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Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is running as hard as he can away from what is probably the best thing he did as Governor of Massachusetts. As governor of that state, he supported and then signed into law one of the most successful programs a governor has ever been able to add to his resume. It was the Massachusetts health care plan, which has provided coverage for nearly every resident of the state, is wildly popular and, seems poised to actually get a handle on the ruinous rise in healthcare costs we all face. Romney should be proud as a peacock of this program because it is a HUGE success.
Instead, I recently watched him on television stutter and sweat and try to explain why this signal achievement is no big deal. According to the most recent polls, nearly 85% of the people of Massachusetts are pleased as punch with the program. You would think that would be on his resume in BIG BRIGHT RED LETTERS. Not so. Why not? Because the political wisdom is that this program that is so successful and so popular (and so good for the people of Massachusetts) is the primary reason you will never hear about a President Mitt Romney. You see, it is socialism. Forget about the fact that it works. Forget about the fact that it has helped the people of Massachusetts get through their daily lives more comfortably and safely. Forget about the fact that it is a shining example of how we can work together for the common good (I know, I know. It has its detractors and has things in it that I don’t like either, but overall, it is working.) It is SOCIALISM, at least according to the ultraconservatives who seem to be running the Republican Party.
How, I ask myself, does this make any sense? A governor of a state supports and signs the passage of a law that helps the people of the state and that is truly supported by over 80% of the people in the state. Now that governor is trying to distance himself from the accomplishment! What in the pluperfect hell is that about? How does this make sense?
The only way it makes sense is if you put it into the context of a political discussion (if you can call yelling at each other a discussion) that has seriously jumped the rails. The Massachusetts health care plan is not a liability because it did not work. It is a liability because it is not politically correct. The left has always been excoriated by the claim that all things are sacrificed in the name of political correctness. The microphone grabbers on the right have long asserted that objection to racial slurs, gender slurs or ethnic slurs are all, to at least some degree, a pandering to various minority groups by the left, and not a demand for common decency.
But those same right-wing people have taken political correctness to entirely new heights. It makes no difference if a government program helps people, saves money, saves lives, reduces human misery and helps kids grow up as better citizens, if it is perceived as some kind of socialism. It has to be stamped out and the ground that it grew out of must be salted so it cannot come back. Results don’t count. Ideology and sloganism are all-important.
Frankly, if they read history, the people who take these stands would condemn the Pilgrims as socialists. They worked together for the common good and shared the fruits of their labors. The brave people involved in the early attempts to colonize this country succeeded or failed together; since failure meant death, they worked together and shared food, labor and shelter, all socialist objectives.
Indeed, by ultraconservative definition, the county Department of Public Works is probably a socialist plot. After all, they take my tax dollars to fix your street, at least this year. Next year, your tax dollars may be used to fix my street.
The point of this is, at least to me, obvious. As the early colonists figured out, there are a lot of things we can do together collectively that we cannot do well individually. It does me little good to fix the street in front of my house if you refuse to fix the street in front of yours. And even if everyone on the block is a person of good will, it makes more sense to do it all at once. Government is good at that, or at least better than any system anyone else has designed.
Unfortunately, Mitt Romney is not going to be the only victim of this political correctness. We are about to all become the victims because that standard of political correctness is being used by ultraconservatives across the country to make important decisions without regard for whether they are in the best interests of the country or the people who live there. If the debt ceiling is not raised, we will default on our obligations and the economy of this country will assume the flight path of a set of car keys. If the ultraconservatives in the state legislature do not let the tax extension on the ballot, you should not expect to be able to get any government services anytime soon. Trying to get a building permit will be like dealing with a Third World agency. Not because the skeleton crew will be lazy or indifferent, but because they will be overwhelmed. If you like the lines at the DMV now, you will love what is coming. And you people on Social Security; what are you going to do when there is nobody to write your checks?
I have to confess that I feel sorry for Mitt Romney. He did a great thing for the people of Massachusetts, and it will haunt him for the rest of his life because the people who have the reins of the Republican Party will never forgive him for being a “socialist.” (Hint: He is not. He is a proud capitalist. He just understood that some things are done better by the government, a view shared by our founding fathers, who were pretty smart.
Dugan Barr has practiced law in Redding since 1967. He has tried more than 200 civil jury cases to verdict. He is married and has five children. The offices of Barr and Mudford, LLP, are at 1824 Court St. in Redding and can be reached at 243-8008.
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