The Road to Treadmill Serfdom

September 20th, 2011 at 10:09 am David Frum | 132 Comments |

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It’s a little hard to tell this story from Chicago without a lot of sarcasm, but I’ll try my best.

Like a lot of American cities, Chicago faces severe budget problems. One obvious place to look for savings: the health benefits of city employees. Health care for city workers costs Chicago $500 million a year and are rising at 10% per year.

Newly elected mayor Rahm Emanuel hopes to reduce those costs by encouraging city employees to take better care of their health. He has called upon city employees to enroll in a new wellness plan.Those who do not enroll will pay an extra $50 per month in healthcare premiums.

This experiment may or may not yield results. But whatever else it is, it hardly sounds like the thunk of the fascist jackboot on the pavement – or so you’d think.

Now scroll through the comments on the NBC Chicago website about the wellness plan.

* The fools of Chicago deserve this loss of thier freedom to “choose”. Next it will be the food they must buy, then the past time activities, and so on. It’s 1938 in Chicago.

* As the former Commisar-in-chief for the Tsar Obama, is anyone surprised about the tactics? I’m not.

* Mixing a little Huxley with Orwell are we?

* As a immigrant (legal) from the Soviet Bloc and a 20th-cent. history buff, I can say with confidence this reeks of Stalinism

* These communist totalitarians just can’t resist trying to control every aspect of our lives.

* Chicago is a testing ground for Obama’s future plans. This will spread to the state government, then to the federal government, eventually it will be forced on all Americans.

There are literally hundreds more like these, and I think they reveal something interesting.

James Madison may not have bequeathed Americans the right to engage in unhealthy behavior at other people’s expense. But clearly more than a few Americans cherish that right – just as they cherish the right to drive through red lights – and just as they cherished the right to receive Medicare without any interference from the government that provides the Medicare.

Laugh if you want – but also pay attention.

What you are hearing here is the secret of the Tea Party. Americans do not clearly distinguish in their minds between “rights” in the James Madison sense and what we might call “folkways.” The ability to live in a large suburban house, drive to work on a highway without tolls, buy a sausage and egg biscuit for a dollar, eat in the car, park for free at the office, and send the bill for any negative consequence to a solvent Medicare program – there are many people to whom that pattern of life means more than trial by jury or even freedom of the press. Like all of us, such people want to keep what they have – and bitterly resent anyone or anything that forces change.

It’s important to understand:

- This resistance does not readily fit the pre-existing ideological map of the political parties. Most Republicans probably instinctively sympathize with the idea that public employees ought to be asked to contribute more to their generous health plans. Yet here are public employees using Republican-style language of individual freedom to defeat a claw-back.

Likewise, the Tea Party began as a protest movement against President Obama’s attempt to squeeze money out of (heavily white) Medicare to fund more healthcare subsidies for the (heavily minority) uninsured. Republicans seized upon that energy as a public demand for the Paul Ryan plan to squeeze much more money out of Medicare, beginning as soon as 10 years from now, when most Medicare beneficiaries will still be white. Republicans have been taken aback at how unpopular that idea is. They shouldn’t have been.

- The fact that resistance is heartfelt does does not make it just or wise. When the Boston selectmen of the 1630s began banning thatched roofs from their city, they met resistance. The city fathers of New York met resistance when they started building sanitary sewers in the 1840s. Those who demand that the public treasury absorb the costs of their own personal doughnut-and-McMuffin diet will surely look just as ridiculous to later generations as the libertarians who claimed the right to build firetrap housing in Boston or to dump their ordure in the creeks of New York.

- On the other hand, neither does the fact that stakeholder resistance to change mean that it can be willfully overborne. People have to be persuaded out of old habits. And over time, arguments that are genuinely for the public good will gain headway. The question for leaders pushing change – whether it’s Mayor Emanuel asking Chicago public employees to live healthier or Paul Ryan rescinding the Medicare guarantee for Americans under 55 – is whether these changes really do seek the good of all … or whether they impose sacrifices on the many to enrich the powerful few.

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132 Comments so far ↓

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  • CautiousProgressive

    Americans do not clearly distinguish in their minds between “rights” in the James Madison sense and what we might call “folkways.”

    This is a very deep insight. One that I have not considered before; and one that might be of fundamental importance.

    Aside: I read the comments that Frum linked in the begining of the article — and am now a much sadder man. I cannot reconcile those sort of statements with any conception of a reasonable person – regardless of their political allegiance.

  • pnwguy


    You leave me with a sense of schizophrenia. At times you enter columns here that are insightful and truly look at public policy issues in a NATIONAL, not partisan way, where the focus is on the broadest public interest. You have a good eye for spotting the absurdity in people’s view of government. And then there are times when you can’t help but cast things in a hard GOP spin. Maybe there are meds for that….

    This is one of your more inspired ones. Let’s have more.

    But every time you post one like this, I wonder when you’ll join Bartlett and move outside the party walls

    • CautiousProgressive

      PNWGUY: While I have some sympathy for what you are saying, I think there is wisdom in Frum’s position. It is often much more effective in the long run to attempt to reform a system from the inside, than to give up on it altogether.

      Besides, someone needs to act to counterbalance the Democratic parties’ budgeting excesses (taken as a whole, Democratic politicans tend to be eager people with good ideas, but a total inability to say ‘No’) — and it is very unlikely that a third party will gain enough clout to do so.

      • pnwguy


        I know what you’re saying. It’s a difficult dance and they key is whether or not you still have any leverage to be “inside” an organization whose direction you want to change. I think Bartlett saw he could only do it by leaving, publicly, and offering his critiques on the flawed economic policies as a former-insider-turned-outsider.

        I do respect David’s “crusade” (using a poorly chosen W flub) in trying to beat some sense into my former party. That’s why I participate.

    • Carney

      I translate:

      I, pnwguy, am a liberal. When David Frum says things that criticize the Tea Party and thus strike me as liberal, I approve, and deem it automatically “thoughtful”. When David Frum says things that agree with conservative ideas, I disapprove and dub it a “hard GOP spin”.

      I, pnwguy, am also a Democrat. So I want David Frum to be a Democrat.

      The end.

      • Primrose

        No Carney, there articles good, bad or indifferent liberals from Mr. Frum that have a hear-feel of his genuine opinion, analysis.

        And then there articles, that have a very different hear-feel. They sound like talking points; and they are and they often have subtle digs or discreetly set up a talking point premise.

        Often they come right after an article that directly contradicts it philosophically.

        I don’t say this as a liberal but as a lapsed flack (the industry likes to use the word PR professional, but I feel if you are in PR you are in it for the money not love so it’s a silly word.)

      • Primrose

        Pressed twice by accident and the computer let me post twice. Sorry.

      • pnwguy


        You should seek better translation then.

        I’m an independent who was formerly a Republican, but I have a mix of views on different policy issues that scatter around the map. I’m a pragmatist, mostly, and not an ideologue. I’m an independent business owner, and it’s our nature in business to find solutions that work in the realities of the marketplace, not get hung up on utopian ideas.

        You take a strident stand on “Flex-Fuel” that is outside of what the 98% of most Republican partisans argue for. I don’t take that to mean you’re a Kenyan-socialist-jackboot-Muslim-overlord. I happen to agree with you on this issue too.

        Don’t create more artificial divisions than already exist. We’ll just end up with 300 million individual tribes, instead of a nation of 300 million.

