HH: Joined as I am on Thursdays when we are lucky by Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. Hello, Mark, and a good Thursday to you.
MS: Good Thursday to you, too, Hugh, and I hope you’re enjoying New York.
HH: I just got here, but I’m sure I will. That Long Island traffic is not so great. Mark, let’s start by talking about, the President went to Portland, Maine today, and said everyone’s being too hard on him because he hasn’t had enough time for this to work, and how can anyone predict it’s going to be a bad thing. But every time we turn around on Obamacare, the news does indeed get worse. Is he whistling past a political graveyard here?
MS: No, I think he knows what he’s doing, and I think this is just his latest line. I mean, by the way, I strongly resent this line, the idea that the people are too stupid to reach a judgment on this, because I think it’s fundamentally anti-democratic, and anti-republican. It’s an insult to the idea of responsible government. I think the American people, in fact, inform themselves very well at what was in this bill, and what this bill was likely to lead to. And there’s something revoltingly condescending about saying you people haven’t, you people are just too dumb, it’s in your own best interest, and you’re too stupid to realize it.
HH: And indeed, that has been their constant refrain. But the evidence is catching up. Today or yesterday, Tom Suehs, who’s the head of the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, testified in Texas, and had this to say about the cost of Obamacare to his state.
TS: He’s [Congressman Henry Waxman] using a global stat that Texas represents 7% of the Medicaid population, therefore you should have 27% of the $20 billion dollars. He fails to recognize we have 6.1 million uninsured. Massachusetts has I think half a percent of their population uninsured. We have 25%. So you can’t take national average statistics and apply it to states. I don’t know where he went to school and got his math education, but it’s not where I did.
HH: And he goes on to say it’s going to cost approximately $24 billion dollars for Texas, Mark Steyn.
MS: Yeah, and I think this is, I mean, this is why we should not have a nationalized health system from Maine to Hawaii. Nobody’s ever tried that in an advanced nation before, and it’s never going to work, not with a nationalized mandate, and a national, one size fits all requirements. The needs in Texas are entirely, where they have a huge population of uninsured and illegal immigrants clogging up the emergency rooms, the situation there is entirely different from the situation somewhere like New Hampshire. And so the idea of a one size fits all national mandate on health care is ridiculous. It’s bound to be a disaster, and like all the great, federalized, nationalized disasters, it will default to the most expensive, and most wasteful, and most bureaucratic systems.
HH: So I don’t see how any more data is going to change people’s minds on this, Mark Steyn. I don’t know that these announcements from corporate America really matter to individuals in the street, except as a constant reminder that the bill is coming due, and it’s an enormous one.
MS: Yeah, and I think that’s where they are useful. I mean, I would have preferred it if Verizon and Caterpillar and John Deere and all the others had spoke up a couple of weeks ago more noisily when it would have made, it would have had more impact. But I think it sends the constant message that whatever ludicrous, fantastic figure the Congressional Budget Office puts on it, what the reality is, is this thing is going to massively cost more than anyone has predicted, and is going to blow a hole, a huge hole, in the American economy. I mean, every, every single company has to factor in, by law, has to factor in the cost of this to its revised earning statements. That’s like a huge amount of money, instantly, just vaporized off the value of American companies.
HH: I hadn’t even thought of that, and I’m also thinking that Lindsey Graham really needs to stop for a moment before he continues to engage in this cap and tax rewrite that he is trying to push. This country can’t take any more massive overhauls right now, Mark Steyn. Do you think he doesn’t understand that?
MS: Well, I think it’s particularly annoying, because I think there was a segment of the Democratic Party that between now and next January, would like to do with health care what, would do with cap and trade what it did with health care, which is to take advantage of technical majorities, regardless of what verdict November brings, and just ram the thing through. And so someone like Lindsey Graham is just being a dupe, a patsy for the Democratic Party when he does this. This is ridiculous. Everyone understands, the French, the Australians, the New Zealanders, understand that the public mood has changed on wasteful poseur environmentalism, and that as you say, the economy just can’t take it.
HH: Our common friend, Amity Shlaes, wrote that the secret to having a depression go on for a long time is to continue to change the rules. And it seems like that’s what we’ve cooked into Obamacare, which would make it even much, much more worse if we did it with cap and tax as well.
