If the healthcare bill fight has taught us one thing, it's that the federal government doesn't care about you. Your opinion doesn't matter. Your opposition doesn't matter. Your voice doesn't matter. Support for healthcare reform, even in this watered-down incarnation, has been pitifully low and sinking faster each time President Obama pushed it in a speech. Massive rallies in Washington and smaller ones throughout the United States were ignored (except when the "objective media" pushed the "racist" or "extremist" angles). Assurances from an angry population to their Senators and Congressmen that a vote for the bill would be repaid with a vote for their opponents come November were ignored. House Democrats couldn't hear, what with all the tax money being thrown at them in exchange for their votes. Perhaps they were stuffing dollars into their ears.
But despite all the opposition, the abysmal polling, the unified opposition to the bill by Republicans, the bill passed anyway. America now has a large new entitlement to pay for, though the current Congress made sure to leave the details to their furture selves. There is a lot of talk in the blogosphere today about how we the people are to blame for this. We voted for Obama, after all. We put solid Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. Therefore, it's really our fault. I disagree. If anything, we the people are at fault for our gullibility. Our willingness, despite all history to the contrary, to believe that our elected officials would do what we wanted.
By now we should know that any overlap between what is best for the country and what is best for politicians is mostly coincidence. They have far too many masters with far too many resources for us, the voters, to count much. Our only leverage is our vote. And when we can only use that leverage every two or four or six years, our voices get drowned out by the contractor who want to write a fat check to the campaign fund or the banking executive who wants to fly the esteemed Senator to Aruba for a conference (hey, bring your family and turn it into a vacation!). And even when it is our turn to cast a vote, government counts on complacency and laziness to carry the day. "I didn't raise taxes, I didn't cut Social Security, I should be fine," they say. And they're usually right.
But this is different. Americans made their opposition to this bill loud,clear and obvious from the beginning. As the President "doubled-down", our voices got louder. We protested. We wrote letters. We blogged. We made phone calls. We wrote op-eds. All of it fell on deaf ears. Short of taking up arms and storming the halls of Congress, we did what we could. This is one time apathy can't be blamed. Our gullibility in 2008, yes. But not our apathy since.
This bill, while it will be signed by the President, is not out of the woods yet. It's Constitutionality will be challenged. State governments are already lining up to do so. The fight isn't over. But the lesson we should take from this isn't that the American people are stupid, or that we don't care. It isn't event that we put the wrong people in charge. It's that government is not your friend. It serves a different master than the one envisioned by its founders and described in its Constitution. The healthcare bill is all the proof one should ever need to believe in limited government. It can't be eradicated, not should it. But it must be contained, for that is the only way to ensure that our voices aren't ignored. Our government has shrunk only sporadically; generally it has grown, and it will get a lot bigger once the President puts ink to paper. Hopefully this act will be the catalyst in a small government movement that will bring the people's voice back to government. While we've let government grow, we've let that voice shrink in timbre far too long. Maybe that's our greatest sin.
(Crossposted from Say Anything)