"The Big Cover" of Government Solutions UPDATED

Winter is promising to be a home-heating oil budget-buster and so my husband and I have taken to turning down the thermostat and wearing bulky sweaters all day. I never feel completely warm, though, and last night, as we tried to watch a movie, he had to listen to the Greek Chorus of the Winter of my Discontent:

“Brrr; I’m cold,” I said.

He tossed an afghan my way.

A little later: “Why is it so cold in here?”

Another afghan.


Finally, feeling chilled to the bone, I announced that the movie (All the Colors of Paradise) was beautiful and sad and wonderful, but that I’d had enough fun shivering and was headed to bed.

“Why don’t you put the big cover on the bed, if you’re so cold,” my husband called after me.

“I tell ye I won’t do it!” I called back.

“The big cover” is for us like “the big knife” in Moonstruck; the tool of last resort in a cold, ice-hard world. It is an enormous, puffy comforter that weighs a ton. You lay “the big cover” on the bed, and you finally get warm, but nothing is ever quite right again. The big cover is not subtle; it knows no nuance. It does not take a variable into consideration. Rather, utilizing the big cover means constant adjustments on our part.

Under the big cover, cuddling gets clammy, and so you sleep apart. The reasonable flannels one wears in winter become unbearably warm, and so you bring out the unreasonable, inappropriate summer sleepwear and beneath the big cover you are mostly comfortable. You can even cuddle, a little.

But if you have to get up in the middle of the night to visit the bathroom or get a glass of water, the summer threads in a 60 degree house make you giddy with cold. You jump back into bed, and your now-chilled body hits your spouse like ice-water thrown into a hot shower. There is jumping and shrieking and no one is happy until the big cover gets back into place, and the shivers subside.

It struck me last night that “the big cover” is sort of like “big government.” It is a deleterious slab of a “solution” that suffocates us unless we adapt to it, and in truth make ourselves rather uncomfortable in order to accommodate it; once we lay the all-encompassing big cover on the bed, nothing is ever “just right” again.

If we could just let the furnace–which is new, energy-efficient and sort of the “engine” of the house–do its job and heat our not-large rooms to more comfortable levels, we could get by with light sweaters, still conserve energy in relation to past years, and keep the big cover packed in cedar.

But no, our furnace–just like the “engine” of our economy, which is business–is currently doing less than it is capable of doing. Like our economy, it is less energetic, and we are less comfortable, because we are afraid to let it run at full throttle. Like small businesses all over the country, we are experiencing a frigid season, one where we cannot feel comfortable about tomorrow’s bills; we are holding on to our money, so we are not “hiring” as much oil.

And that means breaking out the big cover. It is a dubious solution–a vastly imperfect one–and using it does not solve the problems that are making us reluctant to fire up the engine of the house and get things warm and toasty around here.

It feels like the big chill is winning.

UPDATE: Apparently the first lady is warm enough for bare arms.

I do love the dress, though.

takes away the highpoints from an unemployment report that looks demoralizing.

Key takeaways:

1) Mechanisms for people to reenter the workforce have collapsed.

2) “it has never been more likely than it is now for the unemployed to leave the
labor force over finding a job in the labor market. This is a brand new phenomenon in this recession.”

Read at your own risk!

Tax extension bill passed and by a wider margin than expected.

Ed Morrissey: A big win for whom?

Surber: UK provides potent reminder to the GOP

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Elites Begat Obamacare

Michael Gerson: Obama, a quarrelsome ally and a dismissive foe

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://zachriel.blogspot.com/2005/07/liberal-v-conservative.html Zachriel

    Majid Majidi’s The Color of Paradise is a beautiful Iranian film. Majid Majidi also did the excellent Children of Heaven.

    The last chapter of the movie is called “Miracle” and is somewhat ambiguous. According to Majidi, the boy lives at the end, the miracle being the father’s salvation.

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  • http://www.kathleenscatholic.blogspot.com Kathleen’s Catholic

    Excellent! Funny yet true in so many ways. Thank you.

  • Mandy

    Excellent commentary. As I sit here wearing a pair of jeans, turtle neck and sweater in a room with a space heater while the old oil heater is running for now, I wonder how comfortable our leaders were last night in the capitol building while they determined our fate. Having to budget this winter for heating bills and electricity bills that will surely skyrocket is not comforting. But this is of no concern of our “leaders” as they plot to spend the money this country must borrow from China.

