Wednesday, July 01, 2009
The party says its own mistakes prove government can't work.
The Tilting Yard at The Wall Street Journal
'Remember the $400 hammer? How 'bout that $600 toilet seat?" asks a Conservatives for Patients' Rights TV commercial criticizing President Barack Obama's health-care plan. "Seems when Congress gets involved, things just cost more."
As it happens, I do remember the incident of the $436 hammer, the one that made headlines back in 1984. And while it may "seem" in hazy retrospect as though it showed how "things just cost more" once those silly liberals in Congress get started, what the hammer episode actually illustrated was a very different sort of ripoff. The institution that paid so very much for that hammer was President Ronald Reagan's Pentagon. A private-sector contractor was the party that was pleased to take the Pentagon's money. And it was a liberal Democrat in the House of Representatives, also known as "Congress," who publicized the pricey hardware to the skies.
But so what? Myth is so much more satisfying than history, and with myth the competence of Washington actors from 25 years ago doesn't matter any more. Nor does it matter which arm of the federal colossus did what. Republican or Democrat, White House or Congress, they're all part of a monolithic, undifferentiated "government" that acts according to a money-burning logic all its own.
The myth has been getting a lot of play from conservatives in recent weeks as the debate over health care has heated up. The message, as always, is that government can't do anything right.
Where the conservative mythologists show their hand is when they use their own monumental screw-ups, committed during conservatism's long years in charge of the government, to prove that government in general is a futile proceeding, and that Democratic health-care plans, in particular, can't possibly succeed....(Remainder.)