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Worse Is the New Normal
Mid-20th-century assumptions of generational progress no longer obtain.


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Mark Steyn

A few years ago, after the publication of my book America Alone, an exasperated reader wrote to advise me to lighten up, on the grounds that “we’re rich enough to be stupid.” That’s to say, Western democracies and their citizens are the wealthiest societies ever known, and no matter how much of our energies are wasted on pointless hyper-regulation for the business class and multigenerational welfare for the dependency class and Transgender and Colonialism Studies for our glittering youth, we can afford it, and the central fact of our wealth will ensure that our fortunes do not change. Since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, we have been less rich, and our stupidity ought in theory to be less affordable. Instead, it’s been supersized. To take only the most obvious example, President Obama has added six-and-a-half trillion bucks to the national debt, and has nothing to show for it. As Churchill would say, had his bust not been bounced from the Oval Office, never in the field of human spending has so much been owed by so many for so little.

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The West’s rivals do not think like this. China is now the second-biggest economy on the planet, but it has immense structural problems: As I’ve been saying for years, it will get old before it gets rich. Thanks to its grotesque “one-child” policy, it has the most male-heavy demographic cohort in history — no chicks and millions of guys who can’t get any action, which is not normally a recipe for social stability. Despite being extremely large, the country is resource-poor. But you can’t say it’s not thinking outside the box. The Daily Telegraph in London reported this week that the Chinese have just signed a deal to lease five percent of Ukraine (or an area about the size of Belgium) to grow crops and raise pigs on. And I’d doubt it will stop with post-Soviet republics on the Euro-fringe: It’s not impossible to imagine China buying, say, the Greek islands. Beijing thinks the half-millennium blip of Euro-American dominance is coming to an end and the world is returning to its natural state of Chinese preeminence. The West assumes it can endure as a kind of upscale boutique unaffected by the changes beyond. Like, say, the frozen-yogurt shop at the Westgate mall in Nairobi — until last weekend.

China’s Ukraine deal may sound kinda wacky, but the People’s Republic consumes about 20 percent of the world’s food yet has (thanks to rapid industrialization) only 9 percent of its farmland. As Big Government solutions go, renting 5 percent of a sovereign nation to use as your vegetable garden and pig farm is a comparatively straightforward answer to the problem at hand. By contrast, try explaining American “health” “care” “reform” to the Chinese: You could rent the entire Ukraine for about 3 percent of the cost of Obamacare, and what does it solve? My colleague Michelle Malkin revealed this week that her family has now joined the massed ranks of Obamacare victims: Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield sent her a “Dear John” letter explaining why they’d be seeing less of each other. “To meet the requirements of the new laws, your current plan can no longer be continued beyond your 2014 renewal date.”

Beyond the president’s characteristically breezy lie that “if you like your health-care plan, you will be able to keep your health-care plan” is the sheer nuttiness of what’s happening. For years, Europeans and “progressive” Americans have raged at the immorality of the U.S. medical system: All those millions with no health coverage! But Michelle Malkin had coverage and suddenly, under what Obama calls “universal health care,” she doesn’t. The CBO’s most recent calculations estimate that in 2023, a decade after the implementation of Obamacare, there will still be over 30 million people uninsured — or about the population of Canada. That doesn’t sound terribly “universal,” and I would bet it’s something of a low-ball figure: As many employers are discovering, one of the simplest ways “to meet the requirements of the new laws” and still stay just about solvent is to shift your workers from family plans to individual plans, and tell their spouses and children to go look elsewhere. Does it achieve its other goal of “containing costs,” already higher than anywhere else? No. Avik Roy reports in Forbes that Obamacare will increase individual-market premiums by 62 percent for women, 99 percent for men. In America, “insuring” against disaster now costs more than you’d pay in most countries for disaster.



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