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« Thin Skinned Obama Operatives. | WILLisms.com | Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 145. (FRIDAY EDITION) »

Jeopardy Politics.

On yesterday's episode of Jeopardy!, an 800 dollar "answer" was:

Conservative PM Stephen Harper is working to lower wait times in the national health-care system of this country.

The "question," obviously, was:

What is Canada?

Interestingly, this question stirred up a bit of controversy on the official Jeopardy! message boards.

One message board denizen called the question "propoganda" [sic], saying that the question made him sick.

Sufficiently vague (did he think it was pro-Harper?), some of the other commenters tried to figure out how it qualified as propaganda.

One person suggested that the equivalent question in the United States might be something about President Bush trying to reform this depression-era entitlement program in 2005 (What is Social Security?), to which someone responded that Social Security is actually not a depression-era program, because it was fully implemented after the Great Depression.

Okay. Labored logic, there.

The question really isn't controversial, unless you are a devotee of socialized health care and believe that this was some sort of subliminal attack on the inefficiencies of government-run health care. Jeopardy! has plenty of political clues, and sometimes they are on the verge of controversy or advocacy, but this was not one of them.

Interestingly, I am not a Jeopardy! message board person. I had my own commentary on the question, but I wanted to look it up to make sure I worded it correctly for you, the reader. I just found the controversy on that board somewhat interesting, given that I had my own issues with the question.

My Commentary

Seeing the clue irritated me a bit. Not the clue itself, though, or how it was phrased.

Rather, it is sad that in so many other countries, the right-of-center parties are reduced to working toward things like "reducing wait times" for nationalized health care. Once you socialize 10-20% of your economy (which is roughly what health care is in most countries), short of major economic/social/political upheaval, there is no going back. There's only trying to make it a little more efficient, or give people a little better set of options, or improve customer service.

That's what is so menacing about an Obama presidency paired with an embolded far-left Congress. They may control the American government for 2 or 4 or 6 years, but that's plenty of time to radically and permanently alter the nature of America's economy. And if they are successful at passing a comprehensive left-wing agenda, the policy would feed back into the politics, potentially keeping Democrats in power for more than a mere 2 or 4 or 6 years.

There aren't sunset provisions in new entitlement programs, like there are in the Bush tax relief packages. There's no automatic expiration if it isn't renewed in ten years. If we socialize the remaining half or so of our health care that is still relatively part of the free enterprise system, that's that. There's no going back at that point.

And that's why the Jeopardy! question gave me pause. Not only would socializing the remainder of non-socialized health care be terrible policy, it would feed back into the politics. It would put serious constraints on the conservative movement, creating new Democrats vested in the system and binding our hands when it comes to major tax reform, Social Security reform, and other innovative ideas.

And speaking of Social Security reform, that is is a good example of what might happen decades from now when Republicans finally claw their way out from under the potential (it's not at all inevitable) post-2008 left-wing political and policy realignment.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in the early 1930s, framed the Social Security issue and set the agenda. In 2005, seventy years later, Republicans still had to play on that hostile turf. Of course they were unable to pass reform.

The Republican Party as a whole is not without blame, here. Squishy Republicans in Congress helped to stifle Social Security reform. The Bush administration could have kept a better eye on non-defense discretionary spending growth, which has become such a misplaced focal point for deficit hawks. The GOP was neither gung-ho, nor united, nor coherent, about a conservative reform agenda in the past several years. Republicans, especially many in Congress, damaged the brand. They lost credibility on the big things because of sloppiness with the little things.

In essence, Republicans voluntarily submitted themselves to a political vasectomy by acting like slightly less spend-happy Democrats. Those are reversible.

Socializing the remainder of health care would effectively neuter the Republican Party-- this time not voluntarily or reversibly-- for years to come, on both the policy stream and in the political ring.

Posted by Will Franklin · 16 May 2008 04:43 PM


I would hate to be the generation that inflicts socialized medicine on America for generations to come. I thought we had all agreed that the era of big government was over. Now the momentum seems inexorable toward a Democrat sweep in 08 and the implementation of the stale ideas we all know have failed the world over. What a bummer.

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at May 16, 2008 09:33 PM

Just some info ..... The Medicare System in Canada is a provincial, not federal responsibility. The Federal Government provides cash, the running and managing of our medicare system is run by provincial/state bureacrats. Last year, our Supreme Court ruled that it is a human right to have access to health care (the case involved a privately run/not government sponsored medical clinic in Montreal .... my home town). Most of us have horror stories of long wait lines for medical care as well as rationing of essential surgeries (cancer, hip replacements, etc.)

While Conservative PM Stephen Harper is working to eliminate wait times ..... his power is limited because of Provincial jurisdiction.

Posted by: victor at May 17, 2008 08:53 PM

Will, I remember when we were helping you move out of your college apartment and one of your room mates said he was going to miss the way you could answer every question correctly on jeopardy!

Posted by: ZsaZsa at May 18, 2008 03:25 AM