Failure in real time.


Listen to the broadcast of You Tell Me on KTBB AM 600, Friday, December 6, 2013.

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The New York Times recently characterized the Obama administration’s near panicked efforts to fix the Affordable Care Act website as,

“…a frantic effort aimed at rescuing not only the insurance portal and Mr. Obama’s credibility, but also the Democratic philosophy that an activist government can solve big, complex social problems.”

Every now and then, the New York Times serves a useful purpose. In that sentence, the writer encapsulated the fundamental difference between conservatives and liberals.

Conservatives believe that government is inefficient and wasteful and competent in its basic functions only to the extent that there is no alternative to government in those functions.

Liberals believe that there is no societal ill that does not call for a massive dose of government – despite now four full generations of compelling evidence to the contrary.

As just one example of such evidence, let’s examine the “War on Poverty” undertaken by Lyndon Johnson starting in 1964.

The War on Poverty was a part of the larger effort of the Johnson administration that came to be called the “Great Society.” It was a 1960s update of FDR’s New Deal.

Among the laws enacted to eradicate poverty were the Social Security Act of 1965, which gave us Medicare and Medicaid, the Food Stamp Act of 1964, which institutionalized federal food assistance and the Elementary & Secondary Education Act of 1965, which exponentially increased federal involvement in local schools.

It would be incorrect to say that these programs failed. Millions of Americans count on Medicare and Medicaid. Food stamps have, in millions of cases, done exactly what they were designed to do – provide emergency food assistance during times of exigent need.

In hundreds of cases, the Elementary & Secondary Education Act has provided funds to improve schools that might otherwise have suffered for lack of money from local sources.

But it is equally incorrect to say that these programs have been an unqualified success. Medicare and Medicaid are so egregiously underfunded as to threaten the very financial health of the nation.

There are estimates that say that as many as half of all food stamp recipients today would not qualify for food stamps under the program’s original guidelines. The program has morphed well beyond its original mission of meeting exigent, emergency need. For millions, food stamps have become a way of life that is passed from one generation to the next.

The degeneration of American public schools into their current horrendous state is directly traceable to increased federal involvement in, and frequent outright control of, local school districts – the product of both legislative intervention like the act of 1965 together with massive activist judicial intervention.

On balance, these liberal programs, enacted as they were with the best of intentions, have either at best carried out their mandates at unsustainable cost or at worst have actually made the problems they were intended to solve manifestly worse.

The problem for conservatives who oppose such overweening federal programs is that the  unsustainable costs and the unintended consequences only become evident over a period of years or even decades.

Such, however, has not been the case with respect to Obamacare. Its unsustainability and unintended consequences became evident almost immediately. Unlike food stamps and Medicare, the wheels came off the Obamacare bus the moment it hit the road.

When the War on Poverty began, the poverty rate in the U.S. stood at 16 percent. Today, nearly half a century on, the U.S. poverty rate still stands at 16 percent – while one in six Americans now depends on the government for basic nutrition and America’s students are among the lowest performing in the developed world.

Seven decades of trying has generally shown that government is largely incapable of solving big, complex social problems.

The good news with respect to Obamacare is that that incapability, for once, revealed itself in real time.

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Paul Gleiser

Paul L. Gleiser is president of ATW Media, LLC, licensee of radio stations KTBB 97.5 FM/AM600, 92.1 The TEAM FM in Tyler-Longview, Texas.

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3 Responses

  1. Linda E. Montrose says:

    A key statement in your description of the food stamp program morphing into something larger than intended is the morphing into something more than intended. This isn’t an exception to the rule when dealing with government programs, it is the RULE! The government gets it’s toe in the door with intended good intentions to help people, but end up with such corruption, it doesn’t even resemble the origional program! However, with obamacare, it’s origional intentions were made clear from the beginning for those who were LISTENING! It’s morphing took place in it’s inception when it piled up 2700 pages! A healthcare law, if it was really intended to HELP people, would have been stretched to include 10 pages at the most! Instead you had an incompetent moron get up there in front of millions of people and declare that this obamacare law had to be passed to know what all was in it! What reasonable person would have not started to think that maybe this wasn’t such a good thing after all if the law makers either didn’t know what all was in it or didn’t want US to know? What most people didn’t know or didn’t want to know is that this law wasn’t designed to help anyone with healthcare. It’s design was to fail in the first place and I think that despite it wasn’t supposed to happen quite so quickly, it did. It is not the failure that democraps are so upset about, it is the fact it happened sooner than planned and at an inconvenient time. It started morphing before it got out of the womb!

  2. P K Lewis says:

    The Obama administration has shown that it can twist any fact to its advantage, therefore we can expect that it has already got its minions working overtime to find some explanation for its dedicated believers.

    It can’t blame Bush.
    Lois Lerner is now gone.
    Holder has hunkered down.
    The tea party has LEFT the scene.
    Ben Ghazi is kind of quiet so you don’t want to waken it.
    Hillary is also gone.

    I would sure be scared if I was developing this Web Site.
    The crosshairs are needing a target.

    I wonder who is next???

  3. R. Eagleman says:

    The New Deal, Great Society, War on Poverty, Government controlled healthcare (Obamacare),and all of these programs are not really intended to help individuals out of economic hardship, but rather a well-conceived, reliable approach to controlling the population. If anyone cares to study history, these strategies are straight out of the Communist Manifesto and the Karl Marx philosophy for controlling the masses. Having recently returned from a visit to the former Soviet union, it was distressing to listen to those who have experienced this type of government asking me “what in the world are the people of the United States thinking? These victims of this type of government have a very unique perspective of the incremental approach to which we seem oblivious, and of course, many did not have the opportunity to resist, as it was forced on them by military invasion(s). Yes, we are definitely losing the “War on Poverty”, but those who are expanding their power base are definitely winning. Let me conclude my comments by saying that the return to the United States through Customs and Immigration was an embarrassing and shameful exhibition. Foreigners visiting our country for the first time were appalled at the lack of competence and obvious inability of many of the employees to perform or speak in an intelligent manner. It was easier for me to understand those in the former Soviet Union than those employed in my own country; the broken English and “Ebonics” made the whole experience even more painful. You would think that the U.S. Government would want to welcome these visitors in a manner that would leave a good impression of our country, rather than with such a rude and incompetent process. I think that a good analogy would be that if you invited guests to your home, and they were greeted at your front door with a big pile of dog manure. This would certainly leave a lasting impression, but not one that would command very much respect.

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