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That’s some nice hope you got there, kid. I wouldn’t want to see anything bad happen to it.
That, increasingly, is the message peddled by those hoping to stop Barack Obama. You can see a recent manifestation here and here, but conservative commentators aren’t alone. It’s also the subtext of the campaign being waged against him by both Hillary Clinton and John McCain.
The warnings are ironic enough coming from Clinton (who married the man from Hope).
But McCain’s posturings are equally ironic, considering his self-described role as a foot-soldier in the Reagan revolution. If I recall, that was a revolution fueled by hope and optimism (morning in America, anyone?). McCain seems more at home playing the role of a crotchety Jimmy “malaise in America” Carter, pace “some jobs are never coming back,” “we’ll be in Iraq for 100 years.”
I guess one morning was enough for McCain.

So I was driving north on Interstate 83 this morning between York and Harrisburg when I noticed a large brown pickup truck. Yellow letters identified the vehicle as belonging to an “Espresso and Coffee Machine Repair Service.” There was a large extension ladder clamped on the roof. Must be some kickass coffee machines these guys have to repair.

Or, as my wife suggested, maybe he does the odd job on the side for which a ladder is necessary. I like to think the coffee machines in Central PA are far larger than you would expect.

The free market in health care will probably work a lot like the free market in college tuition and CEO salaries. But that probably doesn’t matter to ideologues who learn about the market from a textbook rather than the real world. I expect to see many people touting a free-market solution to health care between now and November.

In theory, the free market should work, of course. But one reason the free market works reasonably well in the field of, say, televisions, is that you can return one you don’t like and get a better one. The penalty for a bad decision is all on the seller (and could explain why store return policies are becoming stricter – returns are just one more place to control costs).

However, it is far more difficult to return a college education or a hip replacement. In fact, when it comes to the hip replacement, a botched job will only add to the costs, not to mention the pain.

Information will help the health-care consumer? I suppose, but consider all the sites ranking various televisions. There’s a ton of information, yet some people still end up disliking whatever set they buy.

Let’s take the absurdity a step further. Say I wake up in the middle of the night with chest pains. Are my first words going to be, “Honey, log onto the Internet and see which local hospital has the best record of dealing with heart attacks”? I’ll let you decide.

Who knew college tuition and CEO salaries could have so much in common, considering the antipathy between business and academia? Both tuition and CEO pay keep going up out of all proportion to the economic reality of the average person’s life. Why?

Because neither CEOs nor colleges (especially in the liberal arts) compete on price. They compete on a whole slew of intangibles that, taken together, never fail to suggest the same thing: the cost of any one college or CEO should fall somewhere in the middle to upper end of the scale.

This is a recipe for every college and CEO employer to up the ante every single year. After all, anyone at the bottom is immediately suspect. They are either a lousy CEO or a bad school.

By default, the most lucrative career choice would be college CEO.

Only someone living inside the Beltway, on the island or Manhattan, or anyplace else where white-collar bosses rule would have given Mitt Romney half a chance. I think elite Republicans like the president-as-CEO model and even deluded themselves into thinking that was the appeal of George W. Bush (hint: it wasn’t). The true aw-shucks Bush character in this race is Mike Huckabee.

On the Dem side, a Clinton supporter on NPR criticized Obama for always coming at Hillary from the right. Hmm. Let me get this straight. The Clintons, who tacked right for eight years (welfare reform, anyone?), are upset because someone is out-triangulating them? Boo hoo.

The greater irony is that this particular supporter proclaimed Clinton the practical idealist in the campaign, implying that Obama was an impractical idealist. That would be wonderful if Clinton’s practicality hadn’t so often led her to the right. So, again, I am a bit confused on why anyone would consider Clinton somehow to the left of anyone. Her positions are too amorphous for that, except maybe on health care. But I would imagine compromise will be necessary for her to do anything on that. So, if you hope to see Clinton’s plan enacted as outlined on her campaign web site, don’t call yourself a practical idealist — and don’t wait to see a doctor about that little growth on your neck.

The criticism of Obama may be valid insofar as his plans seem to lack specifics. But he seemed well up on details in the California debate.

Obama and John McCain succeed because they talk in terms of a purpose for their campaigns larger than enacting a laundry list of proposals.

I can’t wait until the show comes to Pennsylvania.