The prob­lem isn’t Obama, but de­pen­dency

Amer­i­cans are los­ing their self-re­liance and their love of lib­erty

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Wil­liam Murchi­son

So, just how did we get here? Pres­i­dent Obama said X, and Sen. Ted Cruz said Y, and Bill O’Reilly and MSNBC and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi went into hy­per­drive, and ... and? The chrono­log­i­cal con­gru­ence of the gov­ern­ment “shut­down” cri­sis and the launch of Oba­macare (I ex­clude cur­rent for­eign-pol­icy topics for rea­sons of space) sug­gest the need for as­pirin, washed down with a cou­ple of stiff ones.

I have my own the­ory: Events have been build­ing to­ward this mo­ment of pain and agony for about 70 years — ever since the his­tor­i­cal mo­ment when the Amer­i­can elec­torate told Franklin D. Roo­sevelt it was time the fed­eral gov­ern­ment started sort­ing out the par­tic­u­lars of eco­nomic growth and dis­tri­bu­tion. No one fig­ured out (or could be heard say­ing, any­way) that the more re­sources Wash­ing­ton felt obliged to over­see, the shriller would grow de­mands that the bounty go into this pocket or that one.

The cur­rent cri­sis is only pe­riph­er­ally about health care ex­changes, spend­ing res­o­lu­tions and vit­riol spewed by the po­lit­i­cal and jour­nal­is­tic fra­ter­ni­ties. The cur­rent cri­sis, at its heart, is about greed and the hu­man lust for au­thor­ity over other hu­man be­ings.

It is what hap­pens when the gov­ern­ment — a con­struct made up of hu­mans — ac­quires, one way or another, nearly un­in­hib­ited power over a so­ci­ety’s fi­nan­cial re­sources. All for very noble rea­sons. Yes, yes — so goes the story. Noble and gen­er­ous rea­sons. Sound, pa­tri­otic rea­sons.

First, un­der FDR, the gov­ern­ment had to haul us out of the De­pres­sion. There were make-work pro­grams and sub­si­dies of one kind and another, in­clud­ing the im­plied sub­sidy of of­fi­cial pro­tec­tions for la­bor unions. Then, in the 1950s, Wash­ing­ton had to over­see and main­tain our post­war good times. Later, came the de­mands (dat­ing, in in­spi­ra­tion, from an­cient times) that we spread the wealth more equally. The War on Poverty was de­clared, Medi­care was in­sti­tuted and fed­eral fund­ing for schools grew hugely. Once the prin­ci­ple of gov­ern­ment sup­port for health care found firm foot­ing, it was in­evitable that claims would arise con­cern­ing the need for ev­ery last one of us to share the joy. Hence, Oba­macare.

No one can tell where things will lead af­ter Oba­macare, which is likely to sur­vive in di­min­ished or ex­panded form once it hooks 10 mil­lion or 20 mil­lion or 30 mil­lion of us on the joys of health care funded by other tax­pay­ers. Ear­lier re­tire­ment, big­ger pen­sions, big­ger schools, sub­si­dized auto pur­chases, sub­si­dized util­i­ties — who can say? This makes it all the more im­por­tant to re­strain and di­min­ish the reach and power of Oba­macare.

But along with Oba­macare di­min­ish­ment, as­sum­ing any­one can bring it off, needs to come in­tense and con­stant philo­soph­i­cal dis­cus­sion. A dis­cus­sion of the sort you never hear th­ese days — the kind in which Ron­ald Rea­gan used to en­gage and, be­fore him, Barry Gold­wa­ter of blessed mem­ory. The main prob­lem of a health care sys­tem funded by gov­ern­ment isn’t the cost of the thing, or even the lack of ef­fi­ciency. It’s the un­suit­abil­ity of gov­ern­ment health care in a coun­try jeal­ous of its lib­er­ties — as­sum­ing present-day Amer­i­cans are as jeal­ous of their lib­er­ties as was the case half a cen­tury ago.

The role that vot­ers and their rep­re­sen­ta­tives have as­signed gov­ern­ment over the past seven or eight decades is the role, ul­ti­mately, of smoth­er­ing as­pi­ra­tion and achieve­ment. We? Achieve? That’s for “the 1 per­cent.” They’ll do all the heavy lift­ing — un­til there’s no more 1 per­cent left to lift, or even a small frac­tion of 1 per­cent. As­pi­ra­tion and in­ven­tion will have been ef­fec­tively out­lawed by the tax code, the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, Dodd-Frank and heaven knows what else.

Such is the story Ted Cruz and the whole host of celebrity con­ser­va­tive spokes­men should be telling now in level voices: Mr. Obama isn’t the prob­lem; Oba­macare isn’t the prob­lem. Th­ese are pass­ing af­flic­tions. The prob­lem is Amer­ica’s grow­ing ac­cep­tance of the delu­sory propo­si­tion that op­por­tu­nity means some­one else’s good luck. That pass­ing the buck is the pre­lude to re­ceiv­ing bucks ga­lore from other par­ties. That the gov­ern­ment must surely love and care for you be­cause — well, don’t you watch the pres­i­dent’s speeches? Wil­liam Murchi­son is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

ILLUSTRATION BY LINAS GARSYS/THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

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