The Obamas Continue the English Reformation

The English Reformation was aptly described as a revolt of the rich against the poor. Henry basically gutted institutions that protect the poor and made sure the money went to him and his cronies. The English were taught to cheer for their oppressors as they got herded into cities and enjoyed the privilege of becoming the urban poor that Dickens would later chronicle. The Ruling Class made out like bandits. Because they were bandits.

And now, surprise!, we find that Michelle Obama’s Princeton classmate is executive at company that built Obamacare website.

Don’t worry. What they lack in elementary competence, they make up for in brazen chutzpah.

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  • Marthe Lépine

    Well, other news seem to show that the company in question made a mess of that particular website… It was a costly bad choice, certainly, and things like this tend to happen when proper contracting procedures are not followed.
    On a related subject, that line in your post: “The English were taught to cheer for their oppressors as they got herded into cities and enjoyed the privilege of becoming the urban poor” made me think… But it made me think about what is going on with labour issues in 3rd world countries. Some economists claim that it is better for people from Bangladesh, for example, to work in dangerous factories for an average of $1 a day or less, than to have no work at all. However, development organizations such as Development and Peace, in Canada, say that it would be better for the populations, and would constitute more sustainable development, to help people improve their lives where they are, and that small farms, for example, are better for the environment. It seems to me that your sentence that I quoted above could correctly be used to describe what is going on nowadays in many poor countries.
    Sorry for changing the course of your post, but I feel strongly about that issue and I would like your reaction.

    • JasperBuck

      Madame Lepine, have you read Deus Caritas Est by Benedict XVI? It’s not too long and is an easy read. Here’s a snippet, which will tie your observation and question back to Mr. Shea’s original topic:

      “Justice is both the aim and the intrinsic criterion of all politics. Politics is more than a mere mechanism for defining the rules of public life: its origin and its goal are found in justice, which by its very nature has to do with ethics. The State must inevitably face the question of how justice can be achieved here and now. But this presupposes an even more radical question: what is justice? The problem is one of practical reason; but if reason is to be exercised properly, it must undergo constant purification, since it can never be completely free of the danger of a certain ethical blindness caused by the dazzling effect of power and special interests.”

      • Dan C

        Justice in this sense, for Benedict goes into it extensively, is a type of restorative justice for the poor. That the poor receives their “just due” in Creation, those barriers and exclusions the rich have instituted that limit the poor’s access to work and Creation.

        Caritas in Veritate summarizes ideas that Benedict, as Ratzinger, did explicitly promulgate.

        • Forget restorative justice, the first step is to stop beating down the poor with inadequate protections for capital formation and property rights among them. Restorative justice comes after.

    • By all means do what is better and let the poor pick which alternative they want. What too often happens is that what is advocated is restricting the factories and never mind that the alternatives can’t handle the number of people who want a better life than subsistence farming and so you end up with the poor worse off.

      I had never heard of Development and Peace and just spent a little time reading through their stuff. It isn’t enough to analyse their position substantively and come to definite conclusion but certainly the tone and approach read like a lot of groups who were hippy dippy socialist and ultimately counterproductive in their interventions for the poor. The tone is somewhat alarming and I hope that their substance is better.

      • Marthe Lépine

        Thank you for this reply, I was actually thinking about you when I wrote my comment. And thanks for taking the time to check my source. Development and Peace has been started by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1967, and I happen to be the person responsible to present their viewpoints in my local parish. Personally, I like the approach towards sustainable development through small-scale projects that directly involve the affected people. The results might take longer to become clearly evident, but might be longer-lasting, and more people-oriented. Unlike a large mining operation that just moves somewhere else once the minerals are exhausted, leaving a huge hole in the ground for the local population to deal with. But I am not against factories, as long as people are free to choose to work in them, instead of being forced to move to cities against their will because their land and their villages are being taken over by foreign development with the blessing of corrupt governments. Maybe there could be a way to find a balance between the two kinds of development.

        • Poor countries pretty famously have inadequate property registration. It is one of the basic reasons why they are handicapped in the task of development.

          It is quite simple and vital to ask, who owns the land and pressure the government to reconcile the facts on the ground with their inaccurate filings at the central government. Once property is registered properly, it is much harder to expropriate and when it is done, generally there is much more compensation given.

          I had an enlightening conversation with the USGS once. I was doing temp work at Fortune magazine (paternity leave substitute if I recall correctly) and was bored out of my skull. I had run out of work to do and was basically there as a fireman in case of emergency. Killing time, I read a story about the US spending money for property to be registered in Romania and it was so goo goo optimistic that the article turned my stomach. There were two names given and I looked up the number and called. On the second call, I actually got through.

          I said to the fellow (it’s been going on 20 years so I’ve forgotten the name) that the Romanians in the government are no doubt robbing the US blind on this program as they are all neo-communists there. His response shocked me. It was “we know”. He explained that no matter how dilatory their efforts, how slow they did it, if they wanted to continue to get the money, they would have to show progress and eventually complete the work. At that point, they would never be communist again. A modern property registry fundamentally changes the political game and for the better.

