UHLER and FERRARA: Obamacare, the end of the progressive era

Health care reform’s failure destroys the big-government model

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There’s an old saw about cooking frogs: Place them in cool water, and then turn up the heat. The frogs fail to respond to gradual temperature change, and by the time the water gets near the boiling point, the frogs are unable to jump out and save themselves.

That is what President Obama and the Democrats have had in mind with Obamacare, which they planned would lead to single-payer, socialized medicine. However, their incompetent “chefs” have placed ordinary citizens directly in a boiling health care caldron. Americans are reacting with extreme reproach, and it is progressivism and the Democratic Party that is getting burned.

Recently, 39 Democratic members of the House joined 222 Republicans in supporting Rep. Fred Upton’s Keep Your Health Plan Act of 2013 to restore canceled health insurance policies. Clearly, those Democrats are scared to death of the fallout of Obamacare and the plummeting poll numbers for Democrats and Mr. Obama. At a more recent Democratic chiefs-of-staff meeting, one of them said that if Obamacare isn’t fixed, “this could be the demise of the Democratic Party.”

However, the most earth-shattering observation was still to come. Political commentator Mark Shields, possibly the most ardent and articulate apologist for Mr. Obama and his presidency, raised the stakes when he acknowledged recently that if “they can’t fix Obamacare, it will mark the end of the progressive era in America.” That may be most profound, prophetic and significant liberal confession thus far in the 21st century — and it could mark the end of the modern liberal hundred-years war on America. This philosophical war was commenced in 1913 with the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson and adoption of the federal income tax and the Federal Reserve System.

Just as Western Civilization’s earlier Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) changed the terms of personal freedom, taxes and state power, and raised up charismatic leaders such as Joan of Arc, our recent hundred-years war has been marked by vast departures from our nation’s roots and heritage, and the coronation of leaders such as Wilson and Mr. Obama.

“Progressivism” has been in open rebellion against the Constitution for more than a century, deriding it as an outdated document based on outmoded conceptions of rights and freedoms. Progressives’ real objection is that the Constitution mandates excessive liberty for the people and does not give government as much power as the “wise” progressives think they should wield for the long-term “public good.” They have also been in open rebellion against America’s highly productive, free-market economic system, thinking they know better how to “run” the economy than allowing the guidance of millions of individual choices in the free market.

In attacking these two institutions, Mr. Obama and his modern Democrats are intentionally threatening the foundations of American freedom and prosperity. They are transforming America into just another Third World banana republic, where the rule of law does not prevail, and where the bountiful vistas of high, persistent, long-term economic growth, which have made America the world’s leading economic and military superpower, are just a distant memory of better days.

Obamacare confirms that the federal government — with its errant Internal Revenue Service agents, insensitivity to individual needs, waste, inefficiency, invasiveness and violations of personal liberty — is not the answer. We need to return to our roots, “right-size” government, reallocate most domestic federal functions to the private sector and to the states and local governments, and venerate the rule of law under our Constitution.

That is the essence of our current national philosophical battle in which Obamacare has become not only a train wreck in its own right, but a momentous derailment of the entire progressive movement. This could be a liberating moment not experienced since Yorktown in 1781.

It is not what Obamacare has come to mean in terms of failed websites, rejected health care plans and failure to be able to “keep your own doctor” that counts. It is that our own government has taken over our lives and is dictating how we will live our lives under its direction. This is as far from our Founders’ concept of a free nation as you can get.

This is not about our health care options. It’s about our freedom.

Lew Uhler is founder and president of the National Tax Limitation Foundation. Peter Ferrara is senior adviser on entitlement reform and budget policy for the foundation.

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