Political Inequality: Residents of Washington are Different from the Rest of Us

America is a class-based society. Based on politics, not economics. An elite political class runs the state to their benefit. The rest of us pay the bill.

The differences between the assumptions and values of people within and without Washington’s 68 square miles of fantasy long have been on ostentatious display. The Democrats’ health care “reform” has become the latest example, offering tender treatment for those in the capital who approved the measure despite opposition from those outside the capital.

Critics of ObamaCare successfully pushed an amendment requiring congressmen and congressional staffers to purchase their health insurance through the new government exchanges. Being tossed from their special plans meant the end of federal subsidies, which run $5000 annually for individuals and $11,000 for families.

The new rule was meant to diffuse the anger of tens of millions of Americans who were forced to change plans and pay more for health care coverage. No surprise, residents of Capitol Hill were not happy. Alas, it wouldn’t look good to voters if Congress now enacted a special exemption. So without any legal authority, President Barack Obama maintained existing federal contributions.

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) observed:  “There’s no question it was the right thing to do. Not just for me, but for my staff. Heavens, I have staff who don’t make much money. This would be a really big bite for them.”

Too bad the president didn’t similarly step in to ensure that the rest of us won’t have to suffer “a really big bite” from ObamaCare.

It is no surprise that Democrats who supported the legislation backed this sub rosa subsidy. However, Republicans, who unanimously opposed the bill, also supported the illegal “fix.”

The GOP would win political points pushing a repeal amendment. But more important is getting a big federal “contribution.”  Noted my Cato Institute colleague Michael Cannon: “it appears the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have negotiated a truce on this issue.” 

A similar difference in perspective afflicts foreign policy. Elites long have believed in sending average people off in constant wars, invasions, and occupations. Average people always are less enthused about being sent off to do endless battle.

Syria is the latest example. Secretary of State John Kerry, a veteran who opposed the Vietnam War, has turned global crusader. He has been joined by Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama. The incessantly bombastic Republican uber-hawks, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, are even more insistent.

Normally the public is simply ignored. However, this time the president tossed the decision to Congress, causing opposition to erupt. Most legislators quickly arrayed themselves against the administration. 

Yet, as I pointed out in my American Spectator online article:

some elites, such as Sen. McCain, perhaps the Senate’s most hawkish member, then said that the president should go ahead and bomb even without congressional authorization.  Why should the Constitution, people’s elected representatives, or general public opinion matter? Some people, like those who populate Washington, are to rule.

Finally, thank America’s bipartisan paternalistic elite for killing the common incandescent light bulb, which disappeared into history on January 1. 

Compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs, and light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, are more efficient than incandescents, but average people are less interested in spending $20 or $30 on a bulb, especially CFLs, which are slow to light, give off a dull glow, and create a mercury-laced toxic waste dump if broken. So George W. Bush and the Democratic Congress joined to ban the time-tested favorite.

Rather than thanking Washington, many people stocked up on the disappearing incandescent bulbs as January 1st loomed. Indeed, my basement is filled with a lifetime supply.

The wide gap between the political and working classes is not an argument for a populist democracy, but a constitutional republic in which government’s power is limited and individual liberties are protected. Elites always will enjoy disproportionate influence. However, restraining government will limit their ability to rule over the rest of us.