No Surprise Obama Is Checking Out

By Lauren Gillespie

“The degree to which Barack Obama is now phoning it in – sleepwalking perfunctorily through his second term, amid gold rounds and dinner parties – is astonishing,” writes Matt Lewis for the British Telegraph. “The only thing that makes sense is that he is exhausted and, perhaps, has checked out of the job early. If Nero fiddled while Rome burned, then Obama is dining out, golfing, and raising money while the world collapses.”

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It’s a pretty damning indictment, and just one of the many pieces written in the last month expressing concern at our commander in-chief’s bizarre detachment from the serious problems flaring up around the world and at home.

Now I don’t claim any special powers of clairvoyance; I’m just a humble historian who believes in using past experience to predict future behavior. In the timeless words of Sublime, “I ain’t got no crystal ball.” But I hope you will excuse me in saying that I am not at all surprised. In fact, we really should have seen this coming.

Most people seem to have forgotten this, but when Obama first took office, his 68% initial approval rating was the highest since Eisenhower. Even Republicans and conservatives were afraid to say anything overly critical about the first African-American president. You didn’t want anyone thinking you were a pessimist or, worst of all, a racist.

But even as the talking heads predicted Obama would govern from the center and enjoy success in office, I had a strong feeling that Obama’s presidency would be just as liberal as the rest of his political career, and that the goodwill so much of the country had extended to him would not last.

I knew Obama would fail to live up to the hype because at a certain point he would have to stop talking and actually start governing. This means making decisions and taking actions. Candidate Obama presented himself as a blank canvas upon which diverse groups could project their often-conflicting dreams. He appealed to a broad swath of the electorate by speaking in vague terms of hope and change. But where words can be general, actions are concrete. They invite judgment. There is no way to please all people at all times, except by doing very little. Even this will offend someone, somewhere, who wishes you had done more. And then there was the matter of Obama’s past.

In his two autobiographies (seriously, who else is this narcissistic?) Obama confessed to a certain degree of laziness in high school and college. He was ambitious for sure, but lacked focus. Yet he was able to get himself elected editor of the Harvard Law Review, the first African-American to hold this honor. Obama took the notoriety and book deal that came with the position, but contributed none of his own work to the publication. There is even credible evidence to suggest that much of Dreams from My Father was actually written by Bill Ayers.

After a stint as a community organizer in Chicago, a job that doesn’t come with a great deal of accountability, Obama was elected to the Illinois State Senate. He voted “present” 129 times. For those of you who might be understandably confused as to what this means, Obama could not bring himself to vote “yes” or “no,” so he simply stated that he was there.

Obama launched himself into the national spotlight in 2004, not with any meaningful policy or achievement, but with a speech – the DNC Keynote Address. When his opponent was forced to withdraw in disgrace, Obama cruised into the United State Senate. He failed to sponsor any major legislation, seeming to find the whole political process boring and beneath him.

2008 provided a magical opportunity for Obama. George W. Bush was incredibly unpopular. The country was craving a breath of fresh air, and Republicans – ever attuned to the mood of the electorate –chose John McCain. Suddenly, Obama’s lack of experience became an asset. He may have had few accomplishments of which to speak, but neither did he have much of a record to defend. Clinton had to explain her decision to vote for the Iraq War, but Obama could point to a speech he made as a state senator opposing it.

Obama won enough early primaries and caucuses to seal the deal, but not before the first serious challenges to his narrative were finally raised. The Jeremiah Wright story broke, along with other questionable connections to shady characters (Ayers, Rezko). Obama refused to actually condemn or support his former mentor, but once again delivered a speech about unity as he threw his octogenarian grandmother under the bus. Are you sensing a pattern yet?

Democrats had almost started to realize their error, but too late. He was the candidate, and the pro-Hillary folks in the media who had once challenged his experience rallied to protect him. John McCain was gaining in the polls until the entire financial system crashed just weeks before the election. While McCain came off as erratic after suspending his campaign and rushing in to broker a deal, Obama appeared cool and collected on the sidelines.

