You know WWJD — what would Jesus do? Well, how about WWTFHD — what would the Founders have done? Here is a screed lambasting most sitting Republicans as unfit, because so many of them — 24 out of 28 in the Senate, 108 of 122 in the House — voted for President Bush’s Medicare Part D*:
There are many ways to determine whether a Republican is worth the least bit of support from advocates of limited government. One is to see what the person’s position was on Medicare D — Bush’s prescription drug program. In particular, anyone who voted for it can simply never, ever be trusted to guard free enterprise or the Constitution against the ravages of Washington’s welfare state.*
Like most of us on the left and the right, I revere the Constitution.
But the world has changed a lot since 1789.
It’s hard to know what the Founders, reborn today, would have thought about letting people die for lack of access to health care. Or about slavery. Or about letting women vote. Or about instituting a minimum wage.
At their core, they were men whose common goal was to craft a new form of government that would work better for “the people.” It should at all costs avoid tyranny (both monarchical but also — magnificently — the potential tyranny of the majority over a minority). It should be fair. It should be practical. It should require compromise of competing factions. It should leave people free to elect representatives who would act wisely on their behalf (and kick them out of office if they were perceived not to have done so), applying that wisdom in whatever ways, over the centuries, they perceived to make sense.
All of which suggests — at least collectively, if not from each Founder individually — a bias toward centrism. Compromise. Finding a workable balance. Lots of arguing, but, of necessity, a quest for common ground.
You cannot tell me that President Obama — who adopted the Republican-think-tank-conceived health care plan that his 2012 Republican opponent had successfully championed in Massachusetts — took an extreme, intransigent, left-wing ideological approach to health care reform (some form of which all agreed was essential).
And you cannot tell me that the Tea Party approach — that shut down the government rather than allow the law, passed by both houses of Congress, signed by the President, affirmed by the Supreme Court, and reaffirmed in a presidential election in which it was a central issue — was anything but extreme and intransigent.
What made sense in 1789 in terms of regulating the Internet or handguns or the morning-after pill — or health insurance — might not make sense in 2013, since of all those things, only handguns existed in 1789. And they fired just one shot before requiring an elaborate process to reload. (It would not be until 1835 that Samuel Colt invented his revolver.)
So we don’t know what the Founders would have thought of Obamacare. But it’s not at all clear Rush Limbaugh, Ted Cruz, and Michele Bachmann do, either.
*Ironically, liberal Democrats like Barney Frank voted against the bill creating Medicare Part D, because it was “unfunded,” and so would balloon the debt. Democrats collect taxes to pay for needed spending; Republicans, since Reagan, prefer to borrow from future generations. Which is more responsible?
Peter R: “I started this Borealis ride with you back in ’99! I did over the years sell off some when it spiked for no reason at all, then bought back when it settled down again, so currently left with 10,000 shares (cost basis about $2.90), so a nice paper profit of almost $150,000 — and the dipping in and out over the years paid for what I have now, so playing with the ‘house’ money. We’ve been waiting so long, can just as well ride it out to its ultimate conclusion!”
Peter Baum: “I can tell you with certainty that I will not lose money on BOREF. I sold 1/4 of my modest position, so now it’s house money. (You asked recently who would actually *sell* this stock: perhaps it’s people like me.) I remember exactly one thing from my engineering statistics class–type I and type II error. It’s based on the idea that whatever decision you make *could* be wrong, and to weigh each of those eventualities appropriately. Let’s say you’re building a bridge and have to decide whether to spend money on extra structural reinforcements. You might include them and have them turn out to be unnecessary, costing taxpayers money. Or you might exclude them and have the bridge collapse, killing hundreds. That’s why bridges, nuclear facilities, etc. have lots of redundant systems. Now back to BOREF. You could either hold your entire position and have it crash to zero, or you could sell 1/4 (or whatever) and be guaranteed to at least break-even. Psychologically, that’s an easy call for me, and I would recommend that you start viewing it that way for yourself. I will note that this doesn’t necessarily lead to selling. Before the 1991 baseball season, I bet $20 at 250:1 on the Atlanta Braves to win the World Series. By the time they’d miraculously made it there, I could have cashed in for $2500. But I wanted the full $5000 — not out of greed, but because I wanted to be historically, amazingly, brilliantly RIGHT. And while I will hate Lonnie Smith for the rest of my natural life, I’m quite content with having held out.”
☞ I’m guessing Lonnie Smith was either a really bad umpire, a Brave who screwed up, or NOT a Brave who did something great. Whoever he was, my take-away from this story is that, like Peter and the Braves, I will hold all my BOREF not out of greed, but because . . . well, yes, actually, out of greed.