      • jakester

        I guess you can’t appreciate how silly, selfish, pathetic and ignorant most teabaggers sound. It was mainly same bunch of low brow ultra cons who put Bush in power and supported all his wars and patriot act and they just don’t have much credibility now complaining about government power and spending. The teabaggers are just the extreme right dittoheads, most of them are as right wing as they come about everything. They are only against any sort of regs on businesses or government spending to help people, otherwise they are all Pat Robertson type moral nannies

  • Primrose

    It’s the trick of the accountability argument. It is always the other guy who needs to be accountable for their actions, not you. You have good reasons to do what you do.

    • Lonewolf

      Yeah, well, I have RIGHTS, ya know! YOU, on the other hand, have RESPONSIBILITIES.
      So just mind yer own darn business. Take care of your responsibilities, and leave me in peace to enjoy my rights.

  • tsamwick

    Forgive me if I’m being ignorant, but has there ever been serious talk about lifestyle-testing Medicare? I.e., would we and should we take BMI, smoking history, etc., into account to determine one’s Medicare premium?

    • Redrabbit

      I don’t know if there has been serious talk in regards to medicare, but I have heard similar arguments in regards to private health insurance. Most of them are along the lines of; if you smoke/are overweight, the company has every right to charge you extra.

      As for the things you list…

      I think some kind of extra charge for smoking could be justified. Perhaps.

      Weight it a trickier issue. Using BMI is probably one of the worst approaches that you could take, as it is not exactly a secret that BMI is a poor metric in it’s own right. (It tends to be very rudimentary and crude, and can technically get a bodybuilder pegged as being obese.)

      Obesity DOES involve factors such as genetics, glandular problems, and that sort of thing. There is much less a dimension of ‘choice’ when it comes to obesity than there is with smoking.

      Of course, there is another problem.
      Doesn’t this get us a little too close to the ‘pre-existing conditions’ problem of private insurance? I realize that what you are talking about does not take us there, but it could, carried to its logical conclusion.

      • Primrose

        You would have to do an actual scan of fat to muscle content. But you are right about the chart BMI not able to understand those more heavily muscled. I have this problem with my 9 year old son every physical lately.

        He’s been doing Tae Kwon Do for years now and is fairly strong for a kid, as well has having a genetic predisposition but that tests very high. While one eyeballing him won’t think he’s overweight, there’s always a bit of throat clearing when the subject comes up.

        Luckily for me the he’s a big vegetable eater so when he reports on his diet, medical people can’t say much, since few kids eat their veggies as willingly or as diversely.

      • tsamwick

        Oh, I realize that BMI is an imperfect measure but I think it’s safe to say that in this country at least the odds are that someone with a high BMI is more likely to be obese than a bodybuilder. For the exceptions to that rule there are inexpensive tests – calipers and the like – to take that into account.

        I’m skeptical of giving too much weight to the genetic factor. (Ugh – pardon the pun!) 100 years ago obesity was a scarce condition. Our genes have not changed; our diet and lifestyle have. Most of us are genetically programmed to store fat easily – it’s how we evolved to survive in times of scarcity. So it’ll take more convincing for me to consider obesity to be a pre-existing condition. I might consider it in the case of someone who has been obese since childhood but even then, as adults we have plenty of opportunity to take control of our lives.

        Anyhow, there are many ways in which I feel that we all pay for the careless lifestyles of others. Medicare is only one example.

  • DamnedLiberal

    Well, the analogies didn’t quite mesh. The Ryan Plan, for example, exchanges a known known (current Medicare) for a more costly unknown known (introducing a profit layer and — over time — certainly increasing costs). However, Rahm’s proposal is based on something which is KNOWN to have positive results: (see “savings per person” chart, near bottom of page). Nor is it quite appropriate to compare teabaggers’ desire to scuttle government to employees’ protests about a single program. Resistance to change is a normal human trait. Resistance to change is understandable and can be dealt with, if rational people are involved. However, resistance to politically- and ideologically-based destruction is another–especially when it can’t be dealt with in a rational manner.

    • Carney

      Reading your post, listening to your ideas, then hit the word “teabagger”. Record-scratch. Stopped reading.

      You use obscene epithets. Not worth listening to. Point ignored, moving on.

      • more5600

        You will be missed.

      • Primrose

        Are you responding to a post that was deleted? I didn’t see anything in Damned Liberal that was obscene.

        • MSheridan


          “Teabagger”, the word to which Carney objects, IS in DamnedLiberal’s post. Whether it was meant the way Carney took it is impossible to tell. Myself, I avoid using it for that reason. Should I insult someone, I prefer there to be no doubt. How DamnedLiberal intended it I don’t pretend to know.

          “Teabagger” started out as a term used by Tea Party partisans to label themselves, hence all the literal tea bags dangling from hats, signs, etc. They were unaware (to be fair, at the time so was I) that “teabagging” is slang for a sexual act usually but not always performed by gay males. Given a gargantuan PR misstep like that, it is unsurprising that a fair number of partisans on the left have gleefully used the term ever since even after they knew–in fact, because they knew–it had become radioactive to the people who used to claim it due to that double meaning. Of course, a large number of other partisans on the left use it who see it as a pejorative purely in political terms (like “Repugs”), exclusive of any other connotations. There isn’t any other term I can call to mind for members of the disorganized Tea Party other than “Tea Partiers”. Of course, that frequently carries its own unfortunate connotations–I’ve seen many Alice in Wonderland references to the March Hare and Mad Hatter, but it’s hardly the fault of the left that the Tea Party did not deliberate before choosing a name for themselves.

        • bzooty23

          Ok. really. This is rich.

          Thank you for the rundown on Teabagging. I never get enough of diving into this colossal misstep.

          I gleefully roll around in this nomenclature like dog wallows in the remains of a dead skunk. Why? Simple. For YEARS and years and years and years as a Democratic voter supporting the Democratic nominees I have been forced to withstand the grating use of the word “Democrat” by GOP partisans, as in: the Democrat nominee or the Democrat Party. They feign innocence when confronted, but make no mistake: this is a slur. This is used simply to tweak the nose of Democrats and it is done with glee and self satisfaction equal to the good feelings a Lib feels when using TeaBagger. So, clutch those pearls dear ladies, but know the term and it’s connotations are not going anywhere. Thicken that skin and grow a pair.

          BTW, Teabaggers say the CRAZIEST things about everyone else that falls outside of their accepted world view then get he vapors over a name they chose for themselves because they didn’t have the good sense to Google it? Nothing says not ready for prime time more than being the kind to dish it out but not being able to take it.

        • MSheridan

          @bzooty23, you could easily expand the list of insults: Libtard, Dumbocrat, Dimocrat, etc. And so what? They generally signal prose from someone who can be safely ignored. Who cares what some overgrown five-year old thinks? On the rare occasions most of us bother to respond to someone like that, it’s in spite of the epithets, certainly not because of them.

          I concede that rational arguments do not work to persuade partisans of the sort to use such rhetoric. Nothing does. They aren’t salvageable. Therefore, giving as good as you get has no downside in private conversation. But responding in kind in a public conversation only works to persuade readers of the exchage who are less committed to either side that both sides are equally childish. That’s an undesireable outcome.