The Nobel Committee decided to award Obama the Peace Prize just days into his first term, based on the incredible accomplishment of not being George W. Bush. (They now want it back.) But simply looking and sounding different than his unpopular predecessor was never going to achieve meaningful results. Obama squandered his initial goodwill from Republicans and moderates on an unpopular and ineffective stimulus package. He promised unemployment would not top 8% if Congress passed the bill, and it soared past 11%. He later joked about the whole idea of “shovel-ready,” but a trillion dollars in new debt is no joke. I guess he couldn’t bother to verify the facts of his own law before selling them to the American people?

Obama didn’t reach out to Republicans because he didn’t need them—he had a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. Then, with the country still reeling from the Great Recession, he decided to tackle healthcare. He gave speeches, and speeches, and more speeches. Then he turned over the actual crafting of the bill to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who presumably delegated the responsibility to Democratic staffers and lobbyists. The country hated it, but Obama signed it into law. Perhaps we just needed him to explain it to us one more time.

After the “shellacking” in the 2010 midterms, Obama refocused his energies on his greatest political skill: campaigning for president. While 2010 seemed to signal an uphill battle for Democrats, it also provided Obama with a new tactic – denouncing Republican “obstruction.” Yes, from the same people he refused to listen to for the previous two years. (“I won,” and so on.) His lack of attention to the business of governing continued. The day after four Americans were killed in Benghazi, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, Obama delivered a few obligatory remarks before jetting off to a Las Vegas fundraiser.

Again, he benefitted from Republican division and unforced errors. No one of any real stature rose to challenge him except for Mitt Romney – a great man for sure, but not a great campaigner. Romney suffered from being a moderate Mormon millionaire who had passed a mini-Obamacare in Massachusetts. I’m mostly happy we escaped a President McCain, but I still regret that our country passed on such a capable and serious leader as Romney. Apparently, a majority of Americans now agree with me and would choose Romney if given a second chance. (How prophetic, incidentally, was Clint Eastwood’s “empty chair” routine?)

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Okay, you might be thinking. Lots of people predicted Obama would fail to live up to the messianic expectations of 2008, but what about 2012? Many thought Obama might be liberated by having won his last election. He could focus on his legacy, which might involve more outreach to Republicans and serious progress on policy issues like immigration.

The most telling predictor of Obama’s second term malaise was the fact that he failed to offer anything remotely resembling a second term agenda. He couldn’t campaign on “Hope and Change 2” or the even more hilarious “Yes We Can, But–.” “You Didn’t Build That” had a nice ring and revealed his true disdain for private sector job creators (I mean, greedy capitalists), but it was never going to carry him across the finish line.

So Obama campaigned on Mitt Romney being a mean, nasty rich guy who doesn’t care about you or your family, his heroic take-down of Osama Bin Laden, and the excuse that any lingering economic problems were Bush’s fault. These might have made for effective political strategies, but they have proven difficult to translate into actual policies.

Now here we are in 2014, with two and a half years left of Obama’s presidency. He claims he didn’t know about the IRS scandal, the VA scandal, the Benghazi scandal, or the fact that there were serious issues with the implementation of his healthcare law. He doesn’t have time to go to the border. He’s too busy to stand up to Vladimir Putin (to whom he promised “more flexibility”) or to defend the thousands of Christians and moderate Muslims facing persecution as Iraq and Syria collapse. He has failed to capitalize on the one thing that would almost certainly revive a still-dismal economy – America’ great energy wealth – and has put off a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline for five years now. Voting “present,” perhaps?

It looks like Obama is preparing to ride out his second term, just like he rode out his first term as president, his four year stint in the U.S. Senate (two of which he spent campaigning for president), his unremarkable time in the Illinois State Senate, and most of his academic career.

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Yep, we should have seen this coming.

It is too late to hope for Obama to become the unifying leader so many hoped he would be. He is simply not that guy. But in many ways the events of the next two and half years remain unpredictable. The big unknowns are the 2014 elections, the high probability of more global catastrophes, and how Obama responds to new criticism from the Left. My gut says that with Obamacare’s future in doubt, he will look to the one area where he can change public policy through executive action – immigration reform. He could decide to grant a presidential pardon to all 15 million or so illegal immigrants currently residing here. This might be unpopular with the American people, but Obama is no longer trying to impress us. He has surrounded himself with sycophants eager to preserve his narcissistic view of the world, and he is certain that history will judge him kindly.