MS: Yeah, because I think the essence of a free economy, this is, I mean, it’s not very difficult to understand this. Why do people invest in Singapore, but they don’t invest in Sudan? It’s because in Singapore, there are an agreed set of rules that everybody understands when they go in there. What Obama has done is put a big question mark over those rules. Why aren’t companies hiring? Why aren’t companies expanding? Because in the present circumstances, you’d have to be insane to take on another employee. You’d have to be insane to grow your company, because every statement from every figure who matters in the United States political establishment, whether it’s Obama or Barney Frank threatening the banks, or Henry Waxman threatening to haul CEOs before Congress, all, the cumulative message is there are no rules. We’re rewriting all the rules, we can’t tell you what they are, we won’t know what they are when we vote on them, and you’ll find out down the road. But if you don’t have agreed rules, you cannot have a growing economy.
HH: You know, Mark Steyn, yesterday I had on the senior vice president for communications of the National Restaurant Association, having her explain to me why the NRA threw in with the Democrats in pushing through the calorie counting mandate. And in the course of it, she said and we are all going to wait for the FDA to tell us what font size the menus have to be on the drive thru windows.
HH: And I spent the rest of the show thinking to myself, were they out of their mind pushing for the FDA to regulate them?
MS: Yes, this is insanity. I mean, this used to be the difference between the Province of Quebec and the United States of America. In the Province of Quebec, the government regulates the language you can put the signs in on your menus, and the size of the language, the size of the language in French versus the size of the language in English. They have inspectors who come around and measure the font size to make sure that you’ve got it in the correct size. And now this woman is offering her industry’s assistance in erecting a similarly wasteful regime here. There are going to be guys from the FDA going around with tape measures, descending on the drive-thru lane at Taco Bell and Dunkin’ Donuts. A complete waste of time, does nothing to grow the economy. A reader made a very good point to me the other day when he was talking about the old command and control economies. It’s not just in the Soviet Union, but in India before economic liberalization. And he said at least in those economies, the state actually made stuff. If you look at…
MS: …and here, the state just regulates. The massive state just regulates. It’s even more wasteful.
HH: And at it all is that at the heart of it, is Congress. And here is an example of the brilliance of the Congressional majority at work. This is Congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia, worrying out loud about sending 8,000 Marines and their families to Guam. Cut number one.
HJ: My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize.
Admiral Willard: We don’t anticipate that.
Adm. Willard: The Guam population, I think, currently about 175,000, and again, with 8,000 Marines and their families, that’s an addition of about 25,000 more into the population.
HH: So Mark Steyn, you know, he was serious.
MS: Yeah, exactly, and the admiral of the Pacific fleet, you could hear it in his voice, he’s like the, sounding like the vizier to the more insane Ottoman sultans, you know, trying to take, trying to back out of the room before the insane lunatic in charge says something even more preposterous. The reality is I think this poor Congressman is confused. There’s far more likelihood of your great state of California flipping over entirely (laughing)
MS: …than the poor fellows in Guam. I don’t think you need to worry about Guam. There’s other U.S. jurisdictions way ahead of it in the about to flip over until they capsize line.
HH: (laughing) Well, I think we’re already…here is our senior Senator, Barbara Boxer, cut number two:
BB: Well, I really think nobody can take their seat for granted. These are tough times that we’re going through in America, and California, and I’m not going to sugarcoat that, because people are grumpy, and they have a right to be grumpy.
HH: People are grumpy, Mark Steyn.
MS: Yeah, it’s the irrationality, isn’t it?
MS: It’s always the same way, that there’s a great, snarling, irrational mob, or they’re just two year olds throwing a tantrum, as Peter Jennings said a few years back. And it’s not that. The idea that what is happening here is that a huge mass of people are being to coalesce around the idea that this stuff can’t be paid for. No matter how much you tax, no matter how much you borrow, no matter how many businesses you drive into the ground, there will never be enough money to pay for this stuff. And that message, I think, exposes, risks exposing the Democrats running essentially on fraud this November, and that’s dangerous for Barbara Boxer.
HH: Mark Steyn, always a pleasure, www.steynonline.com, America.
End of interview.