        • bzooty23

          yeah. Even in my middle age I wish I was more mature than getting pleasure for finally getting under the skin of these people. I’ve spent 3 decades in slackjaw disgust with the GOP and their ascension since I came of age during Reagan’s first term. Forgive me if I find trying to talk with modern conservatives akin to trying to recover from an especially bad acid trip. When, during this era of extreme partisanship, who is supposed to be the adult first? PBO gave it the best try anyone could ever expect and where is he? Vilified beyond even W. standards and W actually DID bad stuff. So I dunno. I’m pretty tired of modern conservatives. I’ve got no interest in hearing their POV anymore because frankly that is ALL anyone ever hears these days. Debt this and gay that and socialist them and tyranny those. I mean, I’ve got serious Teabagger fatigue. They’ve sucked the air out of every debate. So seems to me that, though indulgent, sure, getting my ya-ya’s at their expense is not to much to ask. Let me know when the GOP is once again controlled by the Huntsmans, Tommy Thompsons and the old Mitt Romneys of the world again then maybe I’ll try to engage. But while they are just a pack of frothy Neoconfederates trying “take their country back” from modernity I will sit back here in the peanut gallery. IMHO, Ttese people are nuts and giving them courtesy of taking them seriously does a disservice to America.

        • Redrabbit


          I’m not so sure that both sides engaging in bad behavior is what makes the public hate both parties. I really think that most people just take that as a default position because everyone else takes it, because you get it from the media nonstop, because cynicism is “cool”, because no one wants to be a partisan and therefore they will not be one of THOSE people of either side, etc.

          In other words, I think you give the general public too much credit when you assume their rejection of both parties is based on anything either party does. If you asked a few random “centrists” or “independents” why they hate both parties, most would probably not be able to give a coherent response.

        • MSheridan

          @RedRabbit, I realize that most people are incapable of giving a coherent account of their political beliefs or the reasons they hold them. In college, I once did a class project that established this very thing.

          That is less true of the people who frequent political sites such as this, though. As for “centrists”, so called, they no longer exist. The political ground they once held has become a Democratic bastion and is considered part of the left. Hence the fact that the center-right Nixon had a health care plan to the left of the current Democratic ACA, which the ultra-right thinks is the ne plus ultra of socialist tyranny. Independents do exist, of course. Quite a few hang out here. However, they are generally a mix of different strains of thought, rather than being all of a piece. Fiscally conservative while liberal on social issues, or the reverse. Or differing from the party that would elsewise be their natural home on some key point.

          Even among these people who do know their political mind, it is seldom that they change their allegiance based on logic and facts alone. Political affiliation doesn’t have much to do with those things. It’s largely about competing narratives, and it is there that converts or single-issue allies can be won. It certainly helps to have facts and reason on your side, but no fact will convince a person who doesn’t want to believe it. Were that not so, the idea that tax cuts for the rich stimulate the economy would be reader than a dodo by now.

          And it helps, I think, to persuade a person that your narrative has value, if you don’t descend to schoolyard tactics when discussing things. Most people find it impossible, or at least difficult, to believe anything said by someone they strongly dislike.

        • MSheridan


        • Redrabbit


          Some research has shown that most “Independents” are actually partisans. When you probe the issue further, many of them reveal that they are “leaning” independents, meaning they lean Republican and Democratic. These “leaners”, despite identifying as independents, often display voting patterns more or less the same as the self identified partisans of the party they lean towards. Meaning, Republican leaning independents USUALLY vote for the GOP, and the same with Democratic leaning independents voting for their candidate.

          Here is some reading on the topic;

          The “pure” independents, the ones with no partisan loyalty, who can swing elections wildly and are sought after by politicians and lionized by pundits, may actually be a much smaller portion of the electorate than is commonly thought.

        • Primrose

          I actually hadn’t notice the phrase teabag until you pointed it out, which is why I asked.

      • Houndentenor

        LOL. The group originally called themselves teabaggers. I thought folks like you were against being forced to change what we call groups of people so as not to offend them. Now you want political correctness? LOL

        • MSheridan

          Let’s debate fairly here. Carney probably shares many characteristics with others on the right, what you call “people like him”; in fact, logically he has to. But unless we can cite an example of him doing what you are talking about (he may have done so, but I cannot call an instance to mind), we shouldn’t accuse him of sharing every single negative possessed by any subgroup of that mass. That would be unthinking partisanship at its least productive. It gives a cheap thrill to partisans on one side and angers those on the other, but does nothing (less than nothing) to persuade those who haven’t firmly chosen up sides.

        • Houndentenor

          One assumes that Carney is perfectly capable of making that argument himself. I remember well these folks calling themselves Teabaggers to the laughter of everyone else. How often did we post the Sex and the City Clip (“breathe through your nose”). Am I being rude to Tea Partiers? No ruder than when they were disrupting Town Hall meetings and not letting anyone speak. If you want respect, you have to treat others with respect. I know enough of these types in real life. I am making no assumptions. If Carney disagrees with them on certain issues he’s welcome to clarify that for me.

      • jakester

        The reactionary ignoramuses, aka teabaggers, actually brought that name on themselves, due to their trademarked ignorance. I would have to learn nanotechnology to build the world’s smallest violin to console all those outraged tea party types who are still whining about the term “teabaggers”

  • Oldskool

    Yet here are public employees using Republican-style language of individual freedom to defeat a claw-back.

    How does anyone know that those commenters are public employees or even residents of Chicago? It sounds like the article has been linked on several teabagger/right wing sites.

    • balconesfault

      That’s what I was thinking.

      Or, no doubt, even the ranks of the public workers in Chicago have enough of the Tea Party types to leverage a lot of vitriol in a public forum.

      Hell, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to find out Smarg was in a back office processing building permits.

      • LauraNo

        What I thought when I read that too. Why would Frum think all those commenters are city employees? They sure sound like every other right-wing nutjob out on the internet, hardly likely to be union members I would think. Though there must be some exceptions.

        • more5600

          I fairly certain that none of those comments came from city workers, Drudge probably linked to the article.

    • jakester

      it could be both, some set in his way civil servant who eats fried foods all day, never walks more than a 100 yards straight and is 80 lbs overweight would be a prime suspect too as well as the dittoheads

  • JohnMcC

    My healthcare insurance thru my employer is instituting a similar scheme. We must schedule ourselves for a ‘screening’ that assesses our ‘risks’. BMI, smoking, questions about life-style and diet and such. If one fails to be screened you are assigned to the lowest ‘tier’ of the several options offered as insurance. By appearing, you ‘earn’ a $250 reward that can be spent on any health-related expense; I plan to get new glasses.

    I have divided feelings about this. Since I see two MDs regularly every 6 months — as one does who has hypertension and survived a heart attack — and have a pretty healthy lifestyle, there is a sense that this is meddlesome and invasive.

    On the other hand, if I were tasked with attempting to control the costs (and future costs) of insuring the work force where I’m employed, this is pretty much what I would do. The effect is of re-creating the incentives of the HMOs that actually did, briefly, control healthcare inflation back in the ’90s.

    Our healthcare ‘rights’ are going to change. Try to deny that and you’ll be like King Canute who forbade the tide to come in.

    Change is hard. Denying change ends up worse.

    • LauraNo

      There’s the chance that you could have prevented your first heart attack if you’d had the wellness screening, too. Which would also have saved some money, among other benefits.

      • balconesfault

        Yep … and I was one of the lucky ones … my wife noticed a mole on me that she thought looked odd, and I got it checked quickly and the melanoma was completely removed with a scalpel during the biopsy. Although insurance spent another few thousand on a larger surgical procedure to confirm that it was all gone (including taking some of a nearby lymph node) that was a helluva lot cheaper than the massive interventions that would have been necesary had the mole grown to be a few tenths of a millimeter thicker.

