AB: And very top of this hour, I’m delighted to start to keep America safe with none other than the great Mark Steyn, Columnist To the World. How are you, Mark?
MS: Hey, I’m doing great, Arthur. How are you?
AB: Oh, I’m very well. I want our listeners to know that we were just listening to your Christmas CD, Making Spirits Bright. You know, I had no idea that you had that kind of talent?
MS: (laughing) That’s brilliantly formulated, Arthur, I must say. I had no idea that you had that kind of talent. You’re a musician by profession, aren’t you?
AB: Yeah, that’s right. There is, I actually did make a Christmas album at one point myself, but it’s not a good stocking stuffer this year. It’s older.
MS: What do you play, Arthur?
AB: I’m a French horn player. Adam, play a quick cut from my old Christmas album.
MS: I don’t think we have a French horn on there. We’ve got a flugelhorn on…
AB: You hear that, Mark? That’s me.
DP: At some point, do you wake up?
AB: Yeah, yeah, that’s really funny. We’re not trying to sell my album, because it’s old. We’re, the new album, the one that we’re really thinking about right now is the Christmas CD of the great Mark Steyn, Making Spirits Bright. You want it, folks? www.steynonline.com, where you’ll also find all the great columns of Mark Steyn. And I’m delighted to talk to you.
AB: You know, this is the first time that we’ve ever talked, not in person, but…
MS: No, that’s right. I’m regretting now. We don’t have a French horn on our album. We’ve got a flugelhorn on Sweet Gingerbread Man, and I’m trying to remember my brass instruments. But the flugelhorn has a conical bore, which I don’t think the French horn has, does it?
AB: No, that’s correct. Well done, and next time when you do have a French horn for its mellow tones, you’ll know who to call, right?
MS: (laughing) Exactly. I feel I’m turning into a bit of a conical bore myself. Oh dear.
AB: (laughing) This is the conical bore segment, ladies and gentlemen. For those who don’t know, Mark Steyn is the bestselling author of America Alone and After America, must-reads, and I’m sure virtually everybody listening to us has done just that. Mark, I’m looking forward to hearing what’s on your mind. I’m going to guess that the wonderful news about Obamacare enrollment is on your mind. We get news out of Oregon that they spent $300 million dollars on their Obamacare exchange. And how many people have signed up? 44.
AB: That’s $6.8 million dollars each. What do you think about that?
MS: Yeah, and normally, to get that cost per capita, you have to have a green investment program for creating green jobs. I think his green job creation program, Obama’s green job creation program, was something like $4.8 million per job created. So this tops even that. And I think it gets to what is really, I think, becoming a sort of systemic fault here, is that the cost you spend trying to repair a certain problem is way out of all proportion to the actual problem. If you take the problem pre-2010, being 30 million uninsured Americans, and you think of the vast disruption and the absurd waste of money that has gone, been thrown at health care reform since then, without actually solving that problem of the tens of millions of uninsured, and you think of how much it would cost if you’d just decided to write a check for each of those uninsured people directly from the Treasury, it would have been way cheaper than trying to do this.
AB: Yeah, but it would have been less fun, don’t you think?
MS: Well, you know, yeah, it is fun, and I take my colleague, and your colleague, Jonah Goldberg’s point that it’s a big Schadenfreude-o-rama, and we should enjoy it while we can. But the fact of the matter is that large numbers of people who think they’ve enrolled with Obamacare in fact have yet to cut their first check for their new insurance plans, and will be going to the pharmacy, or God forbid, the emergency room around January 5th, 6th, 7th, and discovering that in fact although they thought they were insured, they’re not insured. And shortly after that, if things go really badly, we’re going to reading about the first deaths of people who thought they were covered by Obamacare but turn out not to have insurance at all.
AB: Yeah, that will be less funny, won’t it?
