Hey, it’s the weekend, and everyone’s singing the same maddeningly catchy refrain! Rebecca Black’s “Friday”? Nah, that was last week’s moronic singalong. This week’s is even perkier! “Paul Ryan proposes to end Medicare as we know it,” sings former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta. “It would end Medicare as we know it,” sings Senator Max Baucus of Montana. “It’s going to end Medicare as we know it,” sings Nadeam Elshami, communications director for Nancy Pelosi. “It does end Medicare as we know it,” sings Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa. “I drove all night to watch Paul Ryan e-e-end Me-edi-ica-a-are as we-e kno-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-w it,” sing all 24 semi-finalists on the Céline Dion round of “American Idol”.
Sadly, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schulz, incoming chair of the Democratic National Committee, lost the sheet music and was forced to improvise. “This plan would literally be a death trap for seniors,” she ululated. Close enough!
Ending Medicare as we know it? Say it ain’t so! Medicare, we hardly knew ye! It’s an open question whether Americans will fall for one more chorus of the same old song from Baucus, Harkin, Podesta and the other members of America’s wrinkliest boy band. But, if this is the level on which the feckless patronizing spendaholics of the permanent governing class want to conduct the debate, bring it on:
Paul Ryan’s plan would “end Medicare as we know it”.
The Democrats’ “plan” – business as usual - will end America as we know it.
Literally, as Representative Wasserman-Schulz would say. One way or another, Medicare as we know it is going to end. So, if you think an unsustainable 1960s welfare program is as permanent a feature as the earth and sky, you’re in for a shock. It’s just a question of whether, after the shock, what’s left looks like Japan or looks like Haiti.
My comrade Jonah Goldberg compares America’s present situation to that of a plane with one engine out belching smoke. But, if anything, he understates the crisis. Air America doesn’t need a busted engine because it’s pre-programmed to crash. Our biggest problem is Medicare and other “entitlements”: They’re the automatic pilot of Big Government. Whoever’s in the captain’s seat makes no difference: The flight is pre-programmed to hit the iceberg, if you’ll forgive me switching mass-transit metaphors in mid-stream.
For some reason, Obama, Reid, Pelosi, Harkin & Co don’t seem to mind this. If you recall the smile on the face of Airplane!’s “automatic pilot” as he’s being inflated, that’s pretty much the Democrats’ attitude to binge-spending as a permanent fact of life.
For a sense of Democrat insouciance to American decline, let us turn to the President himself. The other day Barack Obama was in the oddly apt town of Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania at what the White House billed as one of those ersatz “town hall” discussions into which republican government has degenerated. He was asked a question by a citizen of the United States. The cost of a gallon of gas has doubled on Obama’s watch, and this gentleman asked, “Is there a chance of the price being lowered again?”
As the Associated Press reported it, the President responded “laughingly”: “I know some of these big guys, they’re all still driving their big SUVs. You know, they got their big monster trucks and everything... If you’re complaining about the price of gas and you’re only getting eight miles a gallon--(laughter)…”
That’s how the official White House transcript reported it: Laughter. Big yuks. “So, like I said, if you're getting eight miles a gallon you may want to think about a trade-in. You can get a great deal.”
Hey, thanks! You’ve been a great audience. I’ll be here all year. Don’t forget to tip your Democrat hat-check girl on the way out: At four bucks a gallon, it’s getting harder for volunteers to drive elderly voters from the cemetery to the polling station. Relax, I’m just jerking your crank, buddy! And it’s not four bucks per, it’s only three-ninety-eight. That’s change you can believe in!
Message: It’s your fault. The same day as the President was doing his moribund-economy shtick, my hairdresser told me that she’d bought her mid-size sedan second-hand in 2004. She’d also like to ask the President if there’s a chance of gas prices being lowered again. But he’d have the same answer: Buy a hybrid. Wait till the high-speed rail-link is built between Dead Skunk Junction and Hickburg Falls. Climb into the fishnets and the come-hither smile and hitch.
America, 2011: A man gets driven in a motorcade to sneer at a man who has to drive himself to work. A guy who has never generated a dime of wealth, never had to make payroll, never worked at any job other than his own tireless self-promotion literally cannot comprehend that out there beyond the far fringes of the motorcade outriders are people who drive a long distance to jobs whose economic viability is greatly diminished when getting there costs twice as much as the buck-eighty-per-gallon it cost back at the dawn of the Hopeychangey Era.
So what? Your fault. Should have gone to Columbia and Harvard and become a community organizer.
Another ten years of this, and large tracts of America will be Third World. Not Somalia-scale Third World, but certainly the more decrepit parts of Latin America. There will still be men with motorcades, but they’ll have heavier security and the compounds they shuttle between will be more heavily protected. For them and their cronies, the guys plugged in, the guys who still know who to call to figure out a workaround through the bureaucratic sclerosis, life will be manageable, and they’ll still be wondering why you loser schlubs are forever whining about gas prices, and electricity prices and food prices.
What’s about to hit America is not a “shock”. It’s not an earthquake, it’s not a tsunami, it’s what Paul Ryan calls “the most predictable crisis in the history of our country”. It has one cause: Spending. The spending of the class that laughs at the class that drives to work to maintain President Obama, Senator Reid, Senator Baucus, Senator Harkin and Minority Leader Pelosi’s “communications director” in their comforts and complacency.
The Democrats’ solution to the problem is to deny there is one. Unsustainable binge-spending is, as the computer wallahs say, not a bug but a feature: We’ll stimulate the economy with a stimulus grant for a Stimulus Grant-Writing Community Outreach Permit Co-ordinator regulated by the Federal Department of Community-Organizer Grant Applications. What’s to worry about?
I said the Democrats’ plan is to “end America as we know it”, but even that has been outsourced to others. The choice is between letting Paul Ryan end Medicare as we know it, or letting our foreign lenders determine the moment to end America as we know it. I would not presume to know Chinese or Russian or Saudi or even European inclinations in this respect, although certain shifts in the ratio between short-term and long-term debt holdings suggest foreign governments give more thought to the implications of US government spending than the US government does. But I do know their interests are not ours, and that there will come a day when Beijing and others, in the words of King Barack to his lowly subject, “may want to think about a trade-in”.
Now there’s a slogan for 2012.
©MARK STEYN 2011