        Wellness checkups can find these types of things, provide people reminders of what they should do and what they should look out for.

        • laingirl

          When a couple of city employees are saved in a situation similar to yours, all of these objections will fade away. Complaining is contagious; people do not like changes in things they are used to, be it insurance coverage or changes in work hours, but usually they adjust and frequently end of liking the “new” way better than the old unless it is simply a reduction in coverage or pay. One good side effect for Chicago could be a reduction in the number of sick days taken by employees.

  • PracticalGirl

    Very thoughtful and nuanced, David. This, though, may need some examination-

    The question for leaders pushing change –…is whether these changes really do seek the good of all … or whether they impose sacrifices on the many to enrich the powerful few.

    I appreciate the onus put on leadership. This, though, is the argument against any and all questions of personal responsibility, the concept many Americans hide behind to avoid acceptance that they are a part of the whole, not the whole part, and as a result becomes the easy out for politicians who don’t want to do the superhard thing.

    If it were otherwise, people would be flocking towards preventive care measures instead of fast food restaurants in record numbers, and politicians would be speaking at crowded stadiums and parks in front of throngs demanding that we all get healthy to save billions down the line, instead of demanding more borrowed money to give them each a few more bucks a week today.

  • Frumplestiltskin

    great piece, except for this: President Obama’s attempt to squeeze money out of (heavily white) Medicare to fund more healthcare subsidies for the (heavily minority) uninsured.

    Um…he wasn’t squeezing money out of medicare as much as squeezing it from Big Pharm that cherished to right to not have the prescription benefits in Medicare Part D prices negotiated for by Medicare itself, it did not squeeze a single penny out of Medicare services to seniors. Ryan, on the other hand, seeks to transfer the costs onto Seniors with rent seeking insurance companies skimming a profit off the top.

    It is funny, in Japan they begin work days with mandatory exercise routines, the Japanese pay half what we pay, 8 vs. 16% of GDP, and have better outcomes and live longer…but that horrendous burden of waving your arms around for 15 minutes in the morning is worse than the worst Nazi death chamber I guess.

    • Banty

      The Tea Party may have gained momentum, and possibly changed its character a bit, during the days of the Town Hall Medicare meetings in the summer of 2009. But they got their start in reaction to the TARP and the “CRA-done it” misinformation going around months earlier.

    • sdspringy

      The problem with the equivalence of thatched roofs and jelly donuts is that the thatched roof may affect my residence in a increased likely hood of a fire while a neighbor’s jelly donut has no affect on my personal well being.

      That is until socialized medicine and now I’m forced to pay for my neighbors poor personal choices concerning his well being, which then places me and everyone else as wellness judges over our fellow man. Great plan.

      The next liberal myth, ObamaCare doesn’t cut Medicare, Paul Ryan’s plan does, big myth.

      “Altogether, ObamaCare cuts $818 billion from Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) from 2014-2023, the first 10 years of its full implementation, and $3.2 trillion over the first 20 years, 2014-2033. Adding in ObamaCare cuts for Medicare Part B (physicians fees and other services) brings the total cut to $1.05 trillion over the first 10 years and $4.95 trillion over the first 20 years.”

      Now the public sector union employee, overweight, out of shape, overpaid, and now forced to exercise is upset at a Liberal Mayor. And that’s the Tea Party making the nasty comments, that is laughable.

      • drdredel

        If you don’t understand how your neighbor’s jelly donut costs you money then you are oblivious to the way society works. I won’t go into it because I can’t be bothered to educate you, but you should consider how you railed against gay marriage. Your gay neighbors affect you much much less by getting married than by over indulging in sugary sweets, but your priorities are (frequently) backwards.

      • balconesfault

        now I’m forced to pay for my neighbors poor personal choices concerning his well being,

        Eh. You’re forced to do so anyway. You’re forced to do so if you access the healthcare system in any way, shape or form … since hospital bills are higher to account for the uninsured poor who require emergency medical services they can’t pay for … insurance bills are higher to average out your risk with others … even most doctors are going to charge rates to recover their expenses on all types of equipment in their offices that you may never require, as well as the wages they have to pay to a staff sitting in the front office who constantly has to hound non-paying customers as well as insurance companies who try to increase their profits by rejecting or slow-paying claims.

        The real division in America isn’t between those who want freedom and those who want “serfdom” … it’s between those who want reality and those who live in a la la land where they can imagine that their costs of medical care are totally unrelated to how the entire system functions.

        • sdspringy

          The qualifier is “until Socialized Medicine”. I’m not forced to pay for my neighbor’s jelly donut unless the government makes me. If they, the government, allows an individual, obese, drug user, to receive benefits then I am forced otherwise I’m not.

          The shifting of cost the hospitals employs is mainly done as the result of the lack of government reimbursement for medical services that is pushed out onto the private payer. Dentistry requires payment up front, elective surgeries require payment up front, those medical services are generally not passed on to the tax payer.

          Thanks to government intervention into the overall medical economy now we are. The fact that as individuals we pay on average into Medicare $40K, will use upwards of $150K worth of benefits, should be enough for all citizens to require a review.

          The review should not be just how we pay for it but also who is eligible, what your requirements health wise should be, and cost effectiveness. Requiring taxpayers to foot the bill for open ended healthcare is not the answer.

        • Primrose

          Every time you use the emergency room you do. If you call emergency rooms having to treat people socialized medicine, well, so do you think people should be turned away and die?

        • Banty

          the Reagan-signed EMTALA = socialized medicine.


          you’re in effect yelling “yeah!” like some in the audience did at the ‘Tea Party debate’

          Take your pick, springy.

        • baw1064

          In this particular example, “socialized medicine” is irrelevant. The people in question are public employees, so their salaries and benefits are already paid for by people’s taxes (at least those people who live or work in Chicago). If they all decide to eat lots of jelly donuts, more tax money has to be diverted to cover their medical expenses.

        • SpartacusIsNotDead

          Wrong again. It has nothing to do with government. If you have private health insurance, you’re paying for the bad health habits of your fellow insured neighbors. Your insurance premiums reflect the cost to provide care for everyone that is insured by the insurance company, whether they have good health habits or eat jelly donuts all day long.

          Please make more of an effort to acquaint yourself with some basic facts before spouting off this kind of reflexive partisan dribble.

        • kuri3460

          “The real division in America isn’t between those who want freedom and those who want “serfdom” … it’s between those who want reality and those who live in a la la land where they can imagine that their costs of medical care are totally unrelated to how the entire system functions.”

          Exactly. And to take that a step further, I can’t possibly imagine that the Founding Fathers envisioned a day when people would be using the principles set forth in the Bill of Rights to routinely argue AGAINST common sense – against seat belt mandates, against calorie counts on menus, against regulating junk food ads targeted at kids.

          There is a big difference between “personal responsibility” and no responsibility.

      • Banty

        “The problem with the equivalence of thatched roofs and jelly donuts is that the thatched roof may affect my residence in a increased likely hood of a fire while a neighbor’s jelly donut has no affect on my personal well being. ”

        I haven’t exactly noticed Tea Partiers hew to their physicians’ advice concerning weight (did you see the first questioner at the Rep. debates in Florida who had a health insurance related question??), nor have I heard of any movement of them volunteering to go to a risk pool for their health insurance voluntarily. So, yes, in what I pay in my health insurance, I *do* get impacted. And I haven’t heard (outside Sharron Angle’s chicken idea) even the Tea Partiers dismiss as ‘socialist’ the whole idea of private insurance.

