[Continuing our series on deception in politics and policy.]
Once upon a time, when I was a reporter, I uncovered a number of schemes by which politicians perpetuated themselves in office. Often, these involved “giving” people things without accounting for the cost of those things.
One exposé early in my career involved a job-swap between the districts of Congressman A (not his real name) and Congressman B (likewise). The federal government would move a few dozen jobs from Fort A in Congressman A’s district to Fort B in Congressman B’s district. In turn, the federal government would move a few dozen jobs from Fort B in Congressman B’s district to Fort A in Congressman A’s district.
Congressman A took the opportunity to put out a press release announcing the new jobs at Fort A, with the clear implication that he, Congressman A, through his hard work on behalf of his constituents, had secured these jobs. News stories about the new jobs strongly implied: We’d be fools to get rid of this guy, Congressman A, who’s doing such a great job for us.
Congressman B took the opportunity to put out a press release announcing the new jobs at Fort B, with the clear implication that he, Congressman B, through his hard work on behalf of his constituents, had secured these jobs. News stories about the new jobs strongly implied: We’d be fools to get rid of this guy, Congressman B, who’s doing such a great job for us.
It was a good deal, except, of course, for taxpayers, who had to pay for moving the jobs from one place to another, and for the federal employees who had to pull up roots and move hundreds of miles. From the standpoint of the politicians, it was a win-win for all concerned. Although the number of federal jobs in each district stayed the same, each Congressman got to show that he was one of those guys who bring home the bacon.
I lived in the district of Congressman A. When I figured out the scam, I called a counterpart of mine in the district of Congressman B, and we shared information, and we broke the story jointly. It came as no surprise that I got a call from Congressman A’s press secretary, tell me that I was completely irresponsible, and may have ruined things for everyone by ruining the deal that was bringing new jobs to our district. Who was I, a lowly reporter, to interfere in the workings of great men?
It’s the kind of thing that happens all the time in politics.
The vast majority of people are net losers under Social Security, when you take into account the loss of income from the money you could have invested in other people’s businesses or used to create a business of your own or used to further your education, yet leftists proclaim Social Security a success because the beneficiaries get money. Leftists look only at the benefits, not at the costs. When older people complain about healthcare rationing under Medicare, leftists howl at the greedy, hypocritical seniors who accept Medicare but complain about it. Left out of their calculation is the fact that most seniors wouldn’t need Medicare if they had not had to pay Medicare taxes and could have used that money to pay in advance for old-age healthcare. (If it’s necessary to force people to save for their own retirement or to provide during their working years for their healthcare in old age, it would be infinitely better to require people to do those things themselves rather than take the money from them and have the government do it.)
When I lived in Manassas, Virginia, a suburb of D.C., the local school board voted to institute free kindergarten. The Washington Post article on the board’s decision included plenty of quotes from grateful moms who would now have the taxpayers pay for what was essentially daycare (because public kindergarten doesn’t improve education performance). There was not a single word in the article on how much the decision would cost. Would this mean another tax increase? Would the money come out of other government spending, or out of other parts of the school budget? Who cares? As far as the Post was concerned, it was all benefit, no detriment. It was win-win!
Today, real reporters (like, well, me) are almost extinct. With very few exceptions, people in the news media are too lazy or stupid or bound by ideology to analyze the costs and benefits of public policy. If you’re one of the exceptions, you’ll be lucky to find work making a third of what your unprofessional colleagues make.
Protected by the news media, politicians can make insane claims, from providing healthcare to everyone at no cost… to guaranteeing student loans and public and private pensions and future bailouts for too-big-to-fail banks regardless of the fact that we lack the money to fulfill those guarantees… to putting a stop to climate change, which would kill every human and every other large animal on earth, but never mind.
As noted famously by Romneycare/Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber, “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage.”
Obamacare is a good example. Under Obamacare, women get free birth control (i.e., it must be included in any health insurance policy approved by the unelected, unaccountable, extremist, anonymous bureaucrats who decide what must be included in health insurance policies). That means that a 60-year-old woman who works behind the counter at McDonald’s must pay for the birth control of a 25-year-old Georgetown Law Student who is, or is about to become, a millionaire. Men must pay for birth control for women, infertile woman must pay for birth control for fertile women, and gay men and lesbians must pay for birth control for straight people. If you don’t support forcing one group of people to pay for birth control for another group, you’re part of the War on Women. Sandra Fluke, the one-percenter who famously lectured Congress in support of that view, also believes that non-transsexuals should pay for (extremely expensive) gender reassignment surgery and treatments for transsexuals—and, most likely, that will eventually become the law under Obamacare.
