A.J. DiCintio
Elephantine images
By A.J. DiCintio
July 23, 2011

The more I see what's going on in Washington these days, the more I agree with Charles Krauthammer and Mike Huckabee, both of whom argue that in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, House Republicans ought to forget about the Grand Plan approach and pass a bill that makes a modest start toward achieving fiscal responsibility.

Then, after daring Obama to veto it or Senate Democrats to reject it (neither of which will happen), they should take their case to the public with the aim of winning the presidency, because capturing the White House is absolutely essential if "conservatives really want to get the nation's spending under control." (Krauthammer)

As implied, I think the idea makes sense — but only if prior to engaging the public, oratorically challenged Republican politicians take a crash course in learning to speak "like Mike and Marco," that is, with the focused, concise, clear, honest, effective Plain English exemplified by Mike Huckabee and Marco Rubio.

However, proving how profoundly difficult it is to convince a majority of the public to coalesce around specific solutions to our spending and debt problems, the truth is that speaking on the issues with the wisdom of Solomon and the style of Daniel Webster will not guarantee success.

First, because the human psyche is wired to repress unpleasant realities.

Second, because the small amount of faith in government once held by America's wisely skeptical center-right majority has significantly eroded, especially during the last decade of Washington's see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil reaction to out of control spending; madly spiraling debt; job and middle class killing trade policies; life and limb consuming, multi-trillion dollar adventures in nation building disguised as wars; and the enormous growth of a toxic, too big to fail financial industry.

Third, because proposing solutions to our toughest problems (healthcare, for example, about which more in a minute) is made enormously more difficult by the public's fear as well as its justifiable anger at Washington's astounding prodigality and incompetence.

Fourth, because Democrats are fundamentally committed to increasing the size, power, and cost of the central government and thus strive to sabotage even the most reasonable proposals for serious fiscal reform.

Witness, for example, the insidious treachery exhibited by Barack Obama when he convened a debt commission only to betray not just its most courageous members but every other decent American citizen by reacting to its report with shameless, cowardly disregard — that is, until recently, when thoughts of Election Year impelled him to strike an expedient pose as a reformer smitten by the light of Fiscal Religion.

Yes, it's going to be tough talking with the American people about what needs to be done.

And that toughness is all the more intense with respect to healthcare, the reform of which represents the nation's most important fiscal problem, a reality financial expert John Mauldin illuminates as follows:

. . . the real question we must ask ourselves as a nation is, "How much health care do we want and how do we want to pay for it?" . . . The polls say a large, bipartisan majority of people want to maintain Medicare and other health programs (perhaps reformed), and yet a large bipartisan majority does not want a tax increase. We can't have it both ways, which means there is a major job of education to be done.

Now, I side with those who say that for a time we can have it both ways if we —

(1) eliminate the fraud in Medicare

(2) establish and enforce reasonable standards of care throughout the entire healthcare system

(3) enforce simple, known procedures to virtually eliminate hospital-acquired infections and hospital-caused injuries

(4) employ technology to greatly reduce costs in the business end of the system

(5) use the power of markets to bring about efficiencies in everything else, from how healthcare providers are organized to how much employees are paid.

Problem is, even that efficient system will eventually come under cost pressures.

Therefore, with respect to America's healthcare future, as with all things, the cards will call themselves: Either we will be able to afford every one of the medical advances sure to arise from the brilliance of the human mind or we will not. Indeed, with respect to avoiding the latter, we can only hope humanity's genius also means the day of the $50 CT Scan is not far off.

However, as Ben Franklin taught us with the aphorism "He that lives upon hope will die fasting" and the past few years have reminded us so painfully, the only sensible option life affords us is to seize the present moment to confront problems as best we can.

Congressman Paul Ryan did just that after he voted against adopting the debt commission's report because "It not only didn't address the elephant in the room — health care — it made it fatter."

Specifically, he obeyed Horace's injunction to "trust as little as possible in the future" by joining with fellow commission member Alice Rivlin, appointed by Clinton to be director of OMB and a governor of the Federal Reserve, to propose a voucher system aimed at using the power of the consumer to reduce Medicare costs and greatly eliminate fraud, which plagues government insurance significantly more than private sector insurance.

(For the record, Ryan didn't offer reforms for the rest of the healthcare system, a fact that properly drew criticism from libertarians at Reason magazine who otherwise praised his efforts.)

The reaction when the Medicare proposal was included in the "Ryan Budget Plan"?

Polls showed Republican voters evenly split in support and opposition.

And the nation's supposed intellectual, innovative, thoroughly modern "progressives" (i.e. Democrats)?

As usual, they remained firmly stuck in the reeking, politics-as-usual muck the public despises, imitating their leader in offering no alternative plan, airing as many "throw grandma over the cliff" ads as they could purchase, and salivating over plans to make their single most important appeal in the 2012 Election an attack on the Republican plot to destroy Medicare.

The first reveals the difficulty of the task before us, the second, the poisonous Know-Nothingism which has been the real and only Democratic response to the nation's fiscal problems.

Both the difficulty and the poison just mentioned support the argument that Republicans ought to deal with "the elephant in the room" separately, holding off on legislation regarding it until they have done "a major job of education [and discussion]" with the public.

Of course, while Republicans are engaged in that effort, they would do the country and themselves a lot of good if they'd inform the public about the frightening consequences of the nation's madly rising debt in general.

Who knows, if they speak effectively about the effects of the burgeoning debt Obama attempted to cement in place with his astonishingly obtuse ten year budget proposal — for instance, the disaster that will occur when interest rates inevitably return to normal levels or the devastation if they rise higher than normal — Republicans may reap the rewards of causing another elephantine image to sweep the nation.

This one not of a single member of the species but a herd of the rampaging giants indiscriminately stomping into oblivion America As We Know It.

© A.J. DiCintio


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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A.J. DiCintio

A.J. DiCintio posts regularly at RenewAmerica and YourNews.com. He first exercised his polemical skills arguing with friends on the street corners of the working class neighborhood where he grew up. Retired from teaching, he now applies those skills, somewhat honed and polished by experience, to social/political affairs.


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