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The Problem Is Politics, Cato Cato's Letter

The Problem Is Politics, Cato Cato's Letter

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Published by: Cato Institute on Jun 17, 2010
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The ProblemIs Politics
 AQuarterly MessageonLibertySpring 2008Volume 6 Number 2
 P.J. O’Rourke is America's leading political satirist and an H. L. Mencken research fellow at the Cato Institute. A former editor of  
National Lampoon
 ,he has written fo
 American Spectator, Esquire
 ,the
New Republic
 ,and 
Rolling Stone
.Nowacorrespondent for the
 Atlantic
 ,his most recent book is
OnThe Wealth of Nations
.O’Rourke gave this speech at the 2008 Cato Benefactor Summit.
ell, I wish I had better news for you, butthe barbarians are at the gates. We arebesieged by pagans—savage, brutishworshippers of big government. Theirsis not even a golden calf. They’ve abandoned the GoldStandard. They worship the taxing and spending of a fiat god, all the more dangerous for being both falseand imaginary.Now, we thought Ronald Reagan, our Charles Mar-tel,had stopped the pillaging hordes of Jimmy Carterat the Battle of Poitiers—also known as the 1980 elec-tion. Even the heathen slime Bill Clinton said, “Theera of big government is over.” We thought we’d won.We were wrong. They’re back. And they want to sac-rifice us and all our worldly goods on the blooddrenched altar of politics. These lesser breeds bowdown to four ton senators, to cloven hoofed congress-men, to presidential candidates stinking of collectivistbrimstone and crowned with horns of socialism.
P. J. O’ROURKE
W
The ProblemIs Politics
 
2
Cato’s Letter 
SPRING 2008
heirs is a Satanist civics.They will sell their souls inthe belief that governmentcan heal the sick, raise the dead, makethe old feel young, and make theyoung go out and vote.They hate our freedom. The part of our freedom that they hate the most isour free market capitalism. But capital-ism is one of the most important in- ventions in human history. If it weren’tfor debt and equity, all of the innova-tors, manufacturers, and businessmenwho have brought prosperity to thefree world would have to get theirmoney the way the rest of us do—by asking their wives.So the worshipers of big govern-ment are back with their lies and theirempty promises. And what do we doabout it? I don’t know. I’m too stupidto answer that question.But in fairness to myself, I’m not just stupid. I am a student of stupidity.I am a political reporter.It occurs to me that America couldwind up with a Democratic president.This scares me. Not because I hate De-mocrats—although I do, come to thinkof it—but because a strong Democraticpresident and a strong DemocraticCongress could put an end to partisanbickering in Washington and result inpoliticians from both parties workingtogether to solve America’s problems. And then we’re really screwed.I have been covering politics for 38years. Trust me: we don’t want politicsto quit. That’s why we need a Republi-can president—not because Republi-cans are good but because we needgridlock. I love gridlock. Gridlockmeans government can’t do things.The two most frightening words inWashington are “bipartisan consen-sus.” Bipartisan consensus is when my doctor and my lawyer agree with my wife that I need help.Bipartisan consensus—like thestimulus package that has been deliv-ered to us courtesy of Congress and thepresident. A $168 billion stimuluspackage that is supposed to change thetrajectory of a $13 trillion economy.Now, even somebody who flunkedhigh school physics—and I did—can tell you that the energy of $168billion is not sufficient to budge $13trillion worth of inertia. It’s like tryingto use Dennis Kucinich to pushHillary Clinton off the Democraticcampaign platform.We
could
wind up with a Democrat-ic president. We
will 
wind up with a Democratic Congress. Now, I am a Republican. I’m a rotten Republicanquite a lot of the time, but a Republi-can nonetheless. And as a Republican,I’ve got to say that the 2006midterm elections made me very upset at the Republicans. Imean, Jack Abramoff, Bob Ney,Randy “Duke” Cunningham,Tom DeLay, Mark Foley. Theelectorate was almost too nau-seated to make it to the polls to vote Democratic.It took a Democratic major-ity in the House of Representatives 40years—from 1954 to 1994—to get thatcorrupt and arrogant, and the Republi-cans did it in just 12. And people say that we Republicans don’t have a loton the ball. The Republicans thoughtthey had the House of Representativesso well redistricted that the only places
If you’re electing Democratsto control governmentspending, then you’re mar-rying Angelina Jolie for herbrains.
        “
T
 
SPRING 2008
Cato’s Letter 
3
where you could elect a Demo-crat were the parts of New Or-leans that are still underwater.Republicans forgot. They for-got that there is such a thing asan angry voter. And hell, I’mone, and I am a Republican.Republicans deserve tolose. But do we deserve the De-mocrats? Well, the Democratsare going to produce moreethanol. Although, up in theback hills of Kentucky, they’vebeen making high octanestuff out of corn mash for years and Ican’t see that it has done their econo-my a whole lot of good. Under the De-mocrats, the government will negoti-ate with drug companies for Medicaredrug prices. If the government showsthe same hard-headed, tight-fistedbargaining savvy negotiating drugprices that it shows negotiating de-fense contracts, Preparation H willcost $400.Best of all, there is ethics reform.Congressmen will no longer be able toget a meal from a lobbyist unless thecongressman brings a note from hisdoctor showing that he is bulimic andthe meal will be returned.There is only one thing that givesme hope as a Republican, and that isthe Democrats. It’s going to be hard todo a worse job running America thanthe Republicans have, but if anybody can do it, it’s the Democrats.Two substantive political issues arethe federal budget deficit and the warin Iraq. Now, if you’re electing Democ-rats to control government spending,then you’re marrying Angelina Jolie forher brains.This leaves the Democrats with onereal issue: Iraq. And so far the best thatany Democratic presidential candidatehas been able to manage with Iraq is tomake what I think of as the highschool sex promise: I will pull out intime, honest dear.Meanwhile, the Republicans havegot John McCain. Everybody loves John McCain. Everybody respects JohnMcCain: He’s tough. He’s consistent.He’s wrong. John thinks the war inIraq is a good idea; the electorate does-n’t. It’s like McCain’s slogan is “wrongand strong.”Meanwhile, there is the Democraticside of things, where Barack Obama may be altering the whole politicalequilibrium. Barack Obama is an indi-cation that America has reached an im-portant benchmark in race relations. Itis now officially more important to becute than it is to be white. And Barack Obama is cute. He’s very cute. And he’s nice. And it hasbeen a long time since any politicalparty has had the cute, nice votesewn up.The problem for Barack is that he just doesn’t have much politicalstature. But there is a sort of Disney factor in American politics. Think of  America’s politicians. Think of themall as the Seven Dwarves. They’re allshort. They’re short on ethics. They’reshort on common sense. They’re shorton experience. They’re short on some-thing. But we keep thinking one of those dwarves is going to save ourSnow White butt.
Government controlledhealth care is going todrive the best people outof the business. Whowants to spend yearsstudying to be a doctor, just to become a govern-ment bureaucratic hack?
        “

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