Dancing Around Reality

Look, President Obama is smart, right?” suggested Joe Kernen of CNBC’s Squawk Box as he posed a question to his guest Gerald Greenwald on Tuesday morning. Kernen, who has been with CNBC since 1991 is no dummy either I’d bet. His guest is on the Board of Directors of Aetna and is a founding principal of Greenbriar Equity Group.

Upon agreement from Greenwald that yes indeed, President Obama is smart, Kernen continued with the following, which I am putting into my own words from recall. He proposed that the things Obama is saying about his health care reform proposals and the so-called Cap and Trade legislation don’t make sense. For example, the idea that a “public health insurance plan” would compete with private insurers thereby “keeping them honest,” as Obama says, seemed shortsighted. Such a scenario would inevitably lead to the failure of private insurance as employees signed up for the public plan because of its lower rates and government sponsorship. Businesses would stop offering costly plans as benefits and join the government plan. Competition would not be on a level playing field as private insurance would need to work within the parameters of the market, while government would just keep subsidizing its unavoidable inefficiencies with taxes and deficits. The end result would be socialized medicine, with its attendant bureaucratic consequences of price controls, shortages, rationing and political favoritism. So he asked Mr. Greenwald “Is the President being disingenuous?”

“Oh, no, no,” said his guest, “I think the President is sincere.” He then went on to evade the pointed essence of the question, settling finally on a comment that in his view, if only “we” Americans could get control of the obesity problem and get down to the average weight of the 1980s a lot of money could be saved by the health care system.

On another spot, Greenwald was asked specifically about the financial impact (this time by another host, Becky Quick) of the Cap and Trade legislation. She was lamenting the probable increase in pricing of almost everything made in the USA, which requires energy to produce. Of course the price of energy itself would skyrocket and hit the wallets of financially stressed people who are already suffering in the current recession. “Well, there is no free lunch,” said the astute guest, who rambled on from there, invoking the dangers of global warming and the need to combat it.

You would have thought Mr. Greenwald was the White House Press Secretary, judging by his political defense and advancing of the party line instead of offering any economic analysis.

Let’s cut the crap! Joe Kernen was basically saying that President Obama must be lying, because he is too smart to be making statements of nonsense. All the dancing around the question by his guest represents what most of the media and the majority of Americans seem to be doing: evading reality.

In Logic, if you draw a conclusion from valid adopted premises, your conclusion is valid. You must ensure however, that your premises are sound. So, having agreed that Obama is smart or well-informed, you cannot square that with statements that in your best judgment are nonsense. Ayn Rand famously said, “Check your premises.” So let’s do that. Premise One: Obama is smart. Premise Two: Obama is speaking nonsense. Therefore, Obama is lying. But, if he is not lying, then either one or both of our premises are incorrect. Either Obama is not so smart, or many well-informed observers, including Mr. Kernen, cannot understand or accept what Obama says and must willingly suspend disbelief in order to continue any discussion. That represents a monstrous evasion.

Mr. Greenwald seems to have joined much of the media and the majority of Americans in evading the necessity of using reason, and therefore of accepting reality. And none is as obviously and blatantly evasive as the leader of the semi-free world, President Barack Obama. Perhaps some child on the sidelines during Independence Day celebrations will say, “Look Ma, the emperor has no clothes!”

©Copyright 2009 Edward Podritske

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