Obamacare and the Politics of Revenge

by Gary North
by Gary North
Recently by Gary North: Why Did Jim Wallis Viciously Attack Glenn Beck, When Beck Has All Those Video Clips of Him? Hasn’t He Heard of YouTube?

President Obama got his training with ACORN. Where the ACORN falls, so grows the tree.

ACORN has fallen.

ACORN got caught by a pair of creative actors, both conservatives. They went to ACORN posing as a pimp and his woman. How could they get government aid? ACORN had suggestions. They videotaped the exchange. Then they took a modified video – yes, faked – to Andrew Breitbart, the Web site master. The fake was this: in the video, the young man appears in a pimp’s outfit. In fact, he did not wear it in the room. This is being made into a big deal by the liberal media. "Why, it’s all a fake!" Look, the whole stunt was fake. What was not fake was the response from ACORN’s employees: the offer to help them get the money and break the law.

Breitbart tried to get the networks to run the video. He was turned down. So, he took it to Mr. Video Clip, Glenn Beck. Beck ran it. That was how ACORN got on the Web. The story is here.

The publicity has ruined ACORN. It lost a fortune in contracts from the Federal government. It is close to bankruptcy, laments this Leftist site.

It has local chapters. Its agenda will survive. But the tree got knocked down.


I am of course both amused and delighted. Mostly amused. This was the perfect response to ACORN. That is because ACORN had long employed the tactics of a master organizer, Saul Alinsky. He wrote a book on his tactics, Rules for Radicals. It was published in 1971, the year before he died.

Alinsky was a radical, not a revolutionary. His strategy was to study an organization carefully. Understand how it works, he said. Then identify a weakness that is inherent in its rules or practices. He was amazingly successful at challenging organizations and forcing them to change their policies.

The two actors may not have understood that they were using a tactic devised by Alinsky. They spotted a weakness in ACORN’s practices: its commitment to getting government money for small businesses. They staged a charade. ACORN’s employees fell for it. It did not seem remarkable to them that a white teenage hooker and her white pimp wanted money from the government to set up a prostitution house for teenage girls who were in the clutches of a "bad" pimp. Government-subsidized entrepreneurship was right up ACORN’s alley. That was the end of ACORN. The charade was legal. There is no law against impersonating a hooker and her pimp.

Let me describe a classic Alinsky tactic. I wrote about it in 1983. A Christian college’s administration had allowed the students to invite Alinsky to speak. This was stupid. They soon learned just how stupid it was. Students came up to him after the lecture. They complained that nothing was allowed on campus. "What is allowed?" he asked. "We can chew gum." "That’s it," he said. He told them to buy lots of gum. "Keep chewing it. Spit it out the school sidewalks. Keep doing it, day after day. Tell the administration you will quit when it relaxes the other rules." It took one week. You can read my column on Alinsky here.

ACORN got gummed by a pair of actors.

Now it is Obama’s turn to get gummed.


National health care is the second most important of all government welfare programs. The first is funding education and making it compulsory. But this is generally enforced at the state level in the United States.

Why is government-funded medical care so important? Because it is the symbol of a state that has the power to extend life. It is the supreme agency of healing. Any government that does not pass laws funding and controlling the health care delivery system is seen by the apologists of state power as being inconsistent. A state that cannot heal is not a true god. The modern humanist state presents itself as the final court of appeal. It supposedly possesses final sovereignty.

Four centuries ago, this was called the divine right of kings. That meant that the king was the final court of appeal. There was no one or nothing higher, other than God. Today, the government’s position is that there is no God. Therefore, the state is the final sovereign. It is God by default.

A final sovereign must possess the power of life and death. So, we live under the jurisdiction of a welfare-warfare state.

The United States has had Medicare ever since 1965. The state has proclaimed itself as a healer of the old. This expense will bankrupt the Federal government unless the law is modified to allow cost-cutting. Politically, this is not yet possible. The oldsters want the money: over to $11,000 a year in subsidies.

This was not enough, according to Democrats. Another 30 million Americans need health insurance coverage. Now they are going to get it. Voters are going to pay.

Why isn’t this good politics? Because the Federal government waited too long. It is now running annual deficits over $1.5 trillion. This does not count the extra two trillion or so that accrue to the unfunded Medicare program each year. That is part of the off-budget budget.

At some point, all those oldsters who are dependent on the off-budget budget will be placed on the off-life support system. They will have their life support unplugged, at least figuratively and in some cases literally.

The motivation to get those 30 million people inside the health insurance system is a deeply religious motivation. The Democrats were upset that the United States government was not doing enough. What kind of healer is that?

The total expenditure for health care in the United States is about 15% of gross domestic product – higher than any other nation. This was not enough. There had to be more, the Democrats said. So, there will be. Costs will rise. Politicians are now on the hook. Who will pay these costs? It’s a government program now. There is no escape for the politicians. They must make some voting bloc angry. But which? What a dilemma!

The anger is enormous. It will increase. As of March 20, 59% of voters were opposed.

They see themselves as being ignored, which is in fact the case. This has created an opportunity for Republicans. They voted no unanimously.

