October 9, 2013
"An old friend who has been active in politics for more than 30 years tells me he's giving up," claims Robert Reich in a Puffington Host post: " 'I can't stomach what's going on in Washington anymore,' he says. 'The hell with all of them. I have better things to do with my life.' "
Reich is a proven fabulist, so one has to assume any story he tells is a tall tale. But we're interested in the supposed moral of the parable of Reich's Disgusted Imaginary Friend: "My friend is falling exactly into the trap that the extreme right wants all of us to fall into--such disgust and cynicism that we all give up on politics." The "Tea Bag Republicans," as the homophobic Reich calls them, "want to sow even greater cynicism about the capacity of government to do much of anything."
In reality, nobody is more disgusted or cynical about government than Tea Party activists themselves--and they have much to be cynical about. The Washington Examiner reports that TeaParty.net "has finally received its tax-exempt status after a three-year delay" caused by the repurposing of the Internal Revenue Service into a political operation aimed at suppressing opposition to Barack Obama's re-election campaign:
"After four years battling Lois Lerner's shock troops, we are relieved that the IRS has relented and finally recognized our right to operate as a non-profit," said Todd Cefaratti, founder of TheTeaParty.net. "First they tried to ignore us. Then they tried to discredit us. And then they tried to deny our legal rights. Hopefully this is the beginning of the end to a sad chapter in our government's targeting of its own citizens," he added.
Cefaratti seems to be following the advice Reich gives his fictitious friend at the end of his piece: "If you believe the fix is in and the game is rigged . . . do something about it. Rather than give up, get more involved. Become more active. Make a ruckus." Of course it is too late to put Obama to an honest electoral test, but one must always look forward.
Cynicism is often, as we've noted, a product of disappointed idealism--of naiveté being crushed by reality. If Obama's supporters have been turning cynical, it is because the falseness of his promises is finally becoming undeniable. Take ObamaCare. He promised to accomplish the impossible: to guarantee health care to everyone, offering both higher quality and lower cost than under the (admittedly far from optimal) status quo ante.
The San Jose Mercury News reports on the reality:
Cindy Vinson and Tom Waschura are big believers in the Affordable Care Act. They vote independent and are proud to say they helped elect and re-elect President Barack Obama.
Yet, like many other Bay Area residents who pay for their own medical insurance, they were floored last week when they opened their bills: Their policies were being replaced with pricier plans that conform to all the requirements of the new health care law.
Vinson, of San Jose, will pay $1,800 more a year for an individual policy, while Waschura, of Portola Valley, will cough up almost $10,000 more for insurance for his family of four. . . .
"I was laughing at Boehner--until the mail came today," Waschura said, referring to House Speaker John Boehner, who is leading the Republican charge to defund Obamacare.
"I really don't like the Republican tactics, but at least now I can understand why they are so pissed about this. When you take $10,000 out of my family's pocket each year, that's otherwise disposable income or retirement savings that will not be going into our local economy." . . .
"Of course, I want people to have health care," Vinson said. "I just didn't realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally."
Reich acknowledges that ObamaCare "is hardly perfect," but he insists "the president cannot re-negotiate the Affordable Care Act" because that would mean giving in to the Republicans: "If you give in to bullies, their bullying only escalates." America is stuck with this monstrous law because the alternative would be too costly to Obama's pride. Disgust and cynicism seem an entirely appropriate reaction.
Then we have the government shutdown, which the Obama administration has been working to make as painful as possible. FoxNews.com has a list of "7 Things the Government Shut Down That Saved Practically Nothing," including websites (whose content not only isn't being updated but has been taken off-line altogether); public parks (such as the normally unattended World War II memorial, which has been fenced off and patrolled by rangers to keep citizens away); and even privately run parks that happen to be situated on public land.
Obama explained his shutdown tactics at a White House press conferenceyesterday:
Q: Mr. President, while you're waiting for the shutdown to end, why is it that you can't go along with any of the bills the House is passing funding the FDA and FEMA, where you were yesterday, and veterans benefits and Head Start? You've got to be tempted to sign those bills and get funding to those programs that you support.
Obama: Of course I'm tempted, because you'd like to think that you could solve at least some of the problem if you couldn't solve all of it.
But here's the problem. What you've seen are bills that come up where wherever Republicans are feeling political pressure, they put a bill forward. And if there's no political heat, if there's no television story on it, then nothing happens. And if we do some sort of shotgun approach like that, then you'll have some programs that are highly visible get funded and reopened, like national monuments, but things that don't get a lot of attention, like those SBA loans, not being funded.
By the president's own admission, it's all about jockeying for political advantage. Arguably it's working: The Associated Press reports its new poll suggests the Republicans are "taking the biggest hit in public opinion from the shutdown": "Overall, 62 percent mainly blamed Republicans for the shutdown. About half said Obama or the Democrats in Congress bear much responsibility." Congress's approval rating is at a laughable 5%, though Obama's is 37%, almost as bad by presidential standards.
But again, cynicism and disgust seem entirely appropriate responses. Ronald Reagan was the last president who had a basic skepticism of Big Government, but Barack Obama may end up having done more than any of his predecessors to promote that feeling among the public.