The Progressive Aristocracy
The Left seeks a separate set of rules for themselves.

Barack Obama and Tim Geithner


Jim Geraghty

In recent weeks, we examined the Obama administration’s willingness to reverse positions that it had once proudly proclaimed — on whether an individual mandate is necessary, whether the individual mandate is a tax, whether it is important that you can keep your plan or doctor, whether lobbyists should work in a president’s administration, whether a donor should be appointed U.S. ambassador, and so on. Then we noted environmentalists who said they would not criticize or attack lawmakers who supported the Keystone Pipeline, as long as they were Democrats.

Last week, we expanded the discussion to progressives’ wide-ranging willingness to contradict their own professed principles: gun-control proponents who travel with armed bodyguards, voucher opponents who send their kids to private schools, and minimum-wage-hike advocates who pay their staff less than the minimum wage, among others.

So what do progressives really want? If, as I suspect, the currency of progressivism isn’t policies or results, but emotions, what does that approach build? What kind of a country do you get when political leaders are driven by a desire to feel that they are more enlightened, noble, tolerant, wise, sensitive, conscious, and smart than most other people?

The evidence before us suggests progressives’ ideal society would be one where they enjoy great power to regulate the lives of others and impose restrictions and limitations they themselves would never accept in their own lives. Very few people object to an aristocracy with special rights and privileges as long as they’re in it.

For example, a key provision of Obamacare is a tax on “Cadillac health-care plans” — the architects of the legislation having concluded that part of the problem with America’s health-care system is that some employers are just too generous with their employees’ health insurance. Plans worth more than $10,200 for individuals or $27,500 for families face a 40 percent excise tax starting in 2018.

Members of Congress — at least the ones not covered by their spouse’s plans, as quite a few of them are — purchase their insurance through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, which offers about 300 different plans. On average, the government pays 72 percent of the premiums for its workers, according to — a setup that has been characterized as, if not quite a “Cadillac” plan, then “the best Buick on the block.” The New York Times noted that, even though they are now required to purchase insurance through an exchange, lawmakers have “a larger menu of ‘gold plan’ insurance choices than most of their constituents have back home” and have an easier time navigating the exchange, with special “concierge” services provided by insurers. And the Times noted that members of Congress can receive care from the attending physician to Congress, conveniently located in the U.S. Capitol, for an annual fee of $576.

Thus, lawmakers who could rest assured they would see little change to their own plans enacted massive, complicated, headache-inducing changes to the nation’s system of health-insurance plans.

For what it is worth, the president signed up symbolically:

Obama, who is on vacation in Hawaii, had a staffer do the heavy lifting for him, a White House official says. He had to be enrolled in person, in no small part because his personal information is not readily available in the variety of government databases uses to verify identities.

“The act of the president signing up for insurance coverage through the DC exchange is symbolic since the president’s health care will continue to be provided by the military,” the official added.

Obviously, President Obama is unlikely to ever argue with an insurance company over his family’s care; former presidents and their spouses are entitled to medical treatment in military hospitals, paying at rates set by the Office of Management and Budget.

Then there is progressives’ appetite for special exemptions for energy use. On the campaign trail in 2008, then-senator Obama envisioned a not-too-distant future in which every American would embrace personal sacrifices in the name of combatting climate change: “We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times . . . and then just expect that other countries are going to say ‘okay.’”

This bold statement was hypocritical in a general sense, as almost all Washington lawmakers spend perhaps 90 percent of their lives in climate-controlled bubbles — awakening in a nice air-conditioned or heated home, then driving (or being driven) in an air-conditioned or heated car to work in an air-conditioned or heated workplace. (Quite a few lawmakers travel in SUVs and eat as much as they want, too.) But then there’s the personal hypocrisy, as relayed by the New York Times:

Obama, who hates the cold, had cranked up the thermostat.

“He’s from Hawaii, O.K.?” said Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, who occupies the small but strategically located office next door to his boss. “He likes it warm. You could grow orchids in there.”

Progressives in the private sector also conclude that any amount of carbon emissions are okay, as long as you’re emitting them in the name of reducing carbon emissions: “While touting green technology, and lobbying the federal government on environmental policy, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, and Eric Schmidt have put 3.4 million miles on their private jets in recent years, polluting the atmosphere with 100 million pounds of carbon dioxide,” the Blaze reported.