The Politics of Sacrifice are Absurd

Michael Cohen hasn’t thought this issue through very clearly:

Today, nearly 50 million Americans lack health care coverage, the average American is often one serious illness away from financial ruin and every year nearly 20,000 Americans die because they don’t have health insurance.

Yet last week, when President Barack Obama gave a nationally televised news conference to explain his health care policies, he focused on two narrow questions that are defining the health care debate in Washington: “What’s in this for me?” and “How does my family stand to benefit from health insurance reform?”

For a president who speaks regularly of the national urgency in reforming America’s health care system, these questions are hardly reflective of that critical effort. Instead, Obama must explain to Americans not what’s in it for them but what’s in it for all of us. In short, the president must demand of the American people that they be willing participants in realizing the change he believes the country needs. By framing the health care debate in the cold terminology of efficiency, cost containment and, above all, self-interest, the president is failing to make the moral case for reform and is constraining the ambition of his own domestic policy goals.

If he’s old enough, he’s been asleep since Jack Kennedy’s assasination.

At his inaugural, Jack Kennedy told Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”  He was part of a generation which knew the meaning of sacrifice, and had a civic sense about them.

Barack Obama is no Jack Kennedy, and unfortunately he isn’t speaking to Jack Kennedy’s America either.  Oh, we give a lot of lip service to “volunteerism” and “giving back.”  But the larger government becomes and the more it takes in resources (and it will take more) the less people have to sacrifice, voluntarily or otherwise.  If Uncle Sam’s going to take it to help others, why should we pitch in?  On top of that, our elites (with the idea of eliminating a serious competitor) have an unrelenting war on Christianity, which teaches people to put others first (if we take the Scriptures seriously.)

And did I mention the Boomers are self-centred, and get worse with age?

There are exceptions to this.  But Barack Obama is a smart enough politician to know that appealing to sacrifice is a non-starter when it comes to actually getting something done in American politics today.  He knows that entitlement expansion isn’t about the common good.  Universal health care is about universal patronage, with ward bosses and community organisers like himself at the top.  It’s too bad that reality hasn’t filtered down to the true believers.  The situation with sacrifice and volunteerism won’t improve until we admit the problem, and as long as we are in denial things will get worse than they are.

Leave a Reply