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Victor Davis Hanson: The Triumph of Banality [Obama's talent for dishonesty in political discourse]
NRO ^ | March 2, 2009 | Victor Davis Hanson

Posted on 03/02/2009 6:09:02 AM PST by Tolik

Obama didn't invent dishonesty in political discourse — but he has a talent for it

   Health care, education, public spending — President Obama didn’t invent dishonest rhetoric, but he’s elevating it to an art form.

 

One of the most tired rhetorical tropes in Washington starts with, “We must . . . ” In the age of Obama, this is now usually followed by “Get the cost of our health care under control,” or “Invest in the education of our youth,” or “Spend wisely.” Such promises usually devolve into pleas for more money. They rarely explore how we ended up in the first place with such severe crises in health care and education — and with trillions in borrowing to spend trillions more that we do not have.

The cost of health care is spiraling out of control, and not just because the proverbial evil “they” (fill in the blank: pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, medical corporations, trial lawyers, etc.) charge too much. Such profit-mongering entities may well gouge us, owing to a lack of competition, fear of lawsuits, or government mandates and interference. Yet the larger culprit is, of course, we the people. The cost of our health care is soaring because, to be frank, that health care is usually very good, and it does things routinely that almost no one else in the world contemplates — such as providing 83-year-olds with heart-valve replacements, 78-year-olds with hip and knee replacements, and those who drink, smoke, and are chronically obese with drugs and weekly doctor visits.

When I grew up in rural California in the 1960s, an obese uncle in his early 70s had “heart trouble.” That translated into some nitroglycerin tablets, and otherwise about the same regimen offered President Eisenhower after his in-office heart attack: Try to quit smoking, eat less, more bed rest — and good luck!

Forty years later, that same patient would have a bypass, and an expensive battery of medications and weekly follow-up doctor visits — and would make it not to 73 years old (as my uncle was when he died), but to 78 or 80, or even 90.

If we wish to get health-care costs under control, then we should at least be honest with the American people and admit that we are all paying a collective fortune largely for three reasons: (1) to keep functioning into their 60s those who drank, smoked, and ate too much and in a past era would have passed on at 60; (2) to give us all an extra three to five years of mobility and functionality after we reach 75; (3) to fit us up with IVs, feeding tubes, and respirators so that in our last six months of life we can die in a rest home or among machines and specialists in a hospital rather than in our own home with a few morphine tablets for pain and a bowl of soup with a straw on the nightstand.

My dentist warned me in 1962 to brush three times a day, since he could predict a depressing train of events to come for most of the more fortunate rural patients who could pay for his care: surely fillings in your 20s and 30s, hopefully caps in your 40s, maybe root canals and crowns in your 50s, and, unfortunately, false teeth after that. And now? We confidently expect all sorts of restorative dentistry and tooth implants to such a degree that the old common sight of a normal American middle-class fellow with a couple of missing teeth or even a shiny, crass glistening gold incisor is now the exception.

Again, health care is expensive because Americans, with some good reason, have decided that the ancient tragic view — we all age and break down, and pay for the sins of our 20s and 30s in our 50s and 60s — can at last be replaced by the therapeutic promise of vigor and health into our 80s.

What could be done? President Obama could try some honesty. Thus he might say, “We are spending hundreds of billions to keep us healthy, vital, and alive in ways unimaginable a few years ago. To keep our part of the bargain, we must then encourage the aging to remain active and working — and delay retirement. If we are living to 80 rather than 65, then surely we can start receiving Social Security benefits at 67 rather than at 62. What we save in postponed payouts can go to the greater cost of keeping us alive to 80.”

President Obama also promises historic new rates of high-school and college graduation. Again, he seems to think the present problem is the absence of money — as if brilliant, gifted, and motivated young people are ending up at McDonald’s rather than doing quantum physics because the bogeymen “they” raised the bar and didn’t give them enough college scholarship support.

