Monday, November 18, 2013

Many American lawmakers are idiots -- Peggy Noonan

More and more it seems obvious that the vast majority of the politicians who pushed the [Obamacare] bill in the House and Senate never read it. They didn't know what was in it. They had no idea. They don't understand insurance—they're in politics, a branch of showbiz.
After failing to read or understand the bill, members of Congress relied on briefings from some guy from the White House, some kid from the speaker's office, and whichever Ezekiel knockoff was available as an expert.
Lawmakers listened. They took notes.
The briefers thought—hoped—they themselves understood what they were saying. But they were never sure either! You can sort of think you know what you're saying when you say things like, "When each local exchange module launches it will reflect a national weighting of 'invincibles' and 'ancients' that will stabilize prevailing market realities while providing broader access not only to the poor but to those who currently have non-grandfathered or insufficient plans. So in the end it's win-win for everyone." Would they have known what any of that would mean in terms of real-world application?
The congressmen tried, in their distracted way, to understand. And gave up. And went on "Hardball" saying, "It's win-win—broader and better coverage for all!"
Most of them had no idea what they were voting for. They're as surprised as anybody at what's happened. And it's not only because so many of them are idiots. They believed what they were told and, more important, they wanted to believe it. And, I suspect, they had a magical and almost touching belief in the ability of the U.S. government to do anything. It's done anything in the past, why wouldn't it now?
She could have said "most of them are idiots," but then I suppose she would have to be ready to demonstrate that the Idiot Ratio in Congress is 51% or greater. By saying "so many of them are idiots," she is in a much more defensible position. Many people can think of a handful of dolts who happened to get themselves elected, and if you think that one idiot in Congress is too many, then you have your "so many" right there. On the other hand, "so many" could also suggest that the vast majority of legislators are idiots.
Can you think of a member of Congress who is -- as Stephen Ambrose described Eisenhower -- a great and good person? Anybody off the top of your head who seems both virtuous and wise?
I'm blanking too.
The best I can do is Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and he's been dead for a decade.
Maybe, as Plato suggested, the kind of people who are good at attaining power (e.g., winning elections) aren't so great at actually governing?

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