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Friday, January 01, 2010

This would be a great op-ed if I wasn't so sure it would be followed by one denouncing any government role in health coverage reform
Posted by Jill | 7:13 AM
It's really too bad that "Don't trust the government with any role in regulation of health care coverage" is the subtext that keeps seeping through Bobo's op-ed in the New York Times today, because otherwise it would be a piece he should have written during the Big Daddy era of George W. Bush, who treated Americans like children who needed to be lied to about the risks we face:

...there was a realistic sense that human institutions are necessarily flawed. History is not knowable or controllable. People should be grateful for whatever assistance that government can provide and had better do what they can to be responsible for their own fates.

That mature attitude seems to have largely vanished. Now we seem to expect perfection from government and then throw temper tantrums when it is not achieved. We seem to be in the position of young adolescents — who believe mommy and daddy can take care of everything, and then grow angry and cynical when it becomes clear they can’t.


For better or worse, over the past 50 years we have concentrated authority in centralized agencies and reduced the role of decentralized citizen action. We’ve done this in many spheres of life. Maybe that’s wise, maybe it’s not. But we shouldn’t imagine that these centralized institutions are going to work perfectly or even well most of the time. It would be nice if we reacted to their inevitable failures not with rabid denunciation and cynicism, but with a little resiliency, an awareness that human systems fail and bad things will happen and we don’t have to lose our heads every time they do.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney treated Americans like children, who needed to be told that their Big Swinging Dick Daddy Wars would keep them 100% safe. That if we just invaded enough countries or dropped enough bombs or eliminated enough freedoms, they could be 100% safe and never, ever, ever die and nothing bad would ever happen to them. Now we have Joe Lieberman advocating turning Yemen into a sheet of glass, we are still in George Bush's phony ginned-up war in Iraq, and we are escalating in Afghanistan. And there are those who think that if we just go to war against enough guys who think that dying will get them laid by 72 virgins in heaven, there will be ABSOLUTELY ZERO RISK to being an American. We will never, ever die and we will live forever.

In my neighborhood, after this winter is over, we will once again see parents putting their kids in what is practically full body armor before letting them get on a bicycle. They don't teach the kids to ride single file; I see entire families riding four abreast with the kids on the outside. But they put kids in helmets and kneepads and elbow pads and wrist guards, thinking this will keep them safe. I used to work with someone whose son was one of the last kids in the state killed on a bicycle before the helmet laws went into effect here in New Jersey. Since the helmet law was passed, parents have deluded themselves into thinking that a helmet will 100% assure that their kids are safe. They are wrong.

And yet when George Bush got up and said that if we just eviscerate everything we stand for; if we give up all our freedoms and allow him to torture anyone he wants to, we can all go to bed with visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads every night and we will never, ever die. And Americans believed it, because it is more comforting to think that a National Guard deserter and dry drunk can keep us 100% safe than to recognize that we live in a world of risk. I never believed that, and it has nothing to do with partisanship. I drive the Garden State Parkway to work every day, in a section where some genius decided that there should be no shoulder on the right and a large one on the left, so that there is nothing between the right-hand-lane and the Passaic River but a concrete divider that doesn't even come up to the door handle of the average car, and where the average prevailing speed is around 75 in a construction zone. So I know that on any day, I could leave the house for work and not come home. It's a risk I have to take because I have to earn a living. One has to leave the house in order to live.

I feel the same way when I agree with David Brooks as I do when Chris Matthews steps out of his Village head -- that what's infuriating about these guys is that they know better. And that they are willfully stupid because it buys them access and invitations to the right parties.

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