It's moments like this one -- our Health Care Moment, we could call it -- that make numerous friends of democracy and good government want to pull the covers over their heads and leave a wake-up call for next month.
The health care charade has gone on for a year. Polls suggest most Americans don't want the measures now on offer. Republican leaders want to start the whole thing over again. The president says no, because he's got his own plan and a date with the TV audience Thursday to explain why nothing his Republican guests will propose, unless it's really small, deserves incorporation into the grand scheme that "We're All Going to Buy Into Right Now. DO YOU HEAR ME, AMERICA?!!!!"
The Founding Fathers told us there would be days like this; they just hoped there wouldn't be many such, with Congress entertaining the enactment of undigested proposals better suited to the goal of forging legislative majorities than that of actually making life better. But there we are. The thoughtless arrogance of the whole health "reform" enterprise makes the head spin.
The people hoping to do this thing are the people to whom we lately entrusted sovereign power? A chilling admonition from classical times comes to mind: Those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.
The madness in the Democrats' procedures comes from the assumption, implicit in their rhetoric, and especially the president's, that it's more important to do a thing quickly than to do it right. "Right," in the mouths of the president and his minions and myrmidons, comes out meaning "the way we've decided things are going to be, shut up and get over it."
Ends, when it comes to health care, justify means. A health care cram-down, via the maneuver known as budgetary reconciliation, requires a bare majority of votes. It's so much easier to get that than to assuage and negotiate huge concerns having to do with cost and effectiveness. All that detail stuff -- can't we voters understand that the White House will figure it out and tell us?
Politicians, as we know, are famous for seeing the future with clarity. Take the credit card law that just went into effect. It was enacted last year to protect credit card users from sudden rate jumps, high fees and like impositions on recession-ravaged constituents.
Of this prized legislation, the Associated Press reports: "[A] law hailed as the most sweeping piece of consumer legislation in decades has helped make it difficult for millions of Americans to get credit, and made that credit more expensive."
How so? It was due to the need of the card issuers actually to make money on less lucrative terms. Annual fees are coming back. New fees -- for instance, a $19 inactivity fee at one bank -- have appeared. From an average 10.7 percent a year ago, average rates for new cards have risen to 13.6 percent as issuers got ready for the new legislation.
We also get interest rates that can rise with the market. With many issuers trying to reduce their risk, says AP, "banks also made it harder to get and keep credit cards … Credit lines were frequently cut in regions most affected by the housing crisis and high unemployment. … Because the law makes credit cards less profitable, some subprime borrowers may not be able to get cards at all, at least for the next few years."
Thanks for the help, Congress. Let's get on with health care now, so we can look forward to finding out what fine points and details got neglected in the mad, White House-prompted rush to Do Something.
Isn't all this fun? A my-way-or-the-highway "summit" with substantive outcome predetermined; the prospect of a national free-for-all over schemes to raise taxes and spending, more in the hope than the certainty that good will come of it. Bedcovers over the head sounds like a truly wonderful notion. Not quite yet, though. Not until the American people get health care, Obama-style, well and truly planted, with floral offerings and the sound of Taps.
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