This is pure politics. How often does a party vote 100% opposed? Almost never. They smell blood, and they reacted as sharks do. They voted for Bush’s bankrupting prescription drug subsidy program. Now they are all opposed. It’s politics.

Fifty years ago, I was talking with my liberal Democrat friend Joel Blain. Both of us knew how the subsidy ratchet works. It just keeps going up. So, he said to me, knowing full well I understood the game, "Just let us pass a health care bill. We’ll try it for a couple of years. If it doesn’t work, you can repeal it." That was Eisenhower’s last year in office. There was no way that the Federal government would pass a socialized medicine program. We both knew that. But if it ever did, it would be forever. It would create voting constituents.

Half a century later, the Democrats have gotten their way. The leadership recognizes that it will not be repealed. The leadership is serious about this law. These people know that the fall elections will result in Democrat losses. Harry Reid is way behind in Nevada. Yet they voted for the bill. They understand the religious implications of such sacrifice. They did it for the cause. The Federal government has extended its authority as a healer. With this authority will come lots of additional power.

They have sent a message to voters: "We have sacrificed the principle of majority rule for the sake of a higher cause." In principle, this is correct. If the voters want something evil, politicians should not vote for it. In early America, this was understood. Democracy meant the right of a majority to vote out of office anyone who opposed its will. It did not mean that a politician had a moral obligation to do what the majority wanted done every time. He was allowed to commit political suicide.

The Democrats face this problem: this view of democracy has not been widely preached or believed since 1913: the direct election of Senators. The push toward mass democracy has been constant. The older view has been abandoned. But now the Democrats have reverted to the older view. They will pay for this next November.


There is nothing morally wrong with the politics of revenge. Getting back at a politician for voting the wrong way was basic to early American politics. The Jeffersonians in 1800 got back at John Adams and the Federalists for the Alien and Sedition Acts. That ended Federalism as a national force. No one mourns their passing today. Few did in1801.

This time, there is enormous anger among hard-core Republicans and independents. They will not forget. Usually, voters do forget, but not this time. The law back-loads the financing. The burden will hit in full force in 2014. This is standard politics, but this time, it will backfire. Why? Because of the size of the Federal deficit.

The welfare states of Western Europe swallowed the pill of socialized medicine after World War II. The voters have gotten used to the cost. It is part of the social background. To single out medical costs as uniquely bankrupting is unthinkable, even though true.

Here, it is different. The law will go into effect at a time when the deficit has become unthinkably high. It finally is getting through to voters that it threatens their lifestyles in the future. They are beginning to get afraid. They should be afraid.

The Democrats waited too long. The deficits are now Obama’s. They must be dealt with on his watch. He refuses to deal with them. In this setting, the Democrats rammed through the bill.

The voters will be reminded, year by year, that this was done against their will. The Democrats will not be able to blame Bush. The burden will aggravate people, because they did not want the program.

Democrats assume that voters will forget. Voters at the margin will not forget. They will be reminded.

To get blamed, the Republicans must have the White House, the House, and 60 votes in the Senate. Until this happens, they can play the role of helpless babes in the woods. That means the Democrats will get blamed. This issue will not go away, because costs will rise.

The tea party movement is at present amateurish. Time will take care of that. If Republicans do not deal with it, they will lose elections. The revolt against waffling is real. These people are dangerous to Republicans who waffle on spending. They will not be able to be elected.

Usually, negative voting blocs get marginalized. The beneficiaries of boondoggles are concentrated. They want the subsidy. The opponents are not well organized. The costs of the boondoggle are shared by too many taxpayers. Resistance is minimal compared to the promotion.

This time it will be different. The politics of vengeance is now in play. The voters will be reminded, year after year, that the program was shoved down their throats.


Alinsky always searched for the weak spot in the opposition’s system. Then he exploited it.

Obama now has a weak point: ObamaCare. This time, the taxpayers and insurance premium payers and patients sitting endlessly in filled doctors’ offices will be reminded about who did it to them. It was Obama and the banshee with the huge Medicare gavel, Nancy Pelosi. They pride themselves on having thwarted the voters. They believe they will get away with it. They think voters will forget. But medical care costs are close to people’s hearts. They will pay attention to their bills, including their tax bills.

The tea party types will make it hot for Republicans who think they can keep spending. The climate of opinion has changed. The deficit has changed it.

The costs of this program will not be ignored. This is not Europe. This is a new program. It was passed by a defiant majority in Congress. That majority will be depleted.

The very phrase, "ObamaCare," will become a liability. It ought to be called PelosiCare, but it isn’t. Obama has defined his administration by this one law. He got it passed. He owns it.

The tea parties have only just begun. The Democrats are not afraid yet. What will make a difference will be Republicans who lose because they refuse to give the tea party voters what they want.

The Christian Right got bought off easily in Reagan’s first year. All they demanded was rhetoric. Reagan was good at this. So, they were eased out by the Bush faction, which ran the White House under Reagan. They were in the Bush family’s hip pocket, so the Bushes sat on them.

The tea party will not get bought off so easily. Their anger is too great.

March 27, 2010

Gary North [send him mail] is the author of Mises on Money. Visit http://www.garynorth.com. He is also the author of a free 20-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible.

Copyright © 2010 Gary North