January 4, 2014
Showing How Government Fails
By Bruce Walker
The debacle of ObamaCare may do what conservatives have been trying to do for a long time: show ordinary Americans the depth of government incompetence. Businesses have grasped since FDR the sting of the quip "I'm from the government -- I'm here to help you." The hyper-regulation by the federal government of nearly every aspect of commerce and industry through an ever-growing leviathan of laws, regulations, judicial decisions, and executive actions has stunted and even crippled huge swaths of private enterprise in America. Almost any small business can recount at least one horror story that cost our nation productive activity, reduced meaningful employment, and closed off areas of potential growth in our economy.
Many Americans, however, have generally been shown only the sunny side of the federal government. Those who do not run or manage businesses, who do not pay federal taxes, and who do not have to deal with the profound inanity of government bureaucrats may live their lives seeing only "goodies" like Social Security, welfare-state entitlements, and countless "feel good" advocacy programs notionally on their behalf.
The divide between the small business owner crushed by compliance with irrational and often incomprehensible tax codes and the employees of this small business is gaping. The employee may not make enough to have to file a tax return, and if he does, that return may be fairly simple and may produce, because federal withholding masks the true costs of federal taxation, a refund to the filer. The union worker may see federal labor regulations as creating "protections" which apparently costs the worker nothing, because apparently the cost is wholly assumed by the employer.
There are exceptions, of course, to this general pattern. Those who have served in the military may have sampled the glories of Department of Veteran Affairs, and nearly all Americans will have to deal at some point in their lives with the Social Security Administration. Voters who find these federal agencies maddeningly incompetent, however, can turn to their congressman or senator for help. Each year, most congressmen have several hundred of these cases, in which letters to various federal departments, always copied to the constituent, create vey favorable impressions with the affected voter as well as his friends and family. Constituent service to these frustrated voters incrementally increases the popularity of members of Congress over time, which makes incumbents very hard to beat.
The misery of constituencies under ObamaCare will be radically different from what most members of Congress have faced before. Instead of a few hundred troubled constituents who have problems with a dozen or so federal offices, senators and congressmen will be swamped all at once with tens of thousands of terrified constituents all dealing with a single federal agency and a single federal law -- and no one in Congress will be able to do anything to help most of these people.
Unlike the goodie programs of the welfare state, millions of Americans will endure in dramatic fashion what their more affluent (i.e., taxpayer) countrymen and the businesses in their state have endured for decades. This seems not to have percolated through that dense fog that is entrenched leftism. Millions of Americans who until now have yawned at the dull destructiveness of federal intrusion into the commercial life of our nation will wake up and find all at once that they are in the same shape as small businessmen, with stark prospects and no hope of relief from even the most helpful congressional staffer.
It gets worse. The tens of millions dreadfully affected by ObamaCare all have friends and family as well. The secondary political shockwave will be the cumulative effect of voters not badly hurt by ObamaCare -- at least yet -- who get an earful from all those people they know and trust who are badly hurt. Congressional offices will tell constituents -- very reluctantly, but inevitably, even for those Democrats who voted for this legislative nightmare -- that the problem is not the sluggishness of federal bureaucracy, but rather the federal statute itself, and that nothing can be done without a repeal of the law.
Government -- especially the federal government -- fails wretchedly, but the impact of that failure, until now at least, has been hidden from the vast majority of ordinary Americans. That's about to change. When it does, there will be nowhere for federal politicians to hide. When it does, we may see a true revolution in the political affairs of our nation. Let us hope that it's not too late.