Published in The Tennessean, Sunday, January 2, 2011
New year means time to repeal ‘euphemisms’
by Richard J. Grant
At the beginning of each New Year, we like to believe that we can have a fresh start. And sometimes we really need one.
The trouble with fresh starts is that they don't start from where we would like to be, they start from “here.” This year we start from where the 111th Congress left off. We must recover from two years of overdosing on a witches’ brew of one part Obama administration with two pinches of Democratic majorities. This year begins with one less pinch.
Historians might one day characterize this political brew as “death by a thousand euphemisms.” The administration began with the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.” This particular act was an attempt to take credit for what would have happened had the act not been passed. As we often say about justice, recovery delayed is recovery denied.
It is a trait of progressives to feel satisfied with their good (and highly acclaimed) intentions regardless of the real outcomes. But for the past two years their intentions, manifested in policies that divert resources away from private stewardship into politicized show projects, have retarded people's efforts to adapt and to make needed changes.
The halfway point of the last Congress was also the peak, capped by the pinnacle of euphemisms, the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.” This was the health-care reform bill that was supposed to fix the old system and reduce costs. It was the bill that turned out to be so complicated, and so full of unrelated payoffs, that we were told by the Speaker that we would have to “pass the bill so you can find out what is in it.” But we found out sooner than we were supposed to.
Due diligence led health-care and insurance providers to price-in the expected effects of the new provisions. In some cases, the threat of unlimited liabilities being imposed on those who dared to offer any viable insurance product resulted in the self-preserving response of discontinuing any product that might be likely to attract uninsurable, but politically favored, pre-existing conditions. As we will quickly learn, the trouble with socialism is that we can impose lower prices but we cannot impose lower costs. The best we can do (to make the costs appear lower) is to lower the level of service.
The euphemisms kept rolling right through the summer of 2010 when the president signed the “Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.” This act was about as long, complicated, and wide-open to administrative imperialism as was the big health-care reform. It continues a long tradition of enhancing the levers of political favoritism that might be better-reflected in the less-euphemistic title, the “Protecting Wall Street from Consumers Act.”
Voters sort of lost their sense of humor with all this, so the Democrats delayed some of their less-popular projects until they were safely past the November elections. But even afterwards, they dared not enact a statute to embody the euphemism, “net neutrality.” Instead, they relied on the Federal Communications Commission to thumb its nose at the Constitution by claiming regulatory powers over internet service providers and hoping that the next Congress would not have the wherewithal to stand up against it.
We have these and 996 other anti-constitutional euphemisms to repeal. As for fidelity with the Constitution, now that would be a fresh start.
Richard J. Grant is a professor of finance and economics at Lipscomb University and a scholar at the Tennessee Center for Policy Research. His column appears on Sundays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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