The problem is the rest of us don’t have time to wait for the history books; we must live our lives in the present. America does not have another two and a half years to waste.

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Your Contraception Is Your Responsibility

Women can buy houses on their own. They can purchase cars without help from their bosses. Women can grocery shop, book vacations, save for retirement, and in general run their family’s finances—as most do—without assistance from their employers.

But they can’t purchase birth control on their own.

At least, this is the message of Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s dissenting opinion, following Hobby Lobby’s recent victory in the Supreme Court.

She writes: “The exemption sought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga would…deny legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs access to contraceptive coverage.”

But since when does not paying for something mean denying access to it? By this logic, my employer has been denying me access to gym memberships, home security systems, and food, all of which can be viewed as more essential to good health than birth control.

Or are women just uniquely helpless in this, the most personal aspect of their lives? They can’t have it unless someone else pays for it?

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Whose responsibility is it to pay for a woman’s birth control: her own, her employer’s, or the government’s? If reproduction and contraception are individual rights, as liberals claim, then they are also individual responsibilities.

Rights and responsibilities are two sides of the same coin; you can’t have one without the other. When I was a child, my parents could prevent me from having certain things simply by refusing to pay for them. Now that I am responsible enough to make my own money, I have the right to use it as I please, even on things my parents might not support.

When you make government or your employer the “parent” by demanding they pay for something you could get yourself, you are also making yourself a child, beholden to their better judgment. “You can’t tell me what to do with my body!” liberals cry. “But you have to pay for it!”

Demanding something as a right while denying it as a responsibility is the essence of adolescent petulance.

The Hobby Lobby ruling has set off a heated debate that appears to pit women’s rights against religious rights, but this narrative overlooks the responsibility side of the equation. Women did not lose any rights as a result of the decision. Congress should never have passed a law (Obamacare) making employers 100% responsible for their employee’s birth control choices, including methods that can be seen as ending a human life after it has already been created. Whether one views certain forms of birth control as moral or immoral, contraception itself remains the responsibility of the individual.

Liberals have been quoting Ginsburg’s blistering dissent, but her arguments miss this basic point. She writes: “Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults…

As the woman’s autonomous choice, it is also her autonomous responsibility. It is extremely unlikely that Hobby Lobby’s female employees will be forced to bear unwanted children as a result of this decision. Their policies still cover sixteen forms of contraception, just not the ones with the potential to prevent an already-formed embryo from implanting in the uterine wall. And if they want any of the remaining four, they can pay for them. Hobby Lobby is not trying to stop them.

She continues: Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community…”

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The Catholic Church was already granted an exemption as part of the law. Fortunately, the Supreme Court ruled that you do not forfeit your freedom of conscience when you form a business.

There is a reason the First Amendment protects freedom of religion together with freedom of speech. Our Founding Fathers understood that one’s freedom of religion is not confined to worship alone, but extends to other areas of life as well. Hobby Lobby is not taking any action to prevent employees from using birth control. They simply don’t want to be compelled to pay for (and by extension participate in) an act they find morally questionable.

This is their right. Once I turned twenty-one, my parents could no longer stop me from consuming alcohol. But I didn’t demand they supply me with weekly stockpiles of liquor.

Ginsburg continues: “It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.”

Many life-saving surgeries are also equivalent to (or greater than) a month’s full-time pay, but Obamacare does not require these to be covered at no additional cost. Claiming contraception as an essential preventative service requires us to understand pregnancy as a life-threatening condition. This may be the case for some women, who still have many options under this ruling, but certainly not the majority. If pregnancy were an illness to be prevented at any cost, like colon cancer, people would not spend tens of thousands of dollars intending it as a result.

In the meantime, insurance companies have raised co-pays on essential prescription drugs needed to keep people alive in order to cover the costs of providing “free” birth control. Nothing is ever truly “free.” Someone always pays. In the case of contraception, it should be the one using it.

Perhaps Ginsberg’s strongest argument is that people do not have an unlimited right to religion. She writes: “Would the exemption…extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions (Jehovah’s Witnesses); antidepressants (Scientologists); medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin (certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus); and vaccinations[?]…

Fortunately, no one is claiming religion as an unlimited right to refuse to comply with the law. In fact, this was specifically stated in the majority opinion. In this particular case, the Supreme Court ruled that there was no compelling government interest in forcing Hobby Lobby to provide four particular types of contraception that can act as abortifacents. It did not grant employers an unlimited mandate to impose their religious views on employees.