        But there are public health concerns as well. You might think the low-income NYC person with antibiotic-resistant TB may not be your concern, until he purchases Mets tickets in the same cheep seat section that a suburban Cub Scout leader does for an outing with her Den.

        • Houndentenor

          Does everyone realize that the people who prepare and serve their food in restaurants are mostly uninsured? Think about that this week.

        • Banty

          +1 ‘xactomundo

        • MSheridan

          Good one. Less likely to have paid sick days, too, although that’s a somewhat separate issue.

        • Redrabbit

          LOL. Oh lord, I never did realize that.

          Ah well…

        • Primrose

          And they are discouraged from staying home when sick too! In my brief stint as a waitress, another waitress was scolded for staying home when she had a cold. She was considered lazy.

  • Smargalicious

    I agree with Rahm on this one.

    Chicago’s public employees are heavy in a certain demographic that includes morbid obesity, diabetes, and other associated chronic health issues. It’s costing the city bunches.

  • Graychin

    Those comments from NBC Chicago made me sad too. They show that the Tea Party / Rush Limbaugh / Faux News mentality is alive and well in Chicago.

    Mission Accomplished!

  • Solo4114

    The bottom line:

    Everyone wants a free lunch and will vote for whoever comes closest to guaranteeing them one.

    • baw1064

      …and they want their free lunch to include a jumbo order of fries and a large soda made with high fructose corn syrup! :-P

    • Redrabbit

      Well, I think some people look at it a little differently.

      They want a free lunch…for themselves. But maybe not for that other guy over there.

      They want a free lunch, but keeping that other guy from getting one might be even more important then getting one for themselves.

  • Banty

    What is being proposed in Chicago, is what the private sector has been doing for some time regarding employee health plans. Hardly socialism or a loss of freedom. But these plans normally provide a bonus if the employee can attest to a good health habit, rather than extract a fine. Perhaps this is part of the reason for this reaction. Yes, it comes out the same, but it’s a well known irrationality that carrots work better than sticks for this sort of thing.

    There has always been a cohort of people too, um, adolescent to distinguish between a freedom, and ability to do something without natural consequences relating to an action. They’ve been all over internet boards and newspaper comments sections since those things existed.

    The difference may also be in how in our political atmosphere these sentiments are harnessed by the right if/when it behooves them. I’m sure they don’t hanker to Rahm; anything Rahm does or says Must Be Demonized. But I think a little too much is being read into the Chicago paper commentary.

  • Primrose

    I read the comments and they don’t seem to necessarily be from the people with the plan.
    But they all do seem to come from the land of stupid. How is a Chicago town wellness plan, anything to do with Obamacare?

    Or my favorite, thinking it is not only like Brave New World or 1984, but also a Handmaid’s Tale? A dystopian novel about a patriarchal religious theocracy and the instituting of reproductive/sexual slavery within it.

    Even if you think asking people to review their bad habits is the first step to tyranny, it doesn’t seem to have much to do with that dystopia.

    Signing up for the plan doesn’t even require smoker’s to quit, let alone people actually change their lifestyle. It requires them to get regular advice to do so, or to put it another way, they don’t actually have to agree to do anything only agree to get nagged about it.

    That’s not freedom? If I could be allowed to pay 50 dollars to skip having certain members of my family stop nagging me, I’d shout Hallelujah. Frankly, I think everyone should at least be approached about their unhealthy habits. I’d ask that these sessions be well planned, positive and actually useful, but still, a reasonable request.

    • Elvis Elvisberg

      Very fair points.

      Also: wouldn’t this headline be better if it were just “The Treadmill to Serfdom”?

    • Redrabbit

      Or my favorite, thinking it is not only like Brave New World or 1984, but also a Handmaid’s Tale? A dystopian novel about a patriarchal religious theocracy and the instituting of reproductive/sexual slavery within it.

      Not only that, but….

      Part of the point of Brave New World was that society was controlled by those in power basically giving people everything they ever wanted. A far cry from telling people to eat healthier and take better care of themselves for a larger purpose.

  • Churl

    “I think everyone should at least be approached about their unhealthy habits.”

    Ok to ask about behaviors like hooking up with strangers met in bars?

    • Primrose

      If you are a medical professional bound by confidentiality, you can ask if they are having unprotected sex outside a monogamous relationship, certainly.

  • The Right Of The People To Eat Ho-hos And Ride Medicare-Funded Scooters, Shall Not Be Infringed | Poison Your Mind

    [...] Frum also argues that “This resistance does not readily fit the pre-existing ideological map of the political parties.” [...]

  • triad696

    While I do agree everyone should make better choices as to food consumtion, and get at least some exercise. My concern about “unhealthy” habits labels, began a couple of years ago at my previous employer. During our annual enrollment, a questionaire was required to be filled out that asked questions about my “health habits”, those questions included, “do you ride a motorcycle, do you jet ski, snow ski, etc…” So now my recreational choices are “unheathly”? What’s next, what channels I watch on TV, or maybe my favorite color is known to be unhealthy. This could be a very slippery slope that many profiteers are more then happy to slide down…. Just a passing thought.

    • pnwguy


      I know what you’re saying, but there are decent predictors of risk factors from optional behaviors. While it’s hard to want to penalize those with unlucky genes, which give them certain diseases, how does a society reward or discourage things that are costly overall? Private firms do this all the time. Life insurance rates typically favor non-smokers, for example. I know I’m denied coverage on my life insurance if I die in activities like alpine mountain climbing, for example – I need a separate rider.

      • Redrabbit

        There are indeed decent predictors of risk factors. But I also have little confidence in the ability of society, the government, or the private sector to only utilize the best ones, while avoiding the faddish stupid ones with little basis.

        A somewhat related example, I suppose, would be personality tests used in hiring. There are many such tests, and they are rather prevalent, but there is actually little evidence to suggest they are useful at all.

        • Primrose

          If we keep these wellness tests out of the realm of HR, we should be safe. HR has a terrible tendency to misuse these ideas.

        • Redrabbit

          I support keeping HR away from hiring decisions as well.

          It seems that HR ruins hiring when they get too involved with hiring for a position they don’t understand, so they don’t actually know how to evaluate a candidate, which leads to all sorts of lulz.

  • Fastball

    So, when the TP’ers shout “Yeah!” when asked if an uninsured person should be allowed to die, will they be consistent and shout “Yeah!” when a cigarette-smoking, overweight, fatty-foods-addicted TP’er should be required to pay health insurance premiums commensurate with the costs that he is imposing on the health care system?

    • Redrabbit

      Of course not! Those things are “rights”.

      This is the mistaking of folkways with rights that David described.

      He is absolutely correct. Many Americans believe that their particular ‘way of life’, which is very comfortable even by our own standards, is their ‘right’. Cheap gasoline, easy credit, huge homes, etc.

  • ProfessorHowie

    While all these comment are relevant and insightful, the real story here is Rahm’s attempts to cut costs, and how effective he will ultimately be.

    We hear from Rahm and many other politicians, local state and federal, Republican and Democrat, that there is an amazing amount of money to be saved by chasing waste, fraud and abuse. But the NBC Chicago story linked to a Chicago Sun-Times story that said, “Emanuel campaigned on a promise to reduce those annual costs by as much as $60 million in each of the next four years by implementing an incentive-laden plan mirrored after the one pioneered by Safeway and Johnson & Johnson.”

