There was an old joke told in the former Soviet Union: “During Stalin’s time our economy stood at the precipice of disaster. Since then we have made great strides forward.” No matter what side of the health care debate you are on, a fair assessment is that we have taken great strides forward to relinquishing our basic freedoms in America.
First, consider the role of the media. Rather than report on the contents of the health-care bill, daily we read multiple headlines and stories handicapping whether or not there are enough votes to pass the bill. This should not be too surprising since few know exactly what is in the bill. But no matter, over and over we hear the inane squawk: “We have to get the job done now.” As though we don’t have to know what job is being done. Consider this admission by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi: “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
Next, listen to President Obama as he flunks elementary school mathematics by mindlessly reading from his teleprompter to adoring crowds. Obama promises the crowd that they “will see premiums fall by as much as 3000% which means that they can give you a raise.”
Perhaps I’m making a big deal over a simple flub? (A price cannot fall by more than 100%.) But, this flub passed through multiple layers—the speechwriters, the president, and the crowd. And notice the smug assuredness as Obama reads the line.
A nation without the will or the education to enter into a genuine conversation about the important issues of the day cannot remain free. Indeed, we have the leaders we deserve—leaders who apparently are guided by no higher value than to exercise power over us. No doubt things will change. “What I see in America today,” Hilmar von Campe has observed, “is people painting their cabins while the ship goes down.” Some are looking forward to the day when a deeper crisis forces us to stop painting our cabins. I do not. The social disruption and suffering from a deeper crisis is likely to be enormous. Much better to change now, and avoid the worst.