MS: Yeah, it certainly will. I mean, this is a huge disruption. I’m not a fan of Ezra Klein, the big sort of lefty wonky guy, but I think he made a very good point, which is that the reason people are fearful about Obamacare is because they’re fearful about health insurance and health coverage in general. You know, even if you have insurance, you can be standing at Rite-Aid at ten minutes before closing on a Friday afternoon to get your pills for the weekend, and something will have gone wrong, and they’ll deny you access to those pills. And there is, and he was saying there’s a general fearfulness in the system that Obamacare is intended to address. But Obamacare in fact has just increased fearfulness and uncertainty in the system, and for millions and millions of people, too.
AB: Yeah, Mark, were you watching the President’s speech last week at the Center For American Progress when he tried to change the subject away from Obamacare and started talking once again about income inequality and the plight of the poor? Were you able to sit through that or stomach that speech?
MS: No, I wasn’t. I did as Obama did in these circumstances, and I started making out with the Danish Prime Minister. I find that’s generally…
MS: I find that’s generally the thing to do when the speeches start to overrun.
AB: Do you do that during your own speeches, or just during the President’s?
MS: (laughing) No, during my own speeches, I bring the Danish Prime Minister up on stage and make out with her in front of the crowd. That always goes down well, too.
AB: I’ll bet. I’ll bet that really hikes your speaking fees, too.
MS: (laughing) It does.
AB: Well, the President was talking about the old liberal stand-by, what do you do when poor people don’t make enough money. Well, you force their employers to pay them more. He wanted a big minimum wage hike. You’ve given this some thought for sure.
MS: Yeah, I think the problem here is we’re beginning now to develop the situation the people came to America to get away from. I mean, if you in Bohemia in the 13th Century, and you were a 13th Century peasant, the likelihood is your descendants were going to be 15th Century peasants and 17th Century peasants. And so in the 19th Century, you wise up and you get on the boat to Ellis Island, and you come to America, and you live in a tenement on the lower east side, and your son moves uptown, and your grandson moves to Westchester County, and your great-grandson is the first in your line to go to college and enjoy the opportunity to exploit his potential to the fullest. And we now have in this country increasing dependency, and increasing inter-generational poverty and dependency. And I think the issue is not…to get a hike in the minimum wage, you first have to have a minimum wage job. And I think the greater issue is there’s large numbers of people who are just not part of the employment pool, and in that sense, have opted out of the economy. That’s a far greater cause of inequality in life’s opportunities than whether the minimum wage is six bucks, seven bucks, ten bucks or fifteen bucks.
AB: Well put. Well, I’m going to turn it to a slightly grimmer note, where there’s just news out of North Korea, which is always just fabulous, that the supreme leader, Kim Jong Un, has put his uncle to death, Jang Song Thaek.
AB: Now why? Why, you might ask, would you put your uncle to death? He had been removed from all his posts because of allegations of corruption, drug use, gambling, womanizing, and leading a dissolute and depraved life. That sounds like my uncle. I mean, doesn’t everybody have an uncle like this?
MS: (laughing) Well, it also sounds like Kim Jong Un. By the way, Kim Jong Un, I don’t know whether he attended his uncle’s funeral after he was executed, but I would love to see the selfies that Kim Jong Un took of that, because that, you know, I’ll bet they’re the signs of a dictator, a hereditary dictator seizing serious control and eliminating alternative sources of power. That’s always, in these hereditary dictatorships, that’s like Saddam Hussein having his sons-in-law put to death. That’s like Assad having his uncle put to death, in fact, in Syria a few years ago.
MS: Baby Assad’s father, that is, I should explain, that we have the, in these hereditary dictatorships, there’s an awful lot of bloodletting that attends the change of power in those places.
AB: Yeah, I mean, I just want to know how tense Christmas is going to be in the Kim household.
MS: Well, I certainly hope Kim Jong Un’s uncle hadn’t done his Christmas shopping early, and actually gone out and bought the present and put it in the mail to his nephew king before the guy had him executed. That would be a tough break.
AB: Indeed it is. Well, we’ve run out of time. Mark Steyn, the great columnist and of course with a great new Christmas album, get it, it’s a stocking stuffer, Making Spirits Bright, at www.steynonline.com.
End of interview.