          In your particular case, I would simply ask as part of the conversation, who owns the property and who does the government think owns the property. If it’s the same answer, then things are going well. If there’s a lot of evasion in the answer then you have a problem. Whatever else you are building is standing on foundations of sand. You need to fix that or it’s all going to come crashing down and be useless on a random schedule.

          • Marthe Lépine

            Actually, one of the projects financed through Development and Peace is supporting an organization in Cambodia that does just that: Help the people with the paperwork to get their properties properly registered…

            • Good for you! Highlight that story and you’ll get strange new respect and possibly support from unexpected sources. Good luck.

  • James

    Mr. Shea,
    You have it wrong. Obama does not continue the English Revolt. What happened during the English Revolt? The kings (Henry Viii and Edward vi) and queen Elizabeth stripped the Catholic Church of 2 aspects of their faith. One was their prayer (liturgies, prayer books) use of Latin in prayer, and external feasts. Secondly, he put himself as the head of the Church in England. Obama has not done any of that, except. He is child’s play compared to Henry. He has not attacked our liturgy or feast days, neither has he removed saints from the calendar. He has not told us to use the vernacular in place of Latin. Al these changes can’t from the runaway council–from our own church leaders. We have been made to look and pray as Protestants for 50 years, and our concern is Obama? We get the leaders we deserve. Since we slept at the helm from the wake of the 20th century and let ourselves be influenced by the world, our disregard has caught up with us. We must pray for a turning back of the liturgy and realize that without proper externals and internals, we will be fruitless in our prayers for good leaders to rule over us

    • What kind of “pray[ing] as Protestants” are you talking about?

      • chezami

        He can’t answer. I’m sick of Reactionary jerks attacking the Church.

        • All right. It’s your blog. But it’s less exhausting to have conversations here about what constitutes right prayer, than to have to endure Rorate Caeli, et al.

    • chezami

      Oh brother. Another Reactionary defending the Church from the Magisterium. Bye!

    • kenofken

      Obama is no Henry on a more fundamental level: The man clearly can’t eat roast ox the way Hank could! No true despot worth the name should be able to remember what his own feet look like!

    • Noah Doyle

      “without proper externals and internals, we will be fruitless in our prayers for good leaders to rule over us”

      Speaking as a Traddie, that’s crazy talk.

      • Andy, Bad Person

        Exactly. Good liturgy may help in the reception of grace, but it isn’t magic.

    • jaybird1951

      You ignored that Henry VIII also destroyed the monasteries, the sole source of medical care and education for the country folk and the poor, and handed their estates to his buddies.

  • Mary E.

    Also interesting is that CGI Federal was one of the 16 contractors who had been qualified for Health & Human Service’s ID/IQ expedited contracts in 2007, but apparently the only bidder for the lead role on the ACA website who was seriously considered by HHS. The more things “change,” the more they stay the same . . .

  • You know, the interesting thing about this is that people’s motivations don’t even need to be outright nefarious. If you have a big, complicated job to do, and you’re looking for a good contractor, what do you do? You go ask people you know, the people already in your address book. These are the people you’re friends with, so you’re reasonably confident they’re not going to take advantage of you. You know that these people have similar standards of what constitutes a job well done and how much things ought to cost, etc, so you know how much blame or praise to attach to them if things fail or succeed.

    If someone asked me to make a budget for a healthcare website, I wouldn’t have the foggiest clue how much it would cost. Hundreds of millions seems a bit high to me, but I’m just a high school humanities teacher. What do I know? The first thing I’d do for starters, though, is go to my friend who owns an IT company and ask him what he thought. I.e. I’d probably start out by seeking advice from my own friends in my own circle: exactly what the the president did.

    • JM1001

      The first thing I’d do for starters, though, is go to my friend who owns an IT company and ask him what he thought.

      A better analogy would be if you went to your friend who owns an IT company, while *other* IT companies also compete for the opportunity to give you paid advice.

      Oh, and your friend donates lots of money to your campaigns.

      They may not have “nefarious” motivations, but they obviously don’t care to avoid conflicts of interest.

      • Good point. People in power need to bend over backwards to avoid conflicts of interest, kind of like Feynman’s charge to scientists to be absolutely honest and go overboard in looking for potential problems with their own theories.

  • Elmwood

    the biggest malfeasance within our government bureaucracy is through contracting. what i see day to day on a small scale in my small government agency is magnified on a large scale throughout the government. Sole source contracting is how they accomplish this.

  • Stephen Sparrow

    Mark, that is a masterful thumbnail sketch of the English Reformation – Hilaire Belloc described it as “a rising of the rich against the poor.”

  • Robert R

    I’m making my shocked face. Its so funny seeing people comment on these threads always willing to go the extra mile to give this monster of a president the benefit of the doubt. And that’s exactly why this country deserves this president…because they were willing to overlook his obvious immorality (ya know he’s fine with third trimester abortions right?) because they were hoping that hope and change would equal a better financial situation for them. Well they get a worse economy, 17 trillion in debt, a horrible healthcare system etc…funny how that works. And don’t give me “but Bush…” He was bad but BO is worse.

    • Elmwood

      No, very few here give Obama any slack for being the most pro-abortion president in history. But many do recognize the stupidity of the GOP which paved the way for Obama to be our president.