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June 03, 2014

Glenn Reynolds: Socialism Doesn't Reduce Greed. It Just Rewards Greedy Socialists Who Are Skilled With Paperwork.

Important point about socialism, brought into focus by the corruption of the Socialized Medicine Utopia of the Veterans Administration:

[I]ronically, a for-profit medical system might actually offer employees less room for greed than a government system. That's because VA patients were stuck with the VA. If wait times were long, they just had to wait, or do without care. In a free-market system, a provider whose wait times were too long would lose business, and even if the employees faked up the wait-time numbers, that loss of business would show up on the bottom line. That would lead top managers to act, or lose their jobs.

In the VA system, however, the losses didn't show up on the bottom line because, well, there isn't one. Instead, the losses were diffused among the many patients who went without care -- visible to them, but not to the people who ran the agency, who relied on the cooked-books numbers from their bonus-seeking underlings.

And, contrary to what [Ezra] Klein suggests, that's the problem with socialism. The absence of a bottom line doesn't reduce greed and self-dealing it removes a constraint on greed and self-dealing. And when that happens, ordinary people pay the price.

I can't help but think that Obama needed this deal now -- remember, the Taliban have been pushing this deal for two years, so it's not like they were going to pull back this deal any time soon -- because he needed some "stray voltage" to keep the VA scandal out of the headlines.

If you forget, "stray voltage" is David Plouffe's term for any story or meme, whether helpful or harmful, which gets the nation talking about something Obama would prefer talking about.

Remember, Obama trotted out the false "77 cents per dollar" claim on women's pay knowing it was false, and knowing they'd be slammed for trotting out a false claim.

Doesn't matter, per the "Stray Voltage" theory -- the important thing is to be taking the heat, if there is heat that must be taken, on the things you're better equipped to take heat on.

A top White House adviser told me last week's pay gap dust up was a "perfect" example of stray voltage. This time it was premeditated.


Obama's team expected, invited, and, to a certain degree, relished last week's hubbub. That's stray voltage in action.

Or inaction.

As a theory, "stray voltage" exists in a kind of strategic void. It can't be dismissed or embraced as workable because creating controversy for the sake of controversy is, well, achievable. Like getting soup from the White House mess. It's also self-reinforcing and internally didactic. Everyone looks around and says, "See. There's controversy. It's working."

Why would Obama prefer buzz around Bergdahl rather than the VA scandal?

Well, the Bergdahl matter is a situation in which the president made a political choice. It's a choice many disagree with, of course. It's controversial as hell.

But it's a choice that leftists don't mind spinning for the president on.

Compare this to the VA scandal -- corruption and incompetence are not political choices, and it is impossible for the left to claim that Incompetence is a left-wing value which should be defended. (Though, let's face it-- it is just that.)

Thus, consider the two possible questions we could be debating this week:

1, whether Obama is helplessly corrupt, inept, inattentive, incompetent, and thoroughly disengaged with the job we're paying him a lot of money to perform, or

2, whether Obama favors the leftwing political view of the world over the rightwing political view of the world.

Obviously, everyone already understands that Number 2 is correct -- which is why the left adores him so.

Thus, while both Bergdahl and the VA are shitstorms of titanic proportions, Obama would prefer the Bergdahl shitstorm over the VA one, as it creates the standard left-right fight he's long been comfortable with.

But there is no left-right fight on VA incompetency and corruption -- or at least no principle the left wishes to admit it's willing to fight for.

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posted by Ace at 07:45 PM

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