Usually a major welfare-state bill has to be passed by Congress and go into effect before it is exposed as corrupt. The money has to actually be flowing out of Washington before anyone notices that it's being diverted into a cesspool of special favors and sweetheart deals.
But a lot of things are unprecedented about the current push for a health care bill. Never has such a major expansion of the welfare state been passed without bipartisan support and broad approval from the public. And rarely has the corruption of a program been exposed while it is still awaiting final approval in Congress.
In short, Pelosi, Reid, and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel will cobble together 2,000 pages of legislation between themselves, larding the bill with special favors and obscure clauses—then they'll spring it on rank-and-file Democratic congressmen and order them to vote for it within a day or two, before they can even figure out what's in it.
How long before some Democratic congressmen become tired of being abused in this fashion—or begin to fear being seen as political hacks by their constituents back home?
The special deals and payoffs are incidental to the bill in one sense; if they were all removed it would still be a bad bill. But in another sense, they reveal something essential about a government takeover of health care: it is all about looting, about how one group of people can tax and regulate others in an attempt to get something for nothing. All statist programs are rife with this kind of scheming, and they have to be, because whenever wealth is seized by force, there is a battle among the looters over how to divide the spoils.
Of course, the Democrats campaigned in 2006 and 2008 by promising "transparency" and railing against a "culture of corruption." But they just can't help themselves because big government is the culture of corruption. Every time private money is seized or diverted by the government, it sets off a mad scramble in which every pressure group is afraid of being on the losing end. In the cannibalistic jargon of Washington, if you're not on the table, you're on the menu. And there is no honest way to resolve these disputes because everyone has an equally legitimate claim to the looted wealth—which is to say, none at all. So principles don't apply, and it's all just unscrupulous horse-trading.
The Cornhusker Kickback is a very visible reminder of this fact, which is why it has become the emblem of this bill. In one action, Senator Nelson and Majority Leader Reid have managed to bring the entire United States Congress into disrepute—and this is sinking the prospects for final passage of the health care bill.
To paraphrase Churchill, the Democrats in Congress had to choose between legislative defeat and dishonor. They chose dishonor. They will get defeat.
Friday, January 08, 2010
Robert Tracinski writes political comentary on the Intellectual Activist. Here is the the conclusion of his column for today, and it's a barn burner.