Progressivist Hubris and Obamacare

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The example of Obamacare elsewhere in VoegelinView may be found Scott Segrest’s essay, “Richard Rorty and the Core of Progressivism,” which deals with the presuppositions and programs of contemporary American progressivism as exemplified in the thought of Richard Rorty. As pointed out there, coercion is a tool of the progressivist program. If ordinary people don’t like what the progressives offer, they will nevertheless have to learn to like it for their own good.

An example is the recently passed “Obamacare law” (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, effective from March 23, 2010). The passage of this law offers a wonderful example of progressivist hubris and illustrates what can happen when progressives take over a political party, as they currently have taken over the Democrat Party. As is now generally known, the Democrat majority of Congress was presented with a 2000 page bill by the Democrat leadership. The bill would, in the long run, substitute socialized for independent medicine and would give the government supervision over an additional one-sixth of the US economy.

The Democrat members were not given time to read the bill much less permitted to offer amendments (as the Democrat leader of the House famously said: “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.“). This coup de main avoided the customary public discussion and committee deliberations and debates which would necessarily have led to compromise, change, and the disruption of the pure scheme of control.

This draft legislation had been prepared behind the scenes by an academician hired by the Obama Administration,1 and it was enacted without consulting the Republican opposition, allowing no opportunity for negotiated compromise or input in the form of amendments. Following enactment of Obamacare, the public found out that it contained many coercive mandates that diminished freedom of health care choice, rationed health care for the elderly, created commissions to regulate the minutiae of health care and medical practice, crippled private insurers in favor of government insurance by forcing employers to drop employee health coverage, and, contrary to promises, pushed the government deeper into debt.

The first result of the law was for the Obama Administration to shamelessly issue waivers from compliance to over fifteen hundred businesses and labor unions that are connected to important Democrats. Especially amusing is the favoritism shown to San Francisco restaurateurs.In such details one is reminded of Hannah Arendt’s phrase, “the banality of evil.”

The second result was the rapid proliferation of the so-called “Tea Party,” movement–a name given to a spontaneous and disorganized political uprising of millions of voters who had hitherto ignored politics but now felt the boundary between government power and individual liberty had been transgressed. They voted with Republicans, knowing that creating a third party would merely fracture the opposition vote.

The third result was the ouster of the Democrat majority from the House of Representatives in the election that followed in the Fall of 2010–their worst defeat since 1946.3 As a result of this election, one may conclude that our specifically American political character, sometimes called “American exceptionalism,” survives and is able to recognize and reject extremes such as progressivism.

We will learn this Fall whether American exceptionalism remains a sufficiently vital force in political life to oust the progressivists from the commanding offices of power they now occupy, and to reduce the deep moral and ethical corruption that has become routine in the Obama Administration’s pursuit of the progressivist dream.

 

Notes

1. According to the prefatory language of the May 1st, 2010 draft, “This document was prepared by the attorneys and staff of the House Office of the Legislative Counsel (HOLC) for the use of its attorneys and clients.” See http://docs.house.gov/energycommerce/ppacacon.pdf.

But subsequent information indicates that the law was actually prepared under the direction of Jonathan Gruber, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, at the request of the Obama Administration, for which he was paid $370,000. He was also paid $600,000 on related work, for a total of almost $1,000,000, and subsequently concealed his contracts when advocating adoption of the law. See a list of his purported actions at The Daily Caller. He blatantly concealed his work from The Atlantic in an interview at the time the bill was introduced.

Professor Gruber acquired his expertize while preparing the forerunner of Obamacare, the Massachusetts health plan denominated “Romneycare” for the then Governor of Massachusettes and current candidate for President of the US. His role is claimed on his MIT biography page.  For a summary of this background see Ricochet.

2. See for example, the account given in The Daily Caller of the restaurants favored in Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s own congressional district.

3. The Republicans increased their membership from 178 to 242, affording them control of the 435 member body. It was noted at the time that the progressivist Democrats generally came from safe districts and so they were not defeated. The Democrats who were defeated were traditional rather than ideolgical Democrats.Thus the surviving office holders are now more uniformly progressive.

Fritz Wagner

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Frederick (“Fritz”) J. Wagner graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1962 with a B.A. in English Literature where in the Fall of 1960 he took the political science course by Eric Voegelin. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1968 and worked for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and then entered private practice. He founded the evForum listserve in 1999; started publishing and editing VoegelinView in 2009-13; and still maintains a personal website at www.fritzwagner.com.