Thursday, July 23, 2009

Personal Aside: Obama’s News Conference a Harvard Lecture. Smooth…Elegant…Making the Right Liberal Sounds but Not Answering the Tough Questions.


The Harvard Lecture.

Every so often when I was a teaching Fellow at Harvard (1977) I’d audit John Kenneth Galbraith’s course on the social economy. It was a fastidious performance, brimming with enticements to level the playing field, tax the rich, the need of government to enter the fray and rectify the imbalance on Wall Street. The students sat transfixed because Galbraith was the university’s foremost rhetorican. And when the hour was completed you decided you have partaken of a seven course dinner…but when you left the lecture hall you found that you weren’t left with anything substantive at all, rather like having partaken of a Chinese meal where you immediately wanted something solid to chew on afterward.

The news conference was filled with starry-eyed visionaries as did our Galbraith class…and no one—utterly no one—asked difficult questions that contradicted the dazzling Harvard lecturer who allowed his answers to expand with dreamy liberal rhetoric. As the conference was held last night we’re running out of time to pass health care on a schedule which was set by Obama himself. The House has two more weeks, the Senate three more weeks if they are going to make that deadline which the president himself has acknowledged can slip,.

Much of his answers were rhetorical. As they sat transfixed, he said he wants the IMAC commission, very important to the Blue Dogs, an independent commission that is to take away from Congress the power to set Medicare reimbursement rates. But that doesn’t even meet the problem of paying for the plan and making it revenue neutral—but it would keep the costs down. But that’s a very minor part of it. The problem of paying for the plan is hat the House presented a way of paying for it—raise taxes on those people making over $280,000. But that caused a lot of Democrats to object to that so Nancy Pelosi says, OK we’ll just raise taxes on those making $1 million. The question is: where are you going to get the rest of the money?

Just as the socialist Galbraith painted a scenario where the rich…very rich…would assume the burdens for the middle class—Obama is doing the same thing but as with Galbraith the numbers don’t compute. He denies the health plan is about him. Wrong: it’s all about him. It’s not about cost controls because the controls are going to raise the costs. Nor is it about improving quality because this enlarged bureaucracy is going to decrease the quality of health care. Nor is it about efficiency because his plan is going to introduce a myriad of bewildering new commissions and complex regulations. This is a variant of a John Kenneth Galbraith Harvard lecture—beautifully concocted. What will likely happen is nothing. Oh there’ll be a shell bill which will be labeled “health care” but which it will be harmless, impotent and the media will dress it up as vital first step.

But it is very similar to the economics lectures that John Kenneth Galbraith delivered to us in 1977. Starry-eyed students looked like they had just seen the Beatific Vision…but it was the dream of socialism that has never been redeemed…a dream reincarnated last night by a charlatan who hopes he can generate a little more steam in it to get passed. For a reincarnation of the old Galbraithan flavor, get his book The Age of UnCertainty. Beautiful whipped cream frosting, angel food texture and no substance.

He can’t. It won’t.

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