More banality. The truth is quite different. First, too many of contemporary minority youth — the growing Hispanic and African-American underclass that may well soon make up 40 percent of our nation’s student body — for a variety of reasons beyond the government’s control (e.g., from inordinate patterns of illegitimacy; greater absence of two-parent families; above-average parental drug use, incarceration rates, and felony convictions; and a pervasive ethic of machismo that disdains “acting white” with your nose in a book), simply are not as competitive as other students in grade and high schools. In reaction, the good-hearted state, at the 11th hour of college entry, seeks to ensure an equality of result through affirmative action, set-asides, de facto quotas, and government subsidies. When poorly prepped minority students subsequently do not graduate from college at rates commensurate with other groups, the Left cries “racism” — and we are again back to asking for more money rather than a radical change of heart.

 

President Obama apparently cannot say, “Americans — each time you have a child out of wedlock, each time you take an illicit drug, each time you break the law or go to jail, each time you romanticize brutality rather than honor scholarship, each time you allege the racism of the others rather than look into your own soul, you do your own small part in ensuring that we might not educate your child as we should — no matter how many thousands of dollars we lavish upon him.”

Second, for all American youth, too much government money, not too little, is pouring into education. From some 20 years’ experience in higher public education in California, I have come to know a familiar student profile:

 

Age: 18–30

Units enrolled: 6–9

Residence: Still at home

Job: 20 hours a week at minimum wage to pay for car, insurance, video games, entertainment incidentals (but not rent, food, laundry, etc.)

Major: Either undeclared or changing

Goal: Return to school every other semester, work part-time, party, and put off becoming autonomous

 

Such students, in today’s grade-inflated university, are able to get Cs and Bs for F and D work, to cobble together state and federal loans, student work assistance, and grants — and to delay growing up while they sleepwalk through a largely therapeutic curriculum. Eric Holder may call us cowards for not discussing race more openly, but if he were to examine the current class offerings at a California public university, or read the syllabi of the courses, he would quickly discover that race, class, and gender are the common themes — an approach designed to encourage grievance and separatism, which consumes precious student hours at the expense of real learning in the liberal arts and hard sciences.

If President Obama is serious about education, then he might also remonstrate with universities to bare their books, keep their costs below the rate of inflation, mandate a cutoff of student support after four years, insist that the BA or BS degree be contingent on some sort of final exit examination, re-examine tenure — and invest in vocational and trade schools rather than continue subsidizing community-studies, sociology, education, and physical-education degrees. One brilliant plumber, gifted carpenter, or adept auto mechanic does more for the American economy (and our collective values) than a dozen 20-something sociology majors in progress.

All government officials talk of spending wisely, but they never tell us the true extent of their financial malfeasance. Imagine if last week, in his address to Congress, President Obama had said something like the following: “We must cut spending, since the borrowed money must come from somewhere. Either we print more paper dollars, and eventually ruin the value of our currency in the manner now common in Zimbabwe or Argentina; or we continue to borrow from the Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans, and therefore mortgage both our honor and our autonomy; or, in the manner of War Bonds during the Second World War, we will have to ask you all to forgo stocks, 401(k)s, and real-estate investments, and instead each month, as part of your patriotic duty, buy U.S. government savings bonds that garner almost no interest, to subsidize our nation’s lavish borrowing and spending.”

Only that way could we have an honest national debate on whether the proposed high-speed rail between Vegas and LA is worth making Americans soon pay $10 for a Big Mac; or whether federally subsidized community organizing justifies more begging for help from the Communist government in Beijing; or whether we would all like to accept 0.05 interest on our government bonds to finance the mortgage bailout of those in arrears on their home debt.

In short, for each word devoted to spending, we need one word of honest exegesis about “paying for it.”

For the last 20 years, all our presidents have talked much about health care, education, and spending, while saying little. Either they were not honest enough to tell us the truth — or they were convinced that, like children, we simply couldn’t handle it if they did.


— Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal


 


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Editorial; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: 111th; bho44; deceit; demlies; education; healthcare; obama; vdh; victordavishanson

1 posted on 03/02/2009 6:09:02 AM PST by Tolik
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To: neverdem; Lando Lincoln; quidnunc; .cnI redruM; SJackson; dennisw; monkeyshine; Alouette; ...


    Victor Davis Hanson Ping ! 

       Let me know if you want in or out.

