Weekly Obsession: Haslam chooses Ayn Rand over Edmund Burke

Sunday, March 31, 2013 at 10:05pm

If only they’d read more Edmund Burke and less Ayn Rand.

If only Tennessee Republicans placed the quiet and thoughtful philosophy of conservatism’s intellectual godfather on a higher plane than the destructive and reactionary hoarding of individualism’s selfish aunt.

But these Tennessee Republicans don’t see humanity as a family. They don’t see society as a good. They see themselves and their tribe and then they see The Great Other — which they perceive as a nebulous collection of thieves and grabbers.

They are as revolutionary and vicious as any of history’s most strident Jacobins.

Gov. Bill Haslam announced Wednesday he would not ask for an expansion of Medicaid in Tennessee, where it operates as TennCare and provides coverage to 1.2 million people — primarily children of low-income families, pregnant women, the elderly and disabled. The expanded coverage under the Affordable Care Act would have extended that to anyone without insurance below 138 percent of the poverty line.

Instead of accepting these funds — $1.4 billion — the governor punted, claiming he’s offering a third way. His plan is to negotiate a scheme with the federal government by which those poorest Tennesseans are given vouchers with which to enter the free market — the Tennessee Republican Party’s paradise and answer to all ills.

By the way, there’s no guarantee the federal government will accept this idea today, tomorrow, six months from now or two years from now.

The governor’s move, predictably, was applauded by legislative Republicans, who took time out from debating whether a mop sink was the first step in a jihadist takeover to grandstand and again claim that by blocking health insurance coverage to the state’s poorest citizens they were standing guard against the perniciousness of socialism.

It is a streak of so-called conservatism Burke would not recognize. He was a man who embraced measured and thoughtful and gradual change.

He favored tradition.

He preferred to live as a member of society rather than as an individual surrounded by fearsome strangers.

Rand, on the other hand, and her disciples are out only for themselves.

Burke would have seen a Medicaid’s expansion as a logical and orderly next step. This is not a drastic change; the drastic change would have been a universal, single-payer system like that envisioned by the Clintons in the ’90s and which exists in dozens of countries around the world.

That would be the revolution and Burke, as a conservative, would have feared such an overhaul. But an expansion of a program that has existed for 50 years to cover the poorest members of society? That is a logical turn.

That is a gradual step.

That is a conservative move.

But instead we have a Randian answer: Turn the health care of the state’s most impoverished over to the free market, the market that has failed those citizens so miserably already. That, not an expansion of Medicaid, is far more radical than anything President Obama has proposed.

Meanwhile, these Republicans with their funhouse-mirror version of conservatism, so enamored with the free market they’re literally in favor of letting it decide who lives and dies, preside over a state that manipulates that same free market via $1.58 billion annually in grants, incentives and tax breaks. And these incentives don’t go to the fierce, up-by-the-bootstrap hard-working small-business-starting individuals these Republicans claim to fetishize, but to massive multinational corporations.

By their actions, they’ve shown, despite what the governor said, it’s not “the least among us” they care about, but the very largest.

11 Comments on this post:

By: pswindle on 4/1/13 at 8:01

Beautifully said! TN has to wake up and see what this Governor and the Legislative Branch are doing to its people.

By: courier37027 on 4/1/13 at 8:11

Lind does not have a problem pointing out faults of producers, but glaringly absent is his recognition of looters and moochers. As Lind is busy putting words in the mouth of Burke, this columnist fails to analyze the financials of a debt riddled bureaucray. Rand has nothing against charity as an individual endeavor. Where are churches and charity nased hospitalks?It is state sponsored (fill in the blank) program that is breaking this state and country.

By: Winston on 4/1/13 at 10:20

How can you possibly call this news? At best, it is editorial, but it is more like demagoguery. You liberals tend to feed off each other's opinions to the point you do not recognize reality - particularly economic reality. As for those ":multinational" corporations, they provide hundreds of jobs for Tennesseans - jobs that provide employer paid insurance. You should be ashamed of yourself for this type of "journalism," but I am sure that you are not.

By: Rocket99 on 4/1/13 at 12:09

It's the Ayn Rand types in the world who have no grasp or view on reality, much less live in any real reality.

I really don't understand how people with even half a brain continue to listen to and believe people like this,

By: courier37027 on 4/1/13 at 12:16

To tax wealth, there first must be wealth.

By: amoobrasil on 4/1/13 at 12:22

Multinational corporations", unlike small businesses, have the clout afforded them by the power of great wealth to demand "incentives" (tax breaks and subsidies) we taxpayers must fork out to keep them here. It is like protection money, with an exception: the moment these trans-nationals see an opportunity to close up shop and move elsewhere, they will do so--incentives or not. In the meantime, providing them competitive advantages over small entrepreneurs can cost the latter their businesses, simply because they cannot compete with taxpayer-assisted "winners" (winners because the government makes them winners).

Lind is right: what level-headed thinker who has witnessed the devolution of our republican democracy into a corporatocracy, whose has seen "conservatives" equate money with speech and corporations with human beings, and whose access to information is largely limited to for-profit news outlets owned, controlled, and censored by trans-national corporations would give a moment of serious thought to the notion that hunger, homelessness, and privation of medical care will be adequately met by the market?

Jesus commanded us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and minister to the infirm. In a democracy, We the People are supposed to be the government; our representatives are supposed to be accountable to us--not to those who can buy them off. If our government is accountable to We the People, it most certainly must exercise its duties according to our values--including values pertaining to how we deal with the neediest of our fellow citizens.

Ayn Rand called "immoral" any demand that We the People be our brother's keeper.

The GOP clearly agrees with her.

By: courier37027 on 4/1/13 at 12:34

Rand condemned altruism. Before any of you consider yourselves the be all and end all of compassion and altruism, consider your home, job, wealth, savings, retirement, children, any possession or action you proceed with "my" is an exercise in egoism. Jesus never condemned wealth, only the improper use of it. Only the rich can help the poor.

John Lennon sang "Imagine no possessios," but apparently had no problem with his net worth of a half billion. Same goesfor Bono, and most politicians.

By: James R. Ladd on 4/1/13 at 12:47

Well said, Mr. Lind! Thank you for speaking out against the regressive, obstructionist Republican Right.

By: courier37027 on 4/1/13 at 12:49

Proceed should be precede in previous post. Apologies.

Now where did we put Occupy Nashville? Yes, those poser protestors with their own 401k plans, mortgages, credit cards and other possessions condeming the very people they willingly made rich through purchases and planning. Silly, idealistic youth.

By: courier37027 on 4/1/13 at 1:16

When you go home tonight, tell your family you decided to sell everything, liquidate all assets, give them away to charity and live on the streets. When your spouse and kids question these motives, call them the same adjectives you label these businesses and those who dare keep their wealth.

Yeah, that's what I thouight. Paper lion liberals.

By: Rasputin72 on 4/1/13 at 7:59

It absolutely amazes me that people who do not have the ability to earn more than $50,000 dollars a year have cat in concrete answers to very complex questions.

Utterly amazing.

I am so blessed to be able to associate with people who have earned the right to have an opinion.