The Super-Nanny of New York

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg opening ...

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg opening the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At http://politicker.com/2013/01/bloomberg-slaps-down-criticism-of-painkiller-restriction-plan/ is an article focusing on New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s plan to restrict the number of painkillers in emergency rooms. He argued that the increasing abuse of pain pills required mitigation, and that restricting pain pill supply would be an effective method to reduce such abuse.

Mayor Bloomberg, like many liberals, sees himself as a nanny–in his case, a super-nanny–who is there to protect the people from their own foolish decision-making. He apparently believes he is Plato’s philosopher-king who knows what is good for the ignorant masses. This behavior was seen in his restricting the size of cola drinks in order to reduce sugar consumption and thereby reduce obesity. Even at a practical level, that will do little good–someone can buy several two liter colas at the local grocery or convenience store and drink away.

Bloomberg’s actions may not only hurt the poor who use the ER as a primary care facility; it may also harm other patients who require painkillers when the allotted supply runs out. The fact that some addicts take advantage of a ready supply of painkillers does not entail that the supply should be limited. There are always going to be people who take advantage of the medical system to feed their own addiction or to meet their psychological desire for attention. Does Mr. Bloomberg have the medical expertise to tell hospitals what to do? The answer is self-evident. Such a decision smacks of totalitarianism of the kind found in Huxley’s Brave New World.

If anyone wishes to see the future of the United States under President Obama, take a look at Michael Bloomberg’s actions. Mr. Obama has put forth federal regulations at a record level. They supposedly meet a particular need–for example, as a university professor I have to turn in my textbook list for the following semester by a particular date or the school could theoretically be fined. The idea is to give prospective students the price of an education, including book costs, at a particular college or university. When colleges and universities take federal funds, they are subject to federal regulations–but other than the required statement on the syllabus for students with disabilities, this is a rare time that a regulation has directly affected me as a professor. In addition, I must use the university’s e-mail address due to abuse by degree mills. I do not mind doing that, though I like my account through a major search engine provider and use it more often–the point is the depth to which the federal government is getting involved in what a professor puts in his syllabus. How many more regulations will come from this administration? The New Deal of FDR and the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson created the modern nanny state in the United States, Mr. Obama seems intent on outdoing both of them. To the mammoth state, citizens are like children–and people treated like children tend to behave like children. Aid means control–that is one principle the recipients of benefits from the welfare state forget. Given the decline in character resulting in the childification of people in the United States, I doubt they will protest–most people, like a frog in slowly heated water, will accept their enslavement without a whimper.

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The Budget Crisis: Facing Limitations

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2009 Five Presidents, President George W. Bush...

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Despite liberal claims to the contrary, the United States does not have unlimited resources for government programs. Even in a floating currency market, the supply of money is finite, and printing more merely lowers its value. The massive spending at the end of G. W. Bush’s term and throughout Mr. Obama’s term is unconscionable. Mr. Obama’s budget was dominated by bailouts of Wall Street, the stimulus, and funding for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, as a social democrat he increased spending for entitlement programs. Now the country is near bankruptcy, and despite the deal over the current budget, it will remain in a precarious state for generations because of the mistakes of this generation. Members of both parties–and even Mr. Obama–realize that deep cuts must be made in federal spending. Those cuts should include both domestic programs and “national defense” (i.e., war) programs. The current welfare-warfare state will end–either by choice of elected officials or by a ruined economy.

Robert E. Lee rightly predicted the rise of the modern American state when he said something to the effect that the American empire would eventually become a tyranny at home and aggressive abroad. Indeed, Congress came close to ruling with dictatorial power after the War for Southern Independence. One vote failed to convict President Andrew Johnson, and with Supreme Court rulings in the 1870s the ruins of the Old Republic were preserved for a time. With the rise of industrialism and eventually the domination of industrialism, with its uprooting of families and breaking of traditional ties, the government stepped in to care for the unfortunate, a work that had previously been carried out by the local community, family and friends, and churches. The mood in the country was optimistic, and the problems of industrialism’s mistreatment of workers were remedied by the government (by child labor laws, for example). During the Great Depression, President Roosevelt supported massive government programs–the extent to which they eased or prolonged the Depression is still debated. In an America which believed both in the perfectibility of man and in unlimited resources, massive government programs seemed to be the solution to social problems caused by the industrial state. As late as the mid-60s, the welfare state expanded exponentially under Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society.” The United States economy was still basking in the post World War II glow, something that would come crashing down with the 1973-74 recession. Instead of mankind being perfectible, government programs made many people worse morally and worse economically, permanently dependent on the state. Instead of having unlimited resources, the budget deficit ballooned, with only a brief respite during Mr. Clinton’s presidency due to the money saved by the U.S. not fighting the Cold War. However, George W. Bush and a Republican Congress, whom one might expect to show fiscal responsibility, did not, and domestic spending rapidly increased. In addition, the needless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq cost the country in both lives and money. Mr. Obama tried to continue to fight the wars but with massive increases in domestic spending–and thus we come to the present disaster. If the welfare state does not control its spending, it will collapse–then what happens to the millions of people dependent on government aid? That is the choice the President and Congress face–to either get spending under control or to continue spending and place the United States on a permanent “bad credit” status, leading to exploding interest rates, sharply lower stocks, and an economic depression. This is really no choice at all. The American empire will fall–either by voluntary choice or by economic realities. Americans will realize their own finitude. Perhaps this will lead to a less aggressive America, and one with a smaller government that is less intrusive in everyday life.