Links:    FR Index of his articles:  http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/keyword?k=victordavishanson
                His website: http://victorhanson.com/
                NRO archive: http://www.nationalreview.com/hanson/hanson-archive.asp
                Pajamasmedia:
   http://victordavishanson.pajamasmedia.com/

2 posted on 03/02/2009 6:09:43 AM PST by Tolik
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To: Tolik

His lie about having no earmarks was HUGE....and the press has completely ignored it!


3 posted on 03/02/2009 6:13:01 AM PST by SumProVita (Cogito, ergo...Sum Pro Vita. (Modified DeCartes))
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To: Tolik

If you speak the truth, have one foot in the stirrup!


4 posted on 03/02/2009 6:18:28 AM PST by Unassuaged (I have shocking data relevant to the conversation!)
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To: Tolik

Right about the failing nascent obama regime not being honest with America. The objective is clear - to groom this country to use less energy. First by raising the cost of energy, then by discouraging any incentives to seek reward for diligent and economical application of what little energy remains available.

CEOs who receive too much compensation are to be demonized, while the lowly minimum-wage, poorly-educated, failure-to-launch, aimless and unfocused peon is given ever greater rewards for failing, only encouraging more of the same slacker behavior.

For sure, no positive example is coming from the top.


5 posted on 03/02/2009 6:23:39 AM PST by alloysteel (Obama was lying, your rights are dying)
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To: Tolik
Another great VDH article. His description of the adult/ non-adult was absolutely on target as a growing problem in our society. Colleges and the government encourage this behavior. The government and colleges are the Obamaman’s biggest supporters. They are only looking to fill their coffers, not produce independent citizens. There are immune from any accountability.
6 posted on 03/02/2009 6:27:58 AM PST by madinmadtown (BO stinks..)
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To: Tolik
"They rarely explore how we ended up in the first place with such severe crises in health care and education"

Sure he does. It always starts out something like this- "We inherited from the Bush Administration..."

Or- "Republican tax cuts that the Bush administration..."

Never does he put the blame where it really belongs. Instead he hires the crooks to his staff. That pretty much sums up just how big a bold faced LIAR he really is.

Unfortunately, thanks to MSM who won't inform the public just who really IS responsible for the mess this nation is in, the sheeple will clap and cheer and wait in hopes of getting some money from the government, too stupid to realize it's a tiny fraction of their own money they have already paid to the government to begin with.

7 posted on 03/02/2009 6:32:31 AM PST by Nathan Zachary
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To: Tolik
ALERT!!!

Dow -129.19-1.83% 6,933.74

Obama did it! He made the DOW crack through the 7000 point floor everyone thought wouldn't happen till late spring.

Way to go O-stupid.

8 posted on 03/02/2009 6:35:20 AM PST by Nathan Zachary
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To: Tolik

—great article—points out some unpleasant truth about health care, also—


9 posted on 03/02/2009 6:39:07 AM PST by rellimpank (--don't believe anything the MSM tells you about firearms or explosives--NRA Benefactor)
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To: Unassuaged

That would be too much change, the American people want more of the same.


10 posted on 03/02/2009 6:45:15 AM PST by MiltonFriedmanFan
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To: Freee-dame

One brilliant plumber, gifted carpenter, or adept auto mechanic does more for the American economy (and our collective values) than a dozen 20-something sociology majors in progress.

^^^^^^

This should be printed on posters and put in every school — especially Schools of Education at universities.


11 posted on 03/02/2009 6:47:07 AM PST by maica (Barack Obama is a Communist Party Project.)
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To: Tolik
VDH is a treasure, all right. It would be very refreshing to have a politician actually say in public that we're running afoul of our own expectations. The effects are pernicious -- problems like illegal immigration and loss of domestic manufacturing capabilities are part of the same package as the racial and cultural issues VDH mentions.

I can't get very sanctimonious about it, though -- I'm about as guilty of it as the next guy.

12 posted on 03/02/2009 6:50:25 AM PST by r9etb
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To: Tolik

I like VDH. He’’s a Democrat I’ve read. I’ve assumed that as was George Putnam VDH is of the old style Conservative Democrat genre.

It appears in this article that VDH is focused on a different perspective of BIG Government than Obama and his minions rather then Conservative values which would reduce, or eliminate BIG Government in education.