In an attempt to make up for massive increases under Obamacare in premiums and deductibles, the program extends “subsidies” (i.e., welfare distributed through the tax system) to people with incomes as high as four times the government’s Poverty Line (a line that isn’t a real measure of anything, due to the fact that those unelected, unaccountable, extremist, anonymous bureaucrats set it wherever they darn well please). When, just to survive, most people are obliged to take welfare, who is left to complain about the cost of welfare?
Obamacare subsidizes old people at the expense of young people. It subsidizes people who live in cities at the expense of suburbanites. It subsidizes drunks at the expense of non-drunks, and drug addicts at the expense of non-drug-addicts. As noted, it subsidizes straights at the expense of gays, women at the expense of men, and fertile at the expense of non-fertile.
Meanwhile, higher minimum wages help unionized workers at the expense of unskilled workers (disproportionately younger and African-African), and stricter overtime rules help men at the expense of women. Amnesty for illegal aliens hurts low-skilled workers (again, disproportionately younger and African-American) and, interestingly, legal immigrants who often compete for the same jobs.
In the Trayvon Martin case, the Obama administration took the side of Martin, who (according to his girlfriend who was on the phone with him during the incident) attacked George Zimmerman because he thought Zimmerman was gay. Al Sharpton injected himself into the case, presumably, at least in part, because he assumed that someone from Florida living in a “gated community” (not really) and named Zimmerman must be Jewish. (Sharpton once declared: “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.”) Zimmerman turned out to be a Hispanic/Latino with some African heritage and a record of friendship with and support for African-Americans, but that didn’t fit the storyline, so the New York Times famously labeled him a “white Hispanic.” The President declared that, if he had a son, he would “look like Trayvon,” putting himself at the head of the mob trying to lynch a Latino man. Later, in the aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown (a shooting that occurred a few minutes after Brown roughed up an Indian-American convenience store clerk a third of his size), the President brought Sharpton to the White House for a meeting at which Sharpton sat across the table from the President and next to the Vice President. To sum up the views of Sharpton and his enablers: gays, Jews, Hispanics, and Indian-Americans bad / violent criminals good.
It’s a theme that extends back in time. The Left is re-writing history to put the onus of the trans-Atlantic slave trade entirely on the United States, not the Africans, Arabs, and Latinos (Hispanic and Portuguese) who conducted almost all of it. (British North America, now the U.S.A., accounted for less than four percent of that evil trade, and it was Thomas Jefferson and the Founders of the U.S. who invented the modern idea of human rights and the included idea of abolishing slavery, and it was U.S.Americans who sacrificed 750,000 lives in a great war to fulfill that promise.) History is likewise re-written to remove the fact that the vast majority of the evils committed upon American Indians, the “killing native peoples and stealing their land,” was done by European powers, especially the Hispanics and Portuguese, not by the people of the United States. There were atrocities committed upon Indians by the U.S.—as there were atrocities committed in the opposite direction—but all of those paled in comparison to the actions of Europeans, from whom the people of the U.S. fought a war (more than one, actually) to separate themselves.
Under “affirmative action” discrimination in college admissions and scholarships, the targets are working-class and small-business class “whites” and, especially, Asian-Americans, of whom, as the Left reckons, there would be “too many” in elite colleges if admissions were based on merit. New federal requirements that take away due-process protections for college students accused of rape will—if the past 150 years is any guide—victimize African-American males disproportionately. At the same time, the Left’s continued, systematic support for fake rape allegations (Tawana Brawley/Al Sharpton, the Duke lacrosse team, the Rolling Stone fabrication) will make it harder for actual victims to get justice.
Obama administration policies that turn a blind eye to the evil of Islamofascism and coddle authoritarian/totalitarian regimes—China’s, for example—promote the oppression of gays and women. These policies are justified in the name of multiculturalism, of opposition to xenophobia, of not discriminating against “people who are different from us,” such as those who, in the case of Islamofascists, believe that all women should be sexually mutilated.
At least the Obama Left is for poor people, right? Except that, from Big Bank bailouts, to subsidies for wind and solar and electric cars, to the War on Coal, Obama administration policies help the rich at the expense of the working class and small business class. By one calculation, 95 percent of the income growth in the U.S. from 2009 to 2012 went to the top one-percent. At the same time, spending on food stamps has skyrocketed, benefitting some poor people—and organized crime, too.
So the Left is both for and against Hispanics/Latinos, both for and against the poor, both for and against African-Americans, both for and against immigrants, both for and against gays and lesbians, both for and against the young etc., etc. … but, thanks to the news media (including targeted media ranging from Telemundo to the gay Washington Blade to MTV), people in those groups and every other type of group hear only about the times the President and the Left in general are on their side, not about when they side against them.
Remember those polls, related to the 2012 election, in which Romney outscored the President on almost every measure of suitability for the presidency except one: Who is on the side of people like you? According to one poll, Romney lost on that question by 81 percent to 18 percent. That cost him the election.
Now you know how the scam works.