“The court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield,” Ginsberg worries. A liberal friend of mine concurred, taking to Facebook to express his concern over the “slippery slope” that might allow employers and organizations to pick and choose which services are covered and which are not. They would have the power to become “judge and jury” over the individual’s every health problem. He listed Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and diabetes as conditions employers could claim were the result of individual choices, and thus not subject to coverage.

I was amazed at how well this argument summarized the case against government-run healthcare, which remains the real “slippery slope.” If society has to foot the bill for your healthcare costs, they will naturally demand increasing control over your healthcare decisions. When you give government the responsibility to pay for what happens to your body, you also surrender the right to control it.

It’s Time to Get Angry about Obamacare

Pissed off about Obamacare?

You should be. If you are not yet steaming mad over the ironically-named “Affordable Care Act,” then you must fall into one of three categories: the tiny fraction that will actually benefit from the new law (temporarily, and at other’s expense), those Americans still largely ignorant of its ill effects, or the docile herd of obedient citizens (“sheep-le”) who have been so thoroughly well-indoctrinated by the paternalistic hand of the federal government that one more obtrusive mandate is met with but the mildest irritation before marching dutifully along to the slaughter.

This post is directed especially at my fellow young Americans, the so-called “Millenials” or “Gen X-ers.” Many of us comprised the adoring crowds of Obama enthusiasts who bought right into the vague sentiments of hope and change that carried the most liberal and inexperienced man ever into the Oval Office. We will suffer disproportionately under the burdensome weight of Obama’s policies, not the least of which is the over six trillion dollars in new debt that has been racked up. And we’ve got over three long years left to go.

We will be paying off that expense long after the men and women who authorized it and benefited from it and won elections because of it are dead. It will remain our problem. And when our children are forced to attend underfunded schools and our bridges and roads fall into disrepair and our military lacks the strength to properly defend us against our enemies, our tax dollars will go to pay down the interest of bills racked up by previous generations. Talk about a “head start!”

So not only will Obamacare add billions of new debt to our already out-of-control federal government balance sheet, it will also cause young people to pay more for a good we are statistically the least likely to use—healthcare.

In the contest of generations, healthcare used to be the one advantage young people had over the middle aged and elderly. Older people have had time to establish themselves in careers, to invest in their homes and savings, and to benefit from generous pension plans and Social Security. I’m sure I don’t have to remind my fellow twenty-somethings and even thirty-somethings that starting a life for oneself is hard. Getting that first mortgage is hard, especially if you’re still paying off student loans from college. Trying to pay for diapers and formula and daycare for young children is expensive. As a public school teacher, I have to do all these things on a salary that is 2/3 of what the same teacher in his fifties is making, as just about the only way to get a raise as a teacher is to climb the “years of experience” ladder.

But we have—or I should say, we had—one great advantage over our parents and grandparents: our relative health. Most young people I know rarely ever go to the doctor. One day we may have to deal with cancer or heart disease or type-II diabetes or arthritis, but for many of us, these maladies lie decades into the future. I don’t mean to paint with too broad a brush, as I realize that several of my peers have already battled cancer and other serious health issues. But statistically on a whole, young people use healthcare less and at a much lower expense.

In one study, the Department of Health and Human Services found that “half of the population spends little or nothing on health care, while 5 percent of the population spends almost half of the total amount.” In 2002, the top 5% accounted for 49 percent of overall health spending, or roughly $11,487 per person, while the bottom 50% accounted for only 3% of total spending at a cost of $664 per person. The same study finds that “the elderly (age 65 and older) make up around 13% of the U.S. population, but they consumed 36% of total… expenses.”

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The entire premise of Obamacare is that the young and the healthy will be made to pay more so the old and the sick may pay less. This will be achieved in two ways.

First, health insurance companies are limited in how much they may discriminate on premiums between the sick and the healthy and the old and the young, although I’ve already demonstrated that the old and the sick account for most healthcare spending. Insurance companies must now accept patients with pre-existing conditions. How are they expected to cover the cost of the sick but by charging more for the healthy? Insurers are also prohibited from charging older people more than three times the rates of healthy young people. Again: the young pay more so the old may pay less.