    [Good point. I notice none of them are wearing sweaters, and the first lady is forever in bare arms -admin]

  • dry valleys

    If the NHS is so bad, why aren’t outraged Britons demanding that it be dismantled? These headlines you can quote are generally written on the premise that the system should be better, not that it shouldn’t exist.

    When even David Camoron (whose “lessons” in slashing the state I don’t think anyone will be wanting to learn when the results come through) respects the institution, you start wondering whether it’s really an institution of modern-day slavery.

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  • http://www.savkobabe.blogspot.com Gayle Miller

    Elizabeth – you and your hubby need to get some of those microfiber sheets. My sister and I call them marshmallow sheets. They are soft and very warm and do not deposit any additional weight on a sleeping person. Believe me, they are worth every penny they cost. But then, I’m sitting here sipping the Cowboy blend of Mystic Monk coffee out of the new Christmas mug, blissfully warm in my energy efficient, all electric home. To my astonishment, my electric bill has pretty much stayed below $100 year round!

    Why doesn’t that failed economist in the White House lift the ban on offshore drilling. Then the cost of heating oil would drop to a reasonable level!

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  • Paleocelta

    Speaking of bare arms, have you noticed the deplorable trend of bare legs and miniskirts in winter? Brrrrrrrrr.

  • Stephanie

    lol- some of us like the big cover ;-). I love snuggling undermine-anice big warm down comforter.

  • Susan

    Re: Dry Valley’s comment:

    “If the NHS is so bad, why aren’t outraged Britons demanding that it be dismantled?”

    Probably because very few people remember privatized medicine for the general public? Let’s look at some history:

    The first system of socialized medicine based on compulsory insurance with state subsidy was created by Otto von Bismarck after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Socialized health care was implemented by the Soviet Union in the 1920s. After World War II in the 1940s the United Kingdom established its National Health Service, which was built from the outset as a comprehensive service, and most of Europe followed suit in the immediate post-war years with systems varying from universal insurance coverage funded by the state, to universal healthcare provision by the state.

    The Marshall Plan (officially the European Recovery Program, ERP) was the primary program, 1947–51, of the United States for rebuilding and creating a stronger economic foundation for the countries of Europe. By 1952 as the funding ended, the economy of every participant state had surpassed pre-war levels; for all Marshall plan recipients, output in 1951 was 35% higher than in 1938. Over the next two decades, Western Europe enjoyed unprecedented growth and prosperity. The political effects of the Marshall Plan may have been just as important as the economic ones. Marshall Plan aid allowed the nations of Western Europe to relax austerity measures and rationing, reducing discontent and bringing political stability.

    Most of the participating ERP governments were aware from the beginning that they would never have to return the counterpart fund money to the U.S.; it was eventually absorbed into their national budgets and “disappeared”. Originally the total American aid to Germany (in contrast to grants given to other countries in Europe) had to be repaid. But under the London debts agreement of 1953, the repayable amount was reduced to about $1 billion. The total of American grants and loans to the world between 1945–53, came to $44.3 billion.

    So, as you can see, socialized medicine in the U.K began shortly after WWII. Europe received a great deal of free money and their economies were growing. At that time, they could afford these national health programs. Now, the social democracies in Europe are imploding financially and finding that they cannot afford to continue all of the different expensive subsidy programs. For the last 60 years they have had socialized medicine. Yet, the wealthy citizens in Europe choose to go to private clinics for their medical care. If socialized medicine is so good, why do the wealthy seek out privatized medicine for themselves and their families?

    I’m not sure how much longer the NHS will last in the U.K. It’s being changed because it is unsustainable. Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron has proposed some of the most sweeping changes to the country’s National Health Service in its history. The government says the changes are designed to give doctors more say in running the NHS, and patients more freedom of choice. But critics point out that NHS doctors will be allowed to take more private patients, and some hospitals will be allowed to opt out of the NHS entirely — raising the possibility that U.S. HMOs might come in to fill the vacuum.

    It certainly looks like socialized medicine is on the decline in Europe and it looks like it is probably on it’s way out. The U.S. can learn from Europe, but Obama seems to be stuck in the 1970′s with a mentality that wants to go back and fight the cold war with the Soviet Union and other such antics. I’m glad we will finally have a congress to curb his foolishness next year.

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