OF PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS - "Failed Liberal Programs"

(01/20/2001)

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 said.

"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 Depression."

"Oh sure," he said. "Blame Reagan when a liberal program flops."

"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 trumpeted.

"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 defensively.

"What about those 'boot camps' for juveniles?" I asked. "The ones where kids were going to learn discipline from real tough guys."

"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."


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