Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Some Animals are More Equal than Others

In the allegorical fable Animal Farm, George Orwell sought to describe the unpleasant outcomes of the Russian revolution, but ended up illustrating some unpleasant truths about the nature of government.  In the novel, a set of revolution-minded animals establish an idealistic government based on the idea that “all animals are equal,’ but the idealistic mantra is short-lived.  The pigs that govern the animal farm begin to elevate themselves above the others and eventually declare that while all animals are equal, “some animals are more equal than others.”  Orwell himself was a socialist who wished to preserve hope in some Marxist ideals, but his story demonstrated the inevitable outcome of any government-imposed notions of ‘fairness;’ those in power will enjoy special privileges denied to ordinary citizens.

The implementation of Obamacare has provided ample opportunity for those in power to grant special privileges, especially to…those in power.  Although many groups are seeking exemption from the most onerous requirements of the new health care law, it seems that Obama has moved to make members of Congress and their respective staffers much ‘more equal’ than others before this law.  In August, via the Office of Personnel Management, the President quietly decreed that those on the Congressional payroll will continue to receive a generous taxpayer-funded subsidy to cover health-care costs.  So while the rest of Americans struggle to cope, Washington’s elite will enjoy a de facto exemption.

In an effort to preserve the notion of “equality before the law,” Senators David Vitter (LA) and Mike Enzi (WY) have responded with a proposal to require everyone working in Congress and the White House to fully comply with Obamacare without the special subsidies.  While ordinary Americans from all sides of the political aisle might think the Vitter/Enzi measure makes perfect sense, some members of Congress are screaming like stuck Orwellian pigs.
Rather than embrace efforts to uphold constitutional concepts of equality before the law, Democrat Senator Harry Reid has declared war on David Vitter.  In addition to re-airing Vitter’s personal indiscretions, Reid and company are actually drafting ‘punishment’ legislation.  If Reid is successful, any member of congress voting for the Vitter amendment, along with his or her respective staff, would become ineligible to for future health care subsidies.
Happily, informed American voters are now getting wind of the special subsidy and are demanding that Congress fully and joyfully embrace the ‘merits’ of Obamacare like the rest of us. 
It is frustrating that our leaders would attempt to give themselves special privileges, but that is the nature of government.  While many policy ideas are rooted in the best of intentions, the devil is in the implementation details.  When those details prove to be excessively painful, history has shown that those in power will create exemptions for themselves.  This trend is apparent in everything from gun control laws to school choice measures: laws for thee, but not for me.
Even more disturbing is the attempt to justify such exemptions.  Like their porcine counterparts in Animal Farm, defenders of the congressional exemption are justifying the subsidy as necessary so as to be able to hire quality employees.  As if the rest of American employers are not facing the same challenges to adequately compensate workers while complying with growing government demands.  Unfortunately, not everyone has the power to vote themselves a generous subsidy.  And it’s a bit difficult to believe there’s any shortage of talented and ambitious individuals seeking employment on Capitol Hill.  Perhaps Congress ought to just come right out and confess their belief that some animals are just ‘more equal’ than others.

Hopefully Senator Vitter will be successful in ensuring that Capitol Hill gets to enjoy Obamacare as much as rank and file Americans.  We will need to be vigilant however, in watching to make sure our elected leaders remember the democratic principles on which this country was founded.  All Americans should be equal under the law.

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