The fundamental premise of modern liberalism, so far as we can discern one, is that almost everything in life is best left to the government’s good intentions and uncanny effectiveness. This past week, alas, has not bolstered the argument.
By far the two biggest stories of the week were the partial shutdown of the federal government and its simultaneous opening of the long awaited, long dreaded Obamacare health care “exchanges.” Neither story shines a flattering light on the government, despite the best efforts of the old-time media, and both might therefore be seen as an embarrassment to the party that is most associated with modern liberalism and its belief in the goodness and effectiveness of government. For those who are new to the politics of America and are unsure which party that is, be advised that the Democrats have lately taken to calling the Republicans “anti-government” and even “anarchist,” while the Republicans are becoming increasingly comfortable with the descriptions.
Thus far the partial government shutdown has not had any noticeable effect on most Americans, but that is not for lack of trying on the part of the administration. The executive branch of the federal government has tried to prove its indispensability by inflicting as much pain on the public as possible during the shutdown, and has even gone to the expense that of shutting down scenic roads and public monuments that could be more cost-effectively kept open. This tactic is self-evidently cynical to the relative handful of people who had hoped to enjoy a passing view of Mount Rushmore or a day on the beaches of the Pacific coast, which have been restricted for no apparent reason by the federal government, but the administration seems hopeful that the rest of the country will learn from a compliant press corps that it’s all the fault of those Republicans in the House of Representatives who are stubbornly refusing to release the funding for these cost-free amenities. In a particularly inept bit of political theater, the administration has even erected barricades around Arlington Cemetery and the Vietnam War and World War II memorials to deny access to these sites to the made-for-news-media-stardom veterans who had hoped to partake of a quiet moment of reflection on their fallen comrades at these sites, and who have further spoiled by the storyline by defying the pettiness of the government they once fought for, while the Republicans have obliged the media to mention somewhere deep in their stories that the House has passed appropriations for these sites and been rebuffed by the Democrat-controlled Senate.
As if the shutdown weren’t a sufficient chore for the old-time media to spin away, the Obamacare scheme that is causing it has also proved too much an embarrassment to be ignored. The computerized insurance store concocted by the government has been so bogged down by traffic and glitches that even the most determinedly pro-Obama media have been forced to acknowledge the failure, and the few would-be insurance consumers who have been able to slog through the program’s incomprehensible protocols have been disappointed to find that what’s on offer is far more expensive and less valuable than they had been led by governmental promises to believe. Attempts are already afoot to blame this on the anti-government factions that have somehow taken control of one-half of one-third of the government, apparently through some nefarious scheme of winning elections in a majority of the country’s congressional districts, but so long as the law is called Obamacare and the Republicans’ unanimous opposition is mentioned in every story there is a good chance that even the least-informed voters will know bears responsibility.
Nothing refutes the notion that government should be better-funded and more extensively-empowered than the lack of consequences from shutting down 17 percent of it, except perhaps the slapstick comedy that ensues when government attempts to micro-manage the one-sixth of the economy devoted to health care, and the confluence of both provides a persuasive example to those crazed conservatives calling for limits on the government’s cost and power. The Republicans making this argument might yet once again miss the opportunity, but it is there for the taking.
– Bud Norman