At this point, it may even seem fair to say that “Yes, the young and healthy will pay more, but it’s only fair to spread the costs around.” Perhaps, unless you consider the enormous advantage that older Americans still possess in every other economic area—salary, property, retirement benefits, not coming of age in the Obama economy.

But the main way Obamacare hurts the young is by eliminating low-cost policies that don’t provide the sort of comprehensive coverage mandated by the new law. In the past, a twenty-five year old man might have preferred a cheaper policy with a high deductible that doesn’t include all the bells and whistles. Now the ten essential services all plans must cover include maternity and newborn care, mental health services and addiction treatment, and rehabilitation services and devices. And of course, birth control must be provided at no additional cost.

It all sounds good at first… who doesn’t want more coverage?! Until you ask yourself, what about the guy or gal who just wants health insurance in case of emergencies (the original purpose of insurance) and has no need for birth control, maternity care, or addiction treatment? What about people who are celibate, or are physically incapable of having children? What use do they have of maternity care? What about people who live sufficiently healthy lifestyles to not require addiction treatment or mental health counseling? More coverage comes at a higher cost.

Too bad. The government has made the decision of what healthcare coverage you need for you.

The liberal talking heads have countered that “Yes, young people will pay more, but they will also have better coverage!” As if it is up to them to decide. What if I want to eat Hamburger Helper at a cost of $5? Will the government now insist that I purchase $40 filet mignon? After all, it’s better food!

Deductibles in some plans are still $5,000 and $6,000, and bronze plans only cover 60% of costs even after reaching that threshold. With these new realities, it is entirely possible that a young person or family might decide that health insurance does not make economic sense for them any longer. Why pay as much as $1,000 in premiums per month for something that doesn’t even kick in until you’ve already coughed up $5,000? Where is that $5,000 deductible going to come from? May as well save up the money for when it is needed and pay the penalty for not having coverage.

Of course, there are the subsidies, government contributions to make premiums more affordable for low-income people. But even with the subsidies, most young people will still pay more. Also, people who have never had to rely on government largesse in the past will now find themselves dependent on Washington.

But couldn’t that be the very point of it all? Less self-sufficiency, more government dependence. Young people who grew up wanting a good-paying job or to maybe start a business will settle for staying on their parents’ plans until age 26, and after that go on the exchanges and get a first-hand lesson in how to rely on the government for your very well-being.

This brings me back to the three categories I mentioned earlier. Some people, namely the sick and low-income, will benefit initially from government subsidies. But these subsidies will not just appear out of thin air. Government can not give you anything it does not first take from someone else. What happens when that someone else is yourself? We are paying for these subsidies in the form of increased debt and burdensome taxes that have hampered job creation and limited economic growth. What one hand giveth the other taketh away.

Some may still be ignorant of the bad Obamacare news, but my guess is not for long. It’s hard not to notice when something suddenly ends up costing you double what you used to pay.

It is the third category that I worry about. How many young people will just suck it up and pay more, or pay the tax penalty, and go about their business? Just change the channel and try to think about something less maddening and more pleasant. Is this where we are now in this country that once took on the might of the British Empire over essentially a sales tax that seems modest by today’s standards? Perhaps we should change our national anthem from the “land of the free and home of the brave” to represent something more accurate… “the land of the taken care of and the home of the government dependent?” What use are freedom and bravery in these times? Both come with risks that are just too great. Better to just take a number and get in line, DMV style. Because that’s what our healthcare system is about to become.

I pray that we will rediscover the vigor and independence—the audacity, to use Obama’s one-time favorite word—of our founding generations. Maybe Obamacare is just the shot in the arm we need to realize how empty are the promises of big government liberalism and how necessary the call to action.

Ronald Reagan famously said:

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was like in the United States where men were free.”

I fear I that my children will have to hear these stories at an Obamacare nursing home from my parents and not myself. Unless the government decides—as they almost inevitably do—that the elderly and sick are in fact too costly to keep alive. Then we will have indeed come full circle, as both the young and the old will suffer under the increasing equality of socialist misery.