    I wonder how much Safeway and Johnson and Johnson, or associates thereof, contributed to Rahm’s campaign, and what they’re getting out of this deal?

    My company Source One did an analysis of a contract Chicago recently signed with Accenture. Accenture indicated it could save the city $25 million or more, for only a contingency fee of 10%. That sounds like a great deal, until you read the fine print. It turns out Accenture gets its money, no matter what, for identifying savings opportunities, and the poor overworked Chicago civil servants are left with the burden of actually obtaining those savings, which may or may not materialize. In other words, Chicago retains all the risk, while Accenture is guaranteed payment. You can read the full analysis here:

    The Accenture deal was granted on a no-bid basis, based on a similar contract with Cook County. Local reporters have identified quite a bit of pro-bono work Accenture has done running up to Rahm’s election. No direct connection has been drawn, but you can form your own conclusions.

    This is why the old saw about saving money from waste fraud and abuse is a fraud of its own. The structure of government contracting on all levels is skewed against ever cleaning up this kind of cronyism. My guess is that Rahm will collect all the wellness center fees from the city workers, but the budget won’t improve any, due to some similar crony structure.

    It is not a single-party phenomenon. We see this on the Republican federal side in their do-or-die defense of defense spending (Democrats do this too, just to be fair).

    Oh, and while we’re on the topic, it’s “preventive care,” not “preventative care,” as the Chicago Sun-Times article called it.

    Just my $2 (adjusted for inflation)

  • hisgirlfriday

    So the Tea Party likes public employee unions now?

  • Houndentenor

    Corporations have been doing this for decades. Okay, not the fine part. But definitely the wellness part. There is NO downside to this strategy. If I am healthier, I miss fewer days of work. If I miss fewer days of work, I am more productive. If I am more productive, the company makes more money. Meanwhile the company could wind up paying less for it’s part of my health insurance. Oh and I pay less too. Did I mention I’m healthier. Everyone wins. I can’t imagine why this would be controversial. Oh yeah, because we have a segment of our population that gets mad if someone tells them there are consequences to eating too much, not exercising enough and not taking care of your health.

  • nickthap

    Look, if this country was 90% white (like Australia, Sweden, Denmark, etc.), we would have a full-blown welfare state and the same people who are Tea Partiers would be the staunchest defenders of that welfare state. Look at Geert Wilders in Holland or Le Pen in France–they and their supporters aren’t about to end the welfare state. If anything they’re for expanding it.

    As it is, most poor people in this country are minorities, so welfare and government programs are linked to race. That’s why Medicare is sacrosanct, because white people use it. And that’s why Medicaid aint–because brown people use it.

    • SteveT

      Well, the country was 90% white up until about 1980 and we didn’t have one.

      • Redrabbit

        Perhaps, but racial demographics don’t tell the whole story.

        Even from our earliest beginnings, America has always been a country of pretty deep divisions along all sorts of lines. Political, ethnic, class, economic, religious, geographic and professional.

        We have, arguably, never really had a coherent national identity in the same way that many other nations do, and sometimes our divisions seem to run far deeper than those in many other developed nations do.

        There is much that can be said on why this might be, but that is too big a topic to cover here.

  • NRA Liberal

    Great post, Frum. There’s a whole book in this.

    “What you are hearing here is the secret of the Tea Party. Americans do not clearly distinguish in their minds between “rights” in the James Madison sense and what we might call “folkways.” The ability to live in a large suburban house, drive to work on a highway without tolls, buy a sausage and egg biscuit for a dollar, eat in the car, park for free at the office, and send the bill for any negative consequence to a solvent Medicare program – there are many people to whom that pattern of life means more than trial by jury or even freedom of the press. Like all of us, such people want to keep what they have – and bitterly resent anyone or anything that forces change.”

    One of the more cogent paragraphs I’ve read here.

  • jjack

    I think Moses said it best when he said, “I’ll give you my jelly donut when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”

    • Redrabbit

      In this case, wouldn’t it be “cold, dead, sausage fingers?” ^_~

      Yeah, that was pretty stupid.

  • Marquis

    For anyone who grew up in the suburbs of America, you know how pervasive this attitude is. In my case, most of my suburbanite neighbors were insulated from the social ills that plagued many other communities. For a whole host of reasons, we never had to deal with mass unemployment, plant closings, poverty, family breakdown, etc. For this we thought of ourselves as old – fashioned, bootstraps – pulling, hard – working Americans who were entitled to every inch of what we had. Of course, we voted that way too. Never mind that many of us owed our employment and livelihoods to the local military/defense industry and to booming housing values and legions of real estate professionals just looking to make an honest buck. Never mind that we exercised our own cynical NIMBY-ism by enlisting our federal representatives to muscle away potential developers who may disturb our well-earned right to be free of noise and pollution. Fast forward to today and the housing sector has come crashing back to earth and even defense is on the chopping block (cough..F22..cough..cough..). Now, many of these people are starting to rethink their impression of themselves as simply rugged individuals.

    • valkayec

      You were lucky. As an Air Force brat, I never grew up in a safe, steady, secure environment. I never had the chance to develop life-long friends or go to school with the same kids from grade school through high school. I never saw communities change and grow or resist change. We moved on average at least once a year.

      But what I gained was learning about and appreciating the numerous cultures that exist in this large country. I also learned to accept change. That nothing is immutable in life except death.

      I miss the benefits of having lived in one place while growing up. But I’m grateful for the all the experiences I had because I moved so often. It gave me a broader view of life.

      • Primrose

        I got the best of both words. I grew up in one society and then moved to a radically different one, although I already knew a little of it to be sure. Affluent, suburban, preppy by birth not style decision, Connecticut to start and then rural, decidedly non-affluent middle Tennessee.

        Though it must be said that if I were to do that today, I wouldn’t get as much culture shock. That part of Connecticut is more diverse and my home town of Tennessee is no longer rural, or poor and has more big box stores than any where in 20 minutes of where I live now.

  • Redrabbit

    . Americans do not clearly distinguish in their minds between “rights” in the James Madison sense and what we might call “folkways.” The ability to live in a large suburban house, drive to work on a highway without tolls, buy a sausage and egg biscuit for a dollar, eat in the car, park for free at the office, and send the bill for any negative consequence to a solvent Medicare program – there are many people to whom that pattern of life means more than trial by jury or even freedom of the press.

    This is possibly the best thing ever written at FrumForum.

    I think part of the reason many Americans cherish these folkways over the rights you mention is pretty simple. Many more privileged Americans, for want of a better term, take these Madisonian rights for granted because they never really exercise them or benefit from them in an obvious way. Not the way they benefit from/enjoy their folkways.

    The right to a trial by jury, for instance, is a right that many middle class conservative white Americans will never appreciate because they can reasonably expect to make it to the end of their lives without facing a serious trial on serious charges. Most will never express an opinion so unpopular that the First Amendment is all that stands between them and serious danger.

    Not only that, but some of those rights that they take for granted cause them distress. Trial by jury? In their eyes, that lets criminals get off “easy”! Freedom of the press? That leads to all kinds of opinions being published, some that they find offensive.

    The medicare and medicaid comparisons above are pretty apt. Medicare is like the folkways. It matters to them because it will be there for them later. Medicaid? That’s for people that, quite frankly, many of them just don’t like, or at least don’t care about. They think that they EARNED medicare, and those ‘others’ don’t deserve medicaid.

    Regardless of how sincere this is, it is, in the end, a myopic view. One that I would argue is actually quite juvenile.

