A Most Contentious Congress?

by: “Mike Calpino

Ever since the tragic events is Tucson, there has been constant chattering debate over our political discourse. There have been complaints about the war imagery, inflammatory statements and heated rhetoric. This culminated in the mixed seating among congresspeople at the State of the Union. While politicians and pundits on both sides accuse and apologize for our poisoned political discourse, they have forgetten two things. First, the majority of Americans are not tuned in to it, aren’t aware of it and don’t care. While the TEA party movement has brought a lot of people into the circle of political interest, most Americans still know more about American Idol and the Super Bowl than they do about the issues politicians squabble about. Second, it has been a lot worse in the past.

The problem with our current political discourse is not its language. Analogies, metaphors, and colorful expressions have always been used to articulate the passions of people who want a say in how they are governed. That is to be expected as long as people have a say. The more disconnected or powerless people feel, the louder they feel they need to be. People want to be heard because government is the only entity that can can legally use force to ensure compliance and people want to be assured that power is used responsibly and in accord with their ideals. Whether they are TEA party people in America or protesters in Egypt or Tunisia, the heart of man yearns for liberty and justice and will only accommodate oppression for so long.

The problem today is the content, not the language. What is it that politicians argue about? Let’s look at a few examples brought up in the State of the Union address. The first and most obvious is health care. Not the first thing he mentioned but presented none the less. What is the argument? On one side is the president and the Democrats who pushed the “reform” package through congress over Republican objections that it was a government take over of the American health care system. On the other side the Democrats argued that Republicans don’t care about the sick and dying. So what are politicians discussing? Whether the health care bill should be reformed or replaced. Both parties assume that the government will be involved in health care, that it should be involved in health care and that the American people are not intelligent enough to make their own health care decisions. So both sides will squabble over the specifics of taxes, spending and regulation. Few will ask the question, “Why should the government be involved in health care at all?”

The reason for this is because the slippery slope goes both ways and “conservative” Republicans are scared to death of it. What I mean is this. If the question becomes, “Why is the government involved in health care at all” then not only does the legitimacy of ObamaCare come into question but so does Medicare. We all know what happens when the pillars of our welfare state; Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, are questioned. Those who so much as hint at even the slightest changes are accused of the most heinous intentions and callous crimes. The problem is that because hardly any politicians, and the Americans who elect them, question the appropriateness of government involvement in health care, the debate is over the form that involvement takes and not over why government should insert itself at all. By not raising the issue, the moral high ground is conceded to the statists because once the premise of government involvement in an issue is accepted, no good argument can be advanced for limiting its expansion or its proliferation into other areas. Once Medicare is accepted, Medicaid and ObamaCare are logical expansions of the premise that it is the government’s responsibility to ensure citizens have access to health care. Once the idea that government should provide for the elderly poor through Social Security, why shouldn’t government be involved in meeting the needs of the rest of the poor? Once government decides it is proper to protect you from businesses and corporations, some of whom may have put out inferior products, then why wouldn’t it be proper for it to regulate every transaction and contract in the interest of our safety?

We have conceded so much because we are afraid of engaging in the most important debate. The TEA party is a start and there are those who are beginning to ask the hard questions and debate the crucial issues. Those debates are slowly making their way into our political discourse beyond the kitchen table, Libertarian circles and survivalists and that is a good thing. The growing emphasis on the natural rights enshrined in our Constitution even within congress is a positive step. What we need to do is finally resolve the schizophrenia we, the American people, have developed over the last century. On the one hand we love liberty and freedom and know that government involvement in any area is a recipe for inefficiency, incompetence and a myriad of negative intended and unintended consequences. On the other hand we are addicted to government largess and continually to vote for politicians who promise, and deliver, more of the same. Is that not what the whole State of the Union speech was about? Government “investments” in Internet access, high speed rail, “clean” energy, education and health care, to name a few. Why should the government ensure Internet access or high speed rail service? Why should government determine what kind of energy we use or what kind of education our children receive? Why should government force us into investment, retirement or health care decisions? It is the belief that it should be that has led us to the financial and cultural disaster we find ourselves in.

It is time to move the debate from how the government should involve itself in all these issues to why the government should be involved at all. The facts, logic and common sense are all on the side of those who believe that government involvement in almost everything has been, and continues to be, an exorbitantly expensive disaster. It is time we start to make the case for absolute economic freedom, where every man and woman can pursue their dreams in complete liberty as long as they don’t negatively impact the natural rights of their fellows. It is time we argue against the morally reprehensible idea that our production and the wealth our hard work has allowed us to acquire belongs to anyone else and it is the government’s job to forcibly confiscate the results of our hard work and give it to another for any reason. It is time to reject the idea that we, the American people, the most generous in the history of the world, need to have our charity forced. It is time to forward the idea that free men and women in society, and not government, will come up with the best solutions for social and economic problems. It is time to expect our politicians to move beyond gimmicks, like where they sit or what ribbon they wear, and stand up for our natural rights, develop constructive ideas for dismantling the creature on the Potomac and fulfill the president’s stated vision of an America that once again moves to the front of the line in the world.

Reposted with permission