|By Tony Russell|
My cousin Grover and I were sitting around the fireplace,
soaking in the BTU's with gratitude while December's nastiness pounded
at the windows and doors. A glass of Grandpaw's best in our hands, a
roaring fire--who could blame us for our mellow, expansive mood?
"These are good times to be living in," said Grover. "The
country has taken a right turn, we're abandoning those failed liberal
programs, and we're showing the world what America's made of."
"What failed liberal programs in particular do you refer to,
Cousin?" I inquired politely.
"All of them," he said belligerently. "That damned liberal
notion that you can cure any problem by educating people and throwing
money their way."
"I suppose you refer to something like closing down mental
hospitals and placing their residents in community-based programs," I
"That's a good example," he agreed. "A miserable failure.
They turned all those loonies loose, and now you can't walk down the
street without tripping over a nut case."
"I seem to recall that the Reagan administration eagerly
agreed to close down the mental health hospitals to save money, and
then wouldn't fund the community-based programs that were supposed to
take their place," I said. "They just dumped them on the street,
creating an instant homeless population we hadn't seen since the Great
"Oh sure," he said. "Blame Reagan when a liberal program
"Perhaps you would like to suggest conservative programs that
have successfully replaced these liberal failures," I offered.
"All the privatization programs that have replaced inefficient
government bureaucracies with lean, mean, profit-driven private
concerns," he answered immediately.
"Were you thinking of the privatization of electric utilities
in California, for example?"
I mused. "Where they're having the rolling blackouts and electric
bills have been multiplied tenfold?"
"That wasn't the example I was looking for," said Grover.
"Perhaps you were thinking of the California initiative that
slashed property taxes, and promptly ruined the best state educational
system in the country," I suggested. "I can remember when
California's public schools, junior college system, and university
system were the envy of the country."
"California, California," he complained. "Everybody knows
California's a wild place that's not like anyplace else."
"Were you thinking of Clinton's initial health care plan, by
chance?" I asked. "The one conservatives attacked as a government
program that would take away your right to choose your own doctor and
would ration health care?"
"That's just what would have happened, too," Grover
"So conservatives pushed through a plan that gave private
HMO's all the business," I said. "Now the HMO's are making lots of
money and giving big contributions to their friends in Congress, while
the public complains that HMO's won't let them see their own doctor
and won't authorize procedures they need."
"The system just needs some bugs worked out," he said
"What about those 'boot camps' for juveniles?" I asked. "The
ones where kids were going to learn discipline from real tough
"A great idea," he said. "Those kids needed some sense
knocked into 'em."
"I suppose so," I said. "It's a shame so many of the camps
have had to close down because of public outcries against brutality.
But then, studies show their recidivism rates are higher than those of
treatment-oriented facilities anyway."
"Studies, studies," he responded. "That's all liberals want
to do--spend taxpayers' money and commission another study."