The Nanny State and Big Government

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Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to four term...

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Many Americans (not all, thank God) are spoiled. They don’t mind selling their children and grandchildren to a world of financial ruin as long as they are comfortable. They desire benefits from government without understanding the cost. So the nation is in debt to a degree that would have been unimaginable even under the free-spending George W. Bush administration. How did the country get into this mess? How did the traditionally hard working American people turn into a group of soft, spoiled brats who believe the government is there to give them things?

The problem started with the Great Depression. Instead of allowing the private sector to correct the economic downturn, as President Harding did in 1919, first President Hoover, and to a much greater degree President Franklin D. Roosevelt, tried to end the Depression with massive federal intervention. Despite the claim by liberals that the New Deal helped to end the Depression, unemployment was high up until the boom due to World War II. Artificially inflating wages led companies to lay off more workers, which led to less spending, which led to more of an economic downturn–it was a vicious cycle. The jobs programs, to give them credit, resulted in fine roads and beautiful buildings, but did little to lessen unemployment. But as permanent federal benefits were put in place (even though there were state benefits such as old age pensions so that older people were not left destitute), Americans increasingly saw the government’s function to give them things–at first jobs, later money, health care coverage, and other benefits.

Even after Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy continued Roosevelt’s federal benefits, federal spending after World War II was generally under control. Eisenhower balanced the budget three times. But the largest expansion of the federal government in history took place with Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society.” Medicare, Medicaid, federal housing programs, and huge expenditures on welfare only made worse the public attitude that the government was a “nanny state” whose function is to take care of people’s physical needs. Programs that would have done more good at the local level were in the hands of distant bureaucrats, and a permanent underclass dependent on welfare payments was created.

But the government has also been guilty of corporate welfare. The unholy alliance between business and government began with the Whigs’ strong support of the new industries springing up with the Industrial Revolution and continued with the Republican Party’s alliance between the federal government, the railroads, and the banks. It was mainly the tension between the industrial North and its alliance of government and industry and the agricultural South that led to the War between the States (slavery, which was supported by the majority of the public in both the North and South, was not the primary issue over which the war was fought). Industrialism triumphed, and the unholy alliance led to numerous scandals beginning in the Grant administration. Today people vote for the presidential candidate and congressional candidates whom they believe will improve the economy. This is also a position that the government can give the people things–this time, a sound economy. Although some government regulation of business is required because people are not saints, the revolving door between big business and government officials only makes matters worse. Overall the economy tends to move in cycles that are only predictable in part due to their nature as dynamic, chaotic systems. The government can do a lot to help wreck the economy, but generally what it does best beyond essential regulation is to stay out of business. But people believe that one of the chief roles of government is to guarantee a good economy–and voters become prostitutes. It is just as bad for voters on the right to “vote their pocketbooks” as it is for voters on the left to vote due to their desire for more government benefits. But between the two, I prefer the right–at least they recognize that government does more harm than good to business.

Americans need to realize that concentrations of power and money tend to corrupt and tend to bankrupt. There are only so many resource available for people to share, and the government cannot keep spending at the rate it does on benefits and job programs (and defense!) without the Chinese eventually calling the United States in on its debt. When that happens, God help us. Perhaps then families will realize that they must work for themselves and for the good of their local communities instead of receiving handouts from a nanny government. They may have no choice. The sad thing is that such a scenario may be a good thing–it may be the only way to restore virtue to those in the United States who have been spoiled by a sense of entitlement.