or CompUSA or Oldsmobile. He should put "going out of business" signs on his office. You know why you don't buy from a story that's going out of business? They can't provide service for the product.

Dr. S: They say he's doing all right.

Client: The last death rattle. They're done. Newer, more vigorous people are taking their place. Sure, like 'Ali.' There's someone with energy ...

Dr. S.: Maybe we should stick to  'Mitch.'

Client: He wouldn't last a minute in Jakarta at age 12. He wouldn't last a minute now without a security detail, a translator, and five aides to tell him the difference between his ass and a hole in the ground.

Dr. S.: [stifles chuckle] Perhaps not. But of course you, as a young person, had the help of your mother and, we've talked about this, your stepfather.

Client: Of course, but you have to remember, she wanted me to have as many experiences as possible. In the old days, a father that showed his son how to box was a big hero. My mother showed me how to survive in alien, I mean foreign, I mean different cultures. And she had important things to do.

Dr. S.: I see.

Client: And I dug it! Have you ever been to Indonesia? I didn't think so. Let me tell you, there's nothing more intense than walking down the street in a strange city, and every word, every person, every gesture, every building, is new and fresh. Your neurons are firing off at light speed, you're absorbing so much. That's what people don't get. I can absorb so much. Most people coast through life. They're in familiar surroundings, they fit in. I never fit in, I was always in unfamiliar surroundings. They say, why don't you go to all the briefings? But I can absorb things so much faster than anyone else. I had to. I have to.

Dr. S. Why don't you tell me about it.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Why We'll Get BushMcConnellBoehnerWydenCare

Us who share our two cents' worth should at times allow our judgments to be tested empirically, so I'll throw out a prediction: the Affordable Care Act will not be repealed, but will be extensively revamped.

What I won't predict is whether this will be a good or bad thing.

First, the Supreme Court torpedoes a key part of the law. As the New York Times put it:

The central question in the case, King v. Burwell, No. 14-114, is what to make of a provision in the law limiting subsidies to “an exchange established by the state.”

If the high court says that laws no longer need to adhere to the English language, we should disband Congress and the courts as well, and just let the bureaucrats decide what they want to do. But I digress.

The news reports hint the justices took the case because a significant fraction of them think that English words have meaning, and that only exchanges "established by [a] state" can offer the subsidies. So in states without their own exchanges, including North Carolina, people could not get the subsidies that make the law even marginally tolerable. 

We'll see if the justices have the ... jurisprudence ... to insist that laws written in English must accord with the English meanings of the words. If so, the outcry will force Congress to act. They could repeal the Affordable Care Act, but, forgive me, I can't see Republicans getting together a palatable alternative in time. There are too many divisions. 

Also, they have spent too much time merely opposing Obamacare, without doing enough to devise or sell or even agree on alternatives. As Rush Limbaugh acknowledged, when your opponent is busy committing suicide, don't interrupt. But that means the GOP hasn't field-tested an alternative. Yes, ideas have been floated, including one by NC Sen. Richard Burr, nut none has become a clear leader of the pack. As the Affordable Care Act itself showed, a session of Congress is too chaotic for the formation of a strong piece of legislation.

And, forgive me, I don't see the Republican Congress, as a body, having the requisite courage. 

Given the high court decision, what they will do is amend the law, but of course as soon as one part is altered it's open season on the rest. As Charles Krauthammer put it in his recommendations to Republicans:

... kill it with a thousand cuts. Repeal of the medical device tax. Repeal of the individual mandate. Repeal of the employer mandate. Repeal of the coverage mandate, thereby reinstating Obama’s broken promise that “If you like your health-care plan, you can keep it.” And repeal the federal bailout for insurers on the Obamacare exchanges.
What then? The American people are suffering from the era's instability and uncertainty. They figure they can survive the New World Order, a wobbly economy and social upheaval, they can survive Obamacare, especially if its most onerous features are negated. 

But they just don't want total chaos in the medical industry. The Republicans will have to have some structure in place.

