Snake Oil, Skittles, and Bitter Pills

Who is really at fault?

Jonathan Gruber is the latest furor, and for good reason. I have an issue with Gruber, of course, but not from the same angle most others do. I’m surprised that most others of my own political bent have missed this, seeing as we tend to be advocates for personal responsibility, but then, in the midst of the uproar of a crowd with a handy scapegoat available, it’s really easy to miss the underlying causation.

Everyone is yelling about what a horrible individual Gruber is for assuming the American public is stupid and for calling them stupid, and for what he actually did, and he is certainly a piece of human debris devoid of any real morality; but here’s the thing. The bill got passed. He was right.

On the whole, though there were what seemed like armies of people (to us) out there yelling the truth, the American people still bought it, lock, stock, and barrel. So who is at fault here? Is it Gruber for at fault for being a greedy snake-oil salesman and a hustler? For goodness sake, it ended up being what amounted to $5.9 million dollars at stake for him to rake in from various sources in the government. Who do you know out there whose soul or their moral grounding could resist that kind of low hanging fruit? I would say that even among us who were shouting from the rooftops, there are a fair number who would quietly shut their mouths and put out their hand.

There have always been and will always be people like Gruber. He is a parasite, a waste of human skin in the modern world. There will always be shysters who care for nothing except profit at the expense of everything else as long as they remain one of the rich and powerful.. The problem is that the American people were that stupid! We haven’t learned a darn thing!

So who is at fault? The American people are at fault, of course! We Are!!

We’ve lost something vital that used to be a trademark, a pivotal element of the American paradigm. Somewhere along the line, the balance got tipped, we went from being a beacon of Freedom and Liberty, from being a meritocracy that genuinely cherished hard work and rugged individualism, to being a crying, shrieking group of hungry baby birds, all with our hands out and our mouths open waiting to be fed by the producers, the ones who still held on to a dying set of ideals.

Those ideals being that hard work is what makes us special, what makes us stand out and grow prosperous- and help others grow prosperous along the way!- as they invent, and as they fall and get up again; as they build, and they overcome adversity, as they improvise and adapt become more than they were, in the process making the world a better place for everyone. Those people who understand that Freedom is nothing without strict adherence to its unshakable partner, Responsibility.

I can hear many of the people on our side of the argument now saying “But it can’t be our fault! We were that ones who knew, we were right! We were the ones sounding the warning bell from the roof tops! How can you say that we bear any responsibility?”

I can say it because it’s true. We weren’t good enough. Our message wasn’t clear enough. No one wanted to listen to what we had to say, the moment we started speaking we were dismissed. And that’s a bitter pill.

The other guys were promising free stuff! They were giving away the farm! We were saying that it wasn’t possible, that the people still needed to get off of their collective ass and actually work hard for the rewards they expected; that they needed to think, and to take responsibility, to vote and to hold their representatives accountable. They were saying that everyone was going to be swimming in skittles and rainbows as they rode their unicorns to the candy shop!

There’s reason enough that people didn’t want to hear our message, we’ve become a lazy nation of non-producers who feed off of the back of the producers, and the producers are getting more tired of it every single day. They are throwing their hands up and joining the crowd saying “if the government is going to give the stuff away, I might as well get my share.”

But there is even more reason why the message wasn’t being heard, that people were tuning us out. Anyone who knows me should know where I’m going next. The message was hard enough to convey since we were fighting against an opposing message that seemed much more appealing, but that wasn’t enough.

The overwhelming majority of people on our side were trying to point out what an actual calamity the Affordable Care Act was and that it was being rammed through with no chance for review for a reason, as so many other laws and bills are these days. But those people, in other words us, can’t seem to stick to the message, to the political argument about why any given argument we present is logical and correct.

I know so many people who wander about in confusion, wondering why the people that they know can’t see the logic in what they’re saying, the message that the quintessential American attitude is what has carried us this far and is the only thing that can carry us farther; that more government and less personal control is a bad thing. That giving up rights for security is a horrible travesty. They know that their friends are hard workers who believe in merit, and hard work and making their own way! But why don’t those friends understand?

If you want the answer to that, you have to be willing to listen, to be open-minded and willing to undergo a critical evaluation about how you present your message, and be willing to make some changes. For now I’ll leave it that.

Gruber is our fault; our responsibility. We let the snake-oil salesman set his cart up in the village square and now we’re paying the price. That the rest of the village wouldn’t listen to our warnings about his miracle cure-all is, again, our fault.

Change will only come at a price. The question is, are you willing to pay that price?

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