Kiss your local bureaucrat
Everyone’s out there righteously defending community organizers against the convention of hate that was the RNC,* but I’d like to offer a word of defense for the bureaucrat. Ezra called out the McCain campaign for one of their more belligerent and dangerous lies.
Last night, in his speech, John McCain said, “My health care plan will make it easier for more Americans to find and keep good health care insurance. His plan will force small businesses to cut jobs, reduce wages, and force families into a government run health care system where a bureaucrat stands between you and your doctor.”
I should say, of course, that not only isn’t this true, but it’s nonsensical. Where exactly is the bureaucrat supposed to stand? In the waiting room? Outside your car? Obama’s health care plan is basically a way to subsidize private insurance. There’s a regulator involved, but he has nothing to do with you or your doctor. Instead, he stands behind your insurer, tapping his foot, and warning against denying you coverage on grounds of ill health or bad luck.
God, this made me so angry I can barely stop to type. No, John McCain. Bureaucrats stand between you and your doctor now. Insurance companies are the ones who hire the bureaucrats that give bureaucrats a bad name. Everyone hired by an insurance company has to buy into the company mission to take your money and deny your coverage. They’re the ones telling you no. Like Ezra said, the government bureaucrat’s job would be to make sure that the insurance company bureaucrats can’t stand between you and your doctor, that they have to cover your claims that the law will start requiring they cover under any decent health care plan.
This is the trick that Republicans play. The invoke the specter of the worst bureaucrat you’ve ever encountered and try to imply that it’s the fault of the government. But when I tally up my bad bureaucrat/good bureaucrat encounters, the vast majority of the former worked in the private sector. Often, they’re very nice people who would like to help you, but because their companies either refuse to fund the necessary support or because the company has a mission to deny you services or otherwise screw you to make money, they can’t do anything for you. For example:
*Bankers who stand between you and your money, by charging ridiculous fees or honoring your checks in just the right order to overdraw you account dramatically.
*Cable service people who can’t ever seem to get a cable guy to your house.
*Insurance agents that want to declare a stubbed toe a “pre-existing condition”.
*Other insurance agents that mislead you about what is and isn’t going to affect your premiums.
*Airline employees that play a game of “that’s not my job” when things go wrong. Again, many of them are very nice, but strongly pushed not to help you.
That’s just a few examples. Look, no one likes going to the DMV, but one reason government bureaucracies are a pain in the ass is that they’re not properly funded. As someone who has worked in a private and a public bureaucracy, I can safely say that the latter (which was reasonably funded) was a lot more pleasant for clients. In fact, my job was a lot like the hypothetical government bureaucrats enforcing the law on insurance companies. Most of my job working in financial aid was making sure that the banks dispensed loans to students in a timely manner, and holding them responsible if they screwed the students. I sat on the phone and yelled at people so that students didn’t have to do it. Since sitting on the phone and yelling at people is like one of the least pleasant things you can do while sitting in air conditioning, the students were often downright grateful. For being an “evil” bureaucrat “standing between” students and their money, you know, by getting them their money, I got my share of effusive thanks and little gifts. If a bureaucrat’s job is to be an advocate for the client—and under pretty much all Democratic health care plans, this is the case when it comes to government bureaucrats—then they actually make your life a million times easier.
Seriously, thank god for the empowered bureaucrat. If my former job was under the private sector, they would have found a way to computerize it and save money on my salary and benefits. Which would have—you guessed it—screwed the clients. A computer can’t sit in an office with you and carefully explain how to budget, apply for more funds, and get exemptions to the limits. Where bureaucracies often fail is that there’s an obsession with micro-managing, but if you actually fund the bureaucracy and empower the workers with decision-making power, a lot can actually get done. The notion that ordinary people can’t make decisions with proper training is where things get murky, but I assure you, if banks didn’t empower line tellers who usually only have high school degrees with the power to handle large amounts of cash without getting the permission of 15 people before they sign any transaction, the entire banking system would collapse. As it is, while errors do happen, they’re a very small minority of the huge number of transactions processed a day.
The point is this: The Republican contempt for the lowly bureaucrat falls right in line with their contempt for community organizers. It shows that they just really hate and distrust the everyday people out there. They think we’re so stupid, so incompetent, so worthless, that we can’t even be trusted to put on our shoes after we put on our pants. And that contempt infects our society. Ironically, the very reason that bureaucracies quit working is they get infected with this conservative contempt for the idea that the little guy could be competent. It’s why you can’t call any customer service anywhere and expect the guy on the other end of the line to have the power to help you. Because the powers that be have rationalized their contempt for ordinary people by convincing themselves that we’re utter morons.
*I’ll bet, once you tally it up, the Republicans insulted and hated on the vast majority of Americans. I mean, they hate you if you ever belonged to the PTA, much less some kind of club. I suppose churches get an exemption from being considered “community organizers”, though I fail to see why. Where do youth groups fit in?