I’d rather discuss the latter.


13 posted on 03/02/2009 6:52:10 AM PST by rockinqsranch (Dems, Libs, Socialists, Call 'em what you will, they ALL have Fairies livin' in their Trees.)
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To: Tolik
The best thing Obama can do is to make smoking popular again - it will drastically reduce the costs of health care for the elderly.
14 posted on 03/02/2009 6:54:06 AM PST by alex
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To: Tolik
Either they were not honest enough to tell us the truth — or they were convinced that, like children, we simply couldn’t handle it if they did.

We can't. It is verboten to tell the American people that anything is their own damn fault. Or even that they share responsibility for the messes we get into. It must always be someone else's fault.

This can be seen by the fact that when discussing the decline of investments absolutely nobody mentions the gorilla in the corner.

Most Americans have lost 30% to 40% of the value of their 401ks, etc. off the peak value. But this peak value was an illusion, with probably at least 15% to 20% being added by the bubble. IOW, if we had maintained reasonable investment and accounting values over the last 15 years, your 401k would have been worth perhaps $250k a year ago, rather than $350k. Of course, had we done that it would still be worth $250k today, or perhaps a little more, and the economy would still be growing.

Yet the universal assumption among pols and pundits is that if not for the Bush administration, or the misbehavior of Wall Street, or ACRA and Fan and Fred (pick your villain), your 401k would still be worth $350k rather than the $200k it's worth now.

15 posted on 03/02/2009 7:01:17 AM PST by Sherman Logan (Everyone has a right to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.)
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To: Tolik
Either they were not honest enough to tell us the truth — or they were convinced that, like children, we simply couldn’t handle it if they did.

We can't. It is verboten to tell the American people that anything is their own damn fault. Or even that they share responsibility for the messes we get into. It must always be someone else's fault.

This can be seen by the fact that when discussing the decline of investments absolutely nobody mentions the gorilla in the corner.

Most Americans have lost 30% to 40% of the value of their 401ks, etc. off the peak value. But this peak value was an illusion, with probably at least 15% to 20% being added by the bubble. IOW, if we had maintained reasonable investment and accounting values over the last 15 years, your 401k would have been worth perhaps $250k a year ago, rather than $350k. Of course, had we done that it would still be worth $250k today, or perhaps a little more, and the economy would still be growing.

Yet the universal assumption among pols and pundits is that if not for the Bush administration, or the misbehavior of Wall Street, or ACRA and Fan and Fred (pick your villain), your 401k would still be worth $350k rather than the $200k it's worth now.

16 posted on 03/02/2009 7:01:18 AM PST by Sherman Logan (Everyone has a right to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.)
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To: Tolik

GOOD


17 posted on 03/02/2009 7:04:45 AM PST by dennisw (Archimedes--- Give me a place to stand, and I will move the Earth)
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To: Tolik

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QEnaAZrYqQI


18 posted on 03/02/2009 7:32:13 AM PST by danamco
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To: Tolik

BTTT


19 posted on 03/02/2009 7:37:39 AM PST by kellynla (Freedom of speech makes it easier to spot the idiots! Semper Fi!)
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To: r9etb
I can't get very sanctimonious about it, though -- I'm about as guilty of it as the next guy.

Me too, I have been paying into SS since my first job at 17 years old. Almost 56 now so that is 38 years of work. I know that I could put in another 10 years or so to 67, not 62 like is available now, but I would be pissed if they changed it on me. Most of my friends are taking SS at 62, if you do the math, you get alot more then if you wait and get the higher amount at 67.

I have mostly been self employed so have had to make my own investments for retirement, now half of what I have saved for 30 years is wiped out.

20 posted on 03/02/2009 7:56:16 AM PST by thirst4truth (www.Believer.com)
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To: alloysteel; Tolik

VDH nails it again!!!!


21 posted on 03/02/2009 8:05:41 AM PST by CPT Clay (Drill ANWR, Personal Accounts NOW ,)
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To: Tolik

bump


22 posted on 03/02/2009 8:25:20 AM PST by Cacique (quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat ( Islamia Delenda Est ))
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