    • Primrose

      +1 Red rabbit

      • Redrabbit

        You know, this may sound stupid of me…

        …but it was not until this discussion that I really, fully thought about just how few middle class white Americans will ever get anywhere close to the court system, or most of our legal system, for that matter. Excluding lawyers, of course. ^_~ Seriously, though. Most of the people we are talking about will probably never set foot inside a courtroom unless…

        1.They got called in for jury duty.

        2.It is small claims/civil court or something, and even then it will probably involve some kind of, to be frank, very “white” problem regarding money owned, a business loan, or maybe something to do with a car accident.

        As my parents often said, most people people in this country have no idea how good they’ve got it. I think they were probably referring to whiny middle class whites.

        • balconesfault

          As my parents often said, most people people in this country have no idea how good they’ve got it. I think they were probably referring to whiny middle class whites.

          Huh. You’re not my son, are you? One of the things I’ve been saying for years is that the most amazing victory of the right wing propoganda over the last 30+ years … and really, it was the basis of the Reagan Revolution … was convincing the middle class whites in America, who in the 70′s had it better than any middle class anywhere in the world, ever in history, that they were all being oppressed and shat upon and robbed blind by the system which had provided them their prosperity, their stability, their security.

          Welfare queens and young bucks driving cadillacs had to be targeted so that top end and corporate tax brackets could be radically cut.

          American labor had to be demonized so that jobs could be exported abroad in order to provide the leverage of $4 a day workforces to make multibillionaires out of America’s top CEOs (like newly announced Huntsman supporter Phil Knight who led the athletic apparel industry across the Pacific).

          Economists and conservationists who in the 70′s responded to the OPEC oil price shocks by calling for more efficiency and renewable sources had to be mocked and marginalized so that our dependency on foreign oil, and the multinationals that supply it, could grow by quantum leaps over the coming decades.

          You have to hand it to the conservative movement in America. They’ve pulled one of the biggest con games ever on the American middle class. And like any great con, there are still a lot of the people who they’ve grifted who keep wanting to come back for more.

        • Primrose

          Yes. And it was about this same time when the first CEO salary reached over a million. Arche McCardel for International Harvester. It made the newspaper. I think we should note that Mr. McCardel did not end up saving that company either, if I recall correctly.

        • Redrabbit

          One of the things I’ve been saying for years is that the most amazing victory of the right wing propoganda over the last 30+ years … and really, it was the basis of the Reagan Revolution … was convincing the middle class whites in America, who in the 70’s had it better than any middle class anywhere in the world, ever in history, that they were all being oppressed and shat upon and robbed blind by the system which had provided them their prosperity, their stability, their security.

          It’s great to see this expressed to clearly.
          What is even more amazing…

          The American middle class might not have it better than any other middle class in the world anymore, but the people who seem more angry and upset right now than any others are those who have suffered the least in this recession. The teabaggers, as most research has shown, tend to be older, MORE educated, MORE affluent, etc. This is not to say they don’t have any worries whatsoever, but it is still striking that these people seem to be the most outwardly upset.

          It isn’t my friends in their late twenties, who still dream of a better life and are still, for lack of a better term, struggling to ‘grow up’ and really become adults.

          It is not the people in their late teens/early twenties I see in class, who have a very uncertain future ahead of them.

          It isn’t the minorities who face some of the worst job prospects in decades.

          No, the angriest people are the ones you describe, the ones who are convinced that they have a worse deal than anyone else in society despite being pretty well of compared to the rest of us. The ones who have spent decades in this parallel media universe that tells them everyone else is getting rich off their hard earned tax dollars, when the reality is much different, and that is putting it lightly.

  • Redrabbit

    This is totally off topic, but I want to ask it anyway. This article will get lots of traffic so I hope to get an answer.

    Does anyone else have the following problem with FrumForum?

    Sometimes, when typing a reply, certain keys will stop working. B, I, O, A and E are the most common ones. They just cut out. It ONLY happens here, when replying to comments and articles. If I hit refresh, the page reloads and everything is fine. This has been going on for almost as long as I have been posting here. Does this ever happen to anyone else?

    • indy

      Yes. It happens after using the mouse to move from one place to another while writing a comment. I am on a mac in firefox. I assumed, since there are few complaints, it has something to do with this particular combination. I usually edit comments elsewhere and then just paste them in.

      • pnwguy


        Mac, Firefox, problems. Check. I’m guessing it’s some Javascript problem related to their input box for comment text. I usually get it when I mouse over to a misspelling and let it fix the word. Then I’m hosed from tying in any of the letters that are used the formatting tags.

        Sometimes I just post the partial comment and come back in the modify screen, which doesn’t seem to have the issue.

        • rbottoms

          It’s called poor programming and assuming what works on one version of a browser works for all. Could be worse, you could be on IE 6, the nightmare of all web app developers.

    • Primrose

      YES!!!! For me it is B, I, U, and will start happening randomly, sometimes after a sentence, sometimes after several paragraphs. I’ve changed my log on or log in. It didn’t start out at first but it is insistent, and does not happen when I use my ipad (I don’t like blogging on the ipad though because I’m a fast typist not a hunt and peck type. Basically, I switch to word and cut and paste, which perhaps does not help my post length.

      I actually tried to pursue this with tech support and Noah clearly had the idea I was a bit off, politely asked, but still. I tried to pursue it with a system administrator I know and I got asked, “did you try cleaning your keys” with a smirk.

      I finally got my husband’s attention on the subject after having given him a log in for the site. He went and typed gibberish because “the computer doesn’t know what you are saying dear”. And of course no problem, I typed gibberish on my log in, no problem. He then watched me type in on mine non-gibberish, stared at it, threw up his hands and said, “I’m at a loss.”

      But perhaps if there are enough of us tech support will know we aren’t crazy, we’re a movement…

      • Demosthenes

        I use Chrome on both OSX 10.6 Snow Lion and Windows 7, and have the same problem! It only happens intermittently, I haven’t figured out what specifically breaks it, but I’ve noticed that if I hit the HTML buttons above the comment box the problem usually goes away. Also, if I go back to what I have written and copy-paste a “b” or “i” or “u” then that will fix it. So I imagine there is some kind of a problem in the dynamic scripting.

        Also, on a similar (and similarly unrelated) note, has the main page been slow and/or buggy for anyone else? Immediately after the most recent changes to the main page, there was a noticeable performance gain, but then they added the Twitter feeds (ugh) and God knows what other scripts, and now the page will often crash or freeze while loading, especially if I am scrolling down while the page is still loading.

        • Primrose

          Yes. It’s been impossibly slow. Several posts that I typed out in word and pasted in, then didn’t submit properly.

        • Traveler

          I got ticked off that Firefox quit being functional with Google add-ons for some bizarre reason, so switched to Chrome. But that is so unbelievably slow for this site, which has way too much overhead. So back to Firefox, which does a much better job of loading pages. Can’t win. Still XP.

    • Carney

      I run across this on Firefox for Windows as well as Safari for Mac.

      I hadn’t run across the refresh fix, so I’ve ended up using Notepad or Textedit to type my comment, then copy and paste it in here as a workaround.

      • Primrose

        My husband thought it was a Safari problem, there are so many, but it happens in Chrome as well.

        Are we all Mac users?

    • Carney

      Also, I often have a lot of headaches in getting the site to keep me logged in. Cookies work and it remembers my username and password, but clicking log in doesn’t “take” and I’m stuck with “Log in to Reply” rather than being ready to go.

