Thursday, December 24, 2009

Readings: Pierce: A Christmas Carol in which the three ghosts are waste, fraud, and abuse

At Altercation yesterday, Charles Pierce shared a holiday tale for everyone counting heavily on any problems with the now-likely-to-be-passed health care bill getting fixed "later." His rationale:

I post it again to make the following point--just because an entitlement exists, and because it is largely doing what it is supposed to do, it is not immune from the uniquely lethal modern combination of idiot politics and bad journalism.

He links to an Esquire piece he wrote in the final days of another Democratic administration. Unlike the current administration, saddled with a huge deficit that has magically produced a unending stream of deficit hawks like doves from a magician's top hat, that earlier Democratic administration left office with a record federal surplus.

Didn't help much in the story Pierce tells. In fact, if anything, the headlong pursuit of that surplus made the story worse.

Like "A Christmas Carol," Pierce's April 2000 story begins with a warning:

"[A]s the Scripture warns, the poor--or, more accurately, the impoverished--will be with us always, but who they are and what they represent changes with every generation. They are a burden and then an obligation, and then a burden and an obligation again. A Square Deal follows a Gilded Age, a Depression follows the Roaring Twenties, and a New Deal follows that. Clintonism follows Reaganism."

The story also has its Tiny Tim character, but although several people labor heroically on his behalf no reformed Ebenezer is on hand this time to be as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.

Unfortunately, not only will the poor always be with us, it appears the same can be said for resentful small-town bureaucrats, lazy celebrity journalists, and opportunistic politicians. Always remember that, as supporters contemplate improving this winter's health care bill "down the road."

Just sayin'.

Pierce's 2000 article is going on the Readings list in the sidebar.

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