You going to believe me or your lying eyes?

The debate over the ???public option??? in health care has been dismaying in many ways. Perhaps the most depressing aspect for progressives, however, has been the extent to which opponents of greater choice in health care have gained traction ??? in Congress, if not with the broader public ??? simply by repeating, over and over again, that the public option would be, horrors, a government program.

Washington, it seems, is still ruled by Reaganism ??? by an ideology that says government intervention is always bad, and leaving the private sector to its own devices is always good.

Call me na??ve, but I actually hoped that the failure of Reaganism in practice would kill it. It turns out, however, to be a zombie doctrine: even though it should be dead, it keeps on coming.

Let???s talk for a moment about why the age of Reagan should be over.

First of all, even before the current crisis Reaganomics had failed to deliver what it promised. Remember how lower taxes on high incomes and deregulation that unleashed the ???magic of the marketplace??? were supposed to lead to dramatically better outcomes for everyone? Well, it didn???t happen.

To be sure, the wealthy benefited enormously: the real incomes of the top .01 percent of Americans rose sevenfold between 1980 and 2007. But the real income of the median family rose only 22 percent, less than a third its growth over the previous 27 years.

Moreover, most of whatever gains ordinary Americans achieved came during the Clinton years. President George W. Bush, who had the distinction of being the first Reaganite president to also have a fully Republican Congress, also had the distinction of presiding over the first administration since Herbert Hoover in which the typical family failed to see any significant income gains.

And then there???s the small matter of the worst recession since the 1930s.

There???s a lot to be said about the financial disaster of the last two years, but the short version is simple: politicians in the thrall of Reaganite ideology dismantled the New Deal regulations that had prevented banking crises for half a century, believing that financial markets could take care of themselves. The effect was to make the financial system vulnerable to a 1930s-style crisis ??? and the crisis came.

???We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals,??? said Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1937. ???We know now that it is bad economics.??? And last year we learned that lesson all over again.

Or did we? The astonishing thing about the current political scene is the extent to which nothing has changed.

The debate over the public option has, as I said, been depressing in its inanity. Opponents of the option ??? not just Republicans, but Democrats like Senator Kent Conrad and Senator Ben Nelson ??? have offered no coherent arguments against it. Mr. Nelson has warned ominously that if the option were available, Americans would choose it over private insurance ??? which he treats as a self-evidently bad thing, rather than as what should happen if the government plan was, in fact, better than what private insurers offer.

But it???s much the same on other fronts. Efforts to strengthen bank regulation appear to be losing steam, as opponents of reform declare that more regulation would lead to less financial innovation ??? this just months after the wonders of innovation brought our financial system to the edge of collapse, a collapse that was averted only with huge infusions of taxpayer funds.

So why won???t these zombie ideas die?

Part of the answer is that there???s a lot of money behind them. ???It is difficult to get a man to understand something,??? said Upton Sinclair, ???when his salary??? ??? or, I would add, his campaign contributions ??? ???depend upon his not understanding it.??? In particular, vast amounts of insurance industry money have been flowing to obstructionist Democrats like Mr. Nelson and Senator Max Baucus, whose Gang of Six negotiations have been a crucial roadblock to legislation.

But some of the blame also must rest with President Obama, who famously praised Reagan during the Democratic primary, and hasn???t used the bully pulpit to confront government-is-bad fundamentalism. That???s ironic, in a way, since a large part of what made Reagan so effective, for better or for worse, was the fact that he sought to change America???s thinking as well as its tax code.

How will this all work out? I don???t know. But it???s hard to avoid the sense that a crucial opportunity is being missed, that we???re at what should be a turning point but are failing to make the turn.

I never had much faith in Obama — his abandonment of fundamental civil rights in voting for telecom immunity for illegal wiretaps pretty much took care of that — but Prof. Krugman is keying in on something that’s been bugging me that I can’t put my finger on.

Is America ever going to figure out that Ronald Reagan was full of crap? That “screw you, I got mine” isn’t a political philosophy as much as it is a potty training issue?

I’ve often thought that “A Bug’s Life” is one of the most politically subversive movies ever made, whether the maker’s intended it or not. I wonder what it’s going to take for the ants in this country to wake up? I’m starting to think it’ll never happen.

What’s it going to take?

Us boys and our toys

Last weekend Carla and I were in Indianapolis to celebrate my new job.  We’d planned to meet our friends Annette, Joe, and Kyle Dvorak to see Kyle race in an ADRL Jr. Pro drag racing meet.  What wasn’t planned was Carla encouraging me to by a new camcorder.  A couple of trips to Fry’s — which we don’t have in Cincinnati unfortunately — and I had my new toy: a Canon HF S10 camcorder. 64 GB solid-state memory (32 internal, 32 via an SD card), 27 mbit/sec AVCHD native recording, nearly 9 megapixel pickup, zebra bars, full manual overrides for just about everything, internal lens cap, and all in a package about the size of a overstuffed hotdog bun.

After putting as much charge on the battery as I could, and barely reading the manual, we took of for the O’Reilly Raceway Park, which Joe was astonished to learn wasn’t the same as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (same side of town, but several miles apart).  I knew Kyle had been racing these for a few years, but this was the first time I’d seen it in person.  To say I was impressed is an understatement.  I’m going to have to brush off some rusty videography skills because this is a camera to grow into, but I hope this video gives some sense of how cool these cars — and the young people who race them — really are

Take me to the river

The Big River Brewery in Chattanooga, TN. Carla and I are here for the Southern Brewer’s Festival tomorrow (live blogging inevitably at http://www.hoperatives.com). We’re warming up at the festival sponsor’s mothership, the Big River downtown. We came last year and had a blast. This is their Summer Wheat. Light and bubbly with a little clove and other spices. Nice on a muggy night like tonight.

Cool photo of helicopter taking off

This one’s for you, Paul T. Stay safe.

Originally found on kottke.org.