Left hand, meet right hand

According to a recent report, Americans back many of the provisions in the nation’s maybe-soon-to-be-about-to-be-former health care law but overwhelmingly reject the law itself.

The law, which mandates that insurers can’t not insure due to pre-existing conditions and also provides for adult children of policyholders to stay insured — both popular — remains, nevertheless, unpopular, owing largely to Republicans’ squawking about the so-called individual mandate, an idea they once insisted on themselves as a means toward promoting individual responsibility, but which a 5-4 majority of the U.S Supreme Court could very well latch onto as part of a decision that might result in its being overturned.

What will we think if the law is overturned and the provisions we like go away with it?

The same week that story appeared, the Briefing section of Time magazine ran a graphic that showed Americans by a super-plus majority rate repairing our nation’s crumbling roads and bridges a high priority, while at the same time thoroughly reject the means to do it, i.e., raising toll rates, gasoline taxes or initiating a mileage fee.

Seventy-one percent of those polled say no to new gas taxes; 64 percent say no to new tolls. A combined 66 percent say fully funding infrastructure is either extremely or very important.

Have we become a nation that seeks to eat its cake and want it too? Many of us want government services — like the protester during the health care debate who wanted the government to stay the hell out of his Medicare — but support spending cuts, because, after all, what can be cut is all waste anyway.

And tax increases? Forget about it.

Republicans, now that they’ve gotten tax cut after tax cut under President Bush have locked up every argument against ever letting the Bush rates expire or increasing taxes at all. Government flush with money? It ought to give it back. Economic downturn? Raising taxes would be a disaster; in fact we need to cut them again to stimulate the growth we stimulated when we cut them last time before the economy tanked. So there’s little there for future public investment, even while, says professor of economics Alan Binder in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, interest rates for borrowing are at historic lows and armies of construction workers sit idle.

What it seems to me we suffer from most is a failure of our leaders to lead.

Consider two of the top West Virginia Democrats — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, neither of whom will support President Obama in his re-election efforts nor will they acknowledge they won’t for fear of losing that straight ticket voter.

It seems to me to be the worst kind of political opportunism, but is characteristic of politicians who won’t take a position without first lifting a finger to the wind to determine its popularity.

Perhaps it’s because we have no patience with the truth that we won’t tolerate those who tell it to us straight. Consider the fate of 1984 presidential candidate Walter Mondale who promised to raise taxes if elected. Mondale said he’d tell the truth about taxes, but Ronald Reagan wouldn’t. Mondale got clobbered; Reagan won and raised taxes. George H.W. Bush did the same even as we read his lips otherwise.

So we don’t get the straight dope from leaders who will get out in front on the issues; instead we’re allowed to wallow in our dopery. Better to truckle to than to instruct, the political class must figure.

When told by a news reporter that more than two-thirds of Americans did not support the war in Iraq, Vice President Dick Cheney famously responded: “So?”

The two-thirds howled but for a public impatient with being instructed in the whys and wherefores of geopolitics, it seems to me the answer we most deserved to hear.

— Robert Snyder is the managing editor of the Spirit of Jefferson.

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