One encouraging sign, however, is that an existing part of the system is finally getting its due. A new article proclaims that Medicare Advantage is working:

According to the 2014 Medicare Trustees’ report, enrollment in Medicare Advantage – the private plan option in Medicare — has been surging for a decade.  In 2005 there were 5.8 million Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in MA plans — 13.6 percent of total enrollment in the program.  Today, there are 16.2 million beneficiaries in MA plans, or 30 percent of program enrollment. ...
As MA enrollment has surged, so has recognition of its improved value.  A recent, comprehensive review of the evidence conducted by Joseph Newhouse and Thomas McGuire of Harvard University makes a compelling case that MA plans are providing higher value services at less societal cost than the traditional [fee for service] program. ...
The Newhouse-McGuire study is part of a notable transformation in views on the MA program.  ... criticisms are now beginning to recede as the evidence mounts that MA plans can deliver more efficient and higher quality care than [fee for service care.]  And as valid criticisms fade in relevance so too do the arguments against using MA as a foundation for a larger reform of the Medicare program.
That also makes Medicare Advantage a model for reforms of the nation's health care system. Republicans wouldn't have to invent the wheel; they have a plan for a perfectly adequate one rolling along right in front of them. Call it "Health Advantage," let private companies set up alternatives to Obamacare plans -- and to Medicaid plans too.

Let private industry craft more efficient and truly affordable plans. Make that the model, not socialized medicine. Conservatives should have faith private plans will do better.

An aside: such a change would mark another vindication for George W. Bush, whose administration backed Medicare Advantage.

BTW, I should state that this is not my preferred scenario. Like many conservatives, I think a truly private health care system would be better. However, I don't think that will happen in our time. I don't think the great majority of the voters want to see such vast change now. Change will have to be incremental. I know many conservatives and libertarians reject this, but that's how it looks to me (and many others.)

Returning to reality, I think such reforms would force some Democrats to support them. A few, such as Sen. Ron Wyden, have been willing to look at other less radical solutions. After the recent elections, more Democrats might be willing to be more open to free market reforms. You can get shellacked only so many times before you decide your leaders aren't leading you in the right direction, and you decide you need to save your own skin.

The crucial factor might be whether the Affordable Care Act is truly gutted, and only the name and a few popular features remain. That might allow a workable if somewhat ramshackle system to evolve, until a better one can be crafted.

As I said, many on the right would wish the ACA were wiped out for good. I hope so too. My prediction, however, is that it will be changed greatly; whether the outcome is for the best is something on which I have my fingers crossed.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Five Caveats on the Election

As Instapundit warns us, Don't get cocky, kid. Yes, a good night for Republicans.

But ...

I happened to hear a veteran analyst of national and state races talk at lunchtime yesterday, before the results were in. He had cautionary words for conservatives. What follows is a distillation of his observations and my own.

1. This morning, the permanent government is still run by liberals.

Obama has loaded the federal courts with his picks. Not one federal judge lost his or her seat yesterday.

Obama and his team have filled the bureaucracy with their allies. Not one lost his or her job yesterday.

Liberal professors dominate academia. I'm not aware of any who lost tenure yesterday.

Ditto for the media liberals.

Barack Obama's lease on the White House hasn't been shortened by a minute.

The Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land.

Congress and statehouses are nice. But the reality is that the third and fourth and fifth branches of government -- the courts, the media/academy and the bureaucracy -- are just as powerful, or more powerful, than those people we elect to office.

2. A couple of tactics lost. So what? Liberals have a Plan B, a Plan C, and on to Plan Z and beyond.

Liberals don't bet the rent on one tactic; they have thirty or forty. The "War on Women" flopped. Dozens of new tactics are ready to be unrolled. And they will be.

3. Liberals think in decades; one day might be just a blip.

Liberals are like canny stock investors who know one bad day on the Dow doesn't mean they should abandon the market.

It's called a Long March through the institutions for a reason. It took decades for progressive liberals to entrench themselves in the courts, the media, the colleges, the bureaucracy. That won't change. This morning they aren't moping around -- well, not much anyway. In newsrooms, on campuses, in Washington, they have ordered the biggest lattes they can get, and they are sitting down and thinking and talking about  2016 ... and 2020 ... and 2024 ....

4. If we conservatives oppose liberalism, we shouldn't be blind to qualities we would otherwise admire. Liberals are committed and determined. They don't get discouraged, they don't despair, they don't give up.

Beating them is like beating the New England Patriots. A win is great -- but you better be ready for the next game, because they will come back tougher than ever.

Right now the politicians, the operatives, the academics, the journalists are all thinking of how they can reverse last night's election, and if it takes a decade or two, they will be undaunted.

5. The Republicans won. It is human nature for victory to make people overconfident.

As many have noted, Republicans want to be liked, Democrats want to win.

Nor do many Republicans owe their victories to their clear agenda and firm principles. Many benefited from fatigue with Obama and Democrats. They have Congress; they have to show they know how to use it.

I leave it to the reader to judge whether, based on past performance, the GOP can be counted on to use this victory wisely and well.