    • rockstar

      A lesbian Trotskyist who decided that she was going to teach me a lesson because I’m a straight white male. I didn’t think people could be that evil. I was proven wrong.

  • Steve D

    Redrabbit nailed it when he pointed out middle class Americans may never have to resort to their Madisonian rights but exercise their folkways rights all the time. But it goes further. Madisonian and folkways rights collide in three different ways:

    1. Sometimes folkways rights may have to be curtailed to protect Madisonian rights. This is what happened when public school prayer was outlawed, and you simply cannot overstate the importance of this event. This, and not Roe v. Wade, is when the religious wars really began, because from the perspective of many religious believers, American society, and especially the Supreme Court, declared war on them at that time. They literally see the school prayer ruling as Pearl Harbor.

    2. People get angry when a Madisonian right is protected but a seemingly parallel or equivalent folkways right is not. Example, a burglar gets hurt in someone’s home. He gets an attorney at public expense to defend him at trial. He then sues the homeowner for his injury, but the homeowner does not get an attorney at public expense. (The very fact that the burglar can sue at all is another Type 1 clash, and the fact that the homeowner cannot sue the burglar and collect is another Type 2 clash).

    3. People get really angry when their Madisonian rights are curtailed to protect what they see as mere folkways rights of others (example, taxation, or taking of private property, for programs they disapprove of), or they are told that their Madisonian rights aren’t really rights (any Second Amendment case).

    • Redrabbit

      Great post. All of this is true. I had never thought of it in terms of how certain ‘rights’ clash in the way you describe.

      That situation is made all the worse because many Americans are poorly educated in basic civics and history, and therefore they don’t recognize the difference between a RIGHT, a folkway, and why the former MUST take precedence over the latter.

      The thing about so called ‘school prayer’, a shameful stain on our history, is intriguing. It should have been eliminated long before that decision, but at least they did away with it. You never really hear the position you describe expressed openly. If it were, the REAL objective of these people would become very clear, and the know that the vast majority of the public would never go along with them on it. Abortion has been a marginally easier argument to make, so long as they don’t openly go after all forms of contraception, which they know is favored by an overwhelming majority.

      In any case….

      I do wonder if there is any good research on how many Americans actually know what their rights are, as established by the constitution and the law.

      • Steve D

        There’s an experiment that has been done numerous times. Sit at a table with a petition, actually the Bill of Rights, and try to get people to sign it. The vast majority don’t recognize it and many angrily denounce the petition as subversive.

        And when I describe this experiment to people, guess what I get? “Oh, I never sign petitions, either.” Never mind that most people don’t recognize the Bill of Rights or even agree with it. The reply is so specious it’s obvious the problem is not that people don’t understand, but won’t. But I run into exactly the same sort of response when I try to explain why the Tea Party is so angry.

        An additional problem is that many people have no coherent theory of rights. When I ask people actually to prove that, say, gay marriage or abortion are rights, I get shrieks of rage but not much reasoned response. It doesn’t do one’s credibility a lot of good to criticize one set of beliefs as merely unsupported assertions, and then turn around and make an equally unsupported assertion about their own beliefs.

        • Redrabbit

          It is not terribly surprising that most do not even recognize the Bill of Rights. It is awful, but not surprising.

        • rbottoms

          The courts say it’s a right, so it is.

        • Primrose

          Well, abortion is easy to explain, the right to bodily integrity. Gay marriage is hard because the right to marry period is harder to prove. I think the right to marry is usually cited as the pursuit of happiness, but I suppose you could say freedom of association.

        • Redrabbit

          Of course, that takes you down a strange road. As you say, the right to marry AT ALL is harder to explain, but if one accepts that premise, then gay marriage opponents have to concede that hetero marriage is also not a ‘right’, which they will probably not do.

          If they don’t concede that, then they have to explain why one is a right and the other is not.

    • Carney

      Some facts that are inconveniently destructive to your narrative re school prayer:

      1. The Constitution, like any law, means only what those who wrote and ratified it means. Nobody can honestly support a claim that the 1st’s ratifiers meant to enact a federally imposed ban on school prayer.

      2. In fact much of the public pressure for the Establishment Clause came from supporters of already-existing established churches in the states who wanted to ensure no federal established church superseded theirs. State established churches remained unquestionably constitutional (although their wisdom and justice were certainly controversial) throughout and for decades after the Founding.

      • greg_barton

        “Nobody can honestly support a claim that the 1st’s ratifiers meant to enact a federally imposed ban on school prayer.”

        Nobody can honestly support a claim that the 2nd’s ratifiers intended us to bear arms other than flintlocks and knives, then. Right?

        • Demosthenes

          The 2nd Amendment recognizes the legitimacy of civilian militia. Personally, I think there are good reasons to restrict (although not necessarily to ban) the sale of assault rifles and the like to private citizens. Primarily because the right of citizens to bear arms is not meant to serve as the guarantee against an overly intrusive government; that guarantee is separately enshrined, in the 4th Amendment.

      • Primrose

        I think you could make the claim Jefferson did. Also, Washington who upon people noticing which church he went to, stopped going.

      • Redrabbit

        There was also not a widespread, standardized pubic education system in America at the time, so they weren’t exactly anticipating that conflict.

  • jakester

    While their idiocy is amazing, I don’t know if this is a tea party issue or a human one in general. A teabagger would say screw all those city employees period. A lot of the whiners are prolly Democratic civil servants or similar who just want everything with no strings. In one aspect I agree, it is better to reward for good behavior than penalize bad behavior. If people who take care of themselves can get a break or a bonus then that is good.

    • rbottoms

      Conservatives hate them civil servants, especially when they are in line crabbing about why aren’t there more them on duty dammit.

  • Demosthenes

    I know enough of these types in real life. I am making no assumptions. If Carney disagrees with them on certain issues he’s welcome to clarify that for me.

    Carney has come out against Tea Party ideas about NASA’s future. He has also indicated hypothetical support for a publicly-financed infrastructure bank, conditional on such a bank being satisfactorily run and independently overseen (and I agree with him on those counts). He may have used words like libtard in the past, but I cannot recall ever having seen him do so here.

    • Primrose

      I don’t recall Carney ever using phrases like that either. I don’t think he or anyone needs to say he is not a Tea Party member, anymore than I need to disassociate myself from the anti-globalism pseudo-anarchists, because I trend left.

      I don’t think, there is a problem in discussing the views of a group as a group; however, I think it does not promote civil discussion to attribute beliefs to people they have not said.

      Thus I scoff at the the No-Nothing party because they think that the moon is made of blue cheese. I can object to Abullah Smith’s statement in a post, that all non-immigrant, non-mixed race people are lazy and morally decadent.

      But it would be wrong to attribute either statement to Jamaica Queens because I know she generally shares the same side of the political spectrum as the No-Nothing party and Abdullah Smith.

  • hlsmlane

    Just Wow! This is one of those things that you read and instantly recognize as putting clearly what you have only vaguely thought about. And several of the comments were as on point as the original post. Now, if only we could get the politicians and chattering classes to quit pandering to the whiners . . . . .

  • rockstar

    The ideal of the 68′ers is to gut and otherwise render moot the conservative organic consitiution of English-speaking countries like the USA and Great Britain and replace it with a Napoleonic consitiution such as exists in France and Brussells. They accomplished it in Great Britain and they’ll accomplish it here. I don’t expect to ever live in a free country again.

    With Republicans like this, who needs Bolsheviks?