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Invoking Grandma

Here is Don Boudreaux on the criticism of “over-reaction” to health care reform:

Paul Krugman believes that only irrational right-wing ideologues – along with paid agents of a mysterious cabal of sinister billionaires – could possibly worry that Obamacare threatens ordinary Americans’ freedoms, finances, and health (“Republican Death Trip,” Aug. 14).

But while many Obamacare opponents might misstate some details of the proposed ‘reform,’ it’s quite appropriate to worry about unintended ill consequences – especially when reform as massive as Obamacare is in the works.

Examples are legion. Here’s one: opponents of the federal income-tax openly worried a century ago that such a tax would unleash an intrusive bureaucracy. As Richard Byrd – then-speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates – expressed it, “A hand from Washington will be stretched out and placed upon every man’s business; the eye of the Federal inspector will be in every man’s counting house … The law will of necessity have inquisitorial features, it will provide penalties, it will create complicated machinery. Under it men will be hailed into courts distant from their homes. Heavy fines imposed by distant and unfamiliar tribunals will constantly menace the tax payer.”

Dismissed at the time as being mere scare tactics by tax opponents, these expressed concerns proved to be legitimate.

It would be well worth a research project to document the hundreds of similar examples. I can think of the initial Social Security debate are being very similar. Or how about Medicaid in the first place? Isn’t Medicaid a program designed to provide medical care to poor and disadvantaged families? If that was the intention of the program when it was created, what is the problem today? It is certainly not over a concern for th poor – although that is a convenient move politically to trot out an unfortunate story of a family that fell through the cracks.

So, anyone that questions the “purity” of the creation of unions (i.e. they were not created, by and large, to protect workers from abusive firms) is called reactionary; anyone who questions further state intervention in health care is engaging in scare tactics; anyone who questions the policy we are going to get to deal with global warming is a dangerous and rapacious denialist (even if we are inclined to believe that warming is occurring and is a problem); anyone who believes that enough human beings are morally and ethically inclined to take care of their fellow man without the government doing it is considered a heartless kicker of homeless people, and so forth. What kind of a “debate” is that? What kind of a society is this? And now, when we really want to ratchet up our tactics, we invoke our beloved grandmothers to create enormous straw men? Serious people have serious concerns about health care as it stands and as it is being proposed. To trot out grandma and the death committees is another way to force our attention away from the man behind the curtain. What technique will be used next? I can think of worse, actually.

2 Responses to “Invoking Grandma”

  1. Nate says:

    If health care were only left up to the discretion of the government, as President Obama has previously indicated, Grandma may have had a harder time “trotting out”. I thought it was funny reading about him invoking his dead grandmother to deny one type of rationing, since he had previously used her as example concerning the possible need to ration in a government-funded health care system. Back in April, when he could still do no wrong, he reflected on how a public system which would provide a hip replacement to terminally ill people, such as his grandmother had received during her final stages of cancer, would likely be unsustainable (http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601070&sid=aGrKbfWkzTqc). Poor Grandma is getting a lot of mileage on all sides of this issue.

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