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The Life of Julia: Obama’s Vision of a New America

by Victor Tolomeo | Georgetown University

F Posted in: News and Politics, Voices P Posted on: May 7, 2012
Victor Tolomeo Victor Tolomeo

“Half of what I say is meaningless,” sings John Lennon on ‘Julia,’ the last song on side two of “The Beatles.” In a presidential campaign, it’s probably closer to three-quarters.

Still, every once in a while, a candidate will say or do something that yields a kernel of insight. When President Obama’s campaign released “The Life of Julia,” an interactive slideshow following the effects of the President’s policies on a fictional woman named Julia from birth to old age, they showed us a glimpse of Obama’s vision of the future — and it’s a terrifying vision, at that.

The slideshow follows Julia throughout her entire life. To make a long story short, the government’s intimately involved at every stage, from preschool to the later years of retirement. What’s more striking, though, is the extent of that involvement. Julia doesn’t just get a helping hand along the way; she’s entirely dependent on government programs for everything in her life.

For example, it’s implied she only succeeds in grammar school because of President Obama’s support for Head Start programs. She only goes to college because of government loans and the “Race to the Top” program, which magically allows her high school to offer the exact classes she needs to take to do well later. Note: There are two problematic assumptions present here, first that everyone should or needs to go to college, and second, that the point of education is preparation for a future career.

Once she’s graduated, Obamacare pays for her birth control, seemingly because without it she could never be free to focus on her career. The slideshow ends with an elderly Julia volunteering at a community garden, safe in the knowledge that after paying into Social Security her whole life she’ll receive a monthly check to cover her expenses.

I could devote an entire column to each of the scenarios presented in the slideshow, but I won’t. Instead I’ll focus on two of the most glaring problems, and then look at the broader implications. First, the idea that the federal government can solve the problems with our education system by imposing a generic set of standardized testing requirements on public schools across the country is bogus. Test scores aren’t always an accurate measure of future success or present achievement.

Likewise, simply mandating schools offer certain “college and career-ready” courses is no guarantee those classes and instructors will impart anything useful to the students. If Julia’s lucky enough to live in a high-performing school district, chances are she’ll succeed. If she doesn’t, it will be significantly harder, college and career-ready standards or not. The answer to the problem is to give students and parents who can’t or won’t pay for a private education some choice in the matter. A voucher system, together with vigorous support for charter schools, would do much more to fix the flaws in our education system than any standardized testing regime ever could.

Second, the claim that Medicare and Social Security will still be around for Julia if they’re allowed to stay on their present course is simply untrue. They were designed decades ago for a different, younger population in which the number of workers far exceeded the number of seniors drawing benefits. We live in a different society today, and unless Medicare and Social Security are overhauled soon, neither Julia, myself or any of today’s young people will ever see a dime from either program in our old age. That’s not partisan scare-tactics. It’s the cold, hard truth, and President Obama seems oblivious to it.

I could continue, but the minutiae of each slide aren’t the most important elements to The Life of Julia. No, what’s much more interesting is that the Obama campaign has woven the story of a woman who doesn’t just benefit from Obama’s agenda. Instead, she’s totally dependent on it. What’s more, this is presented as a good thing, something the President thinks will win him support.

“The Life of Julia” may well be one of the most substantive expressions of the President’s vision for the future that we have seen so far. It’s a vision of a government that’s present at and intimately involved in every major life decision someone could make. But why? Why would the President want that sort of governmental overreach?

The answer has to do with the philosophy that underpins much of the modern left’s thought. It’s a disordered philosophy, one that subscribes to the notion that evil arises in society because of deficiencies or a lack of material and physical goods. In other words, people do bad things because of external causes.

If a person believes this, then it’s entirely logical for him to conclude that if the state can influence those causes, evil can be removed from society. The result is a government that thinks it can create utopia simply by redistributing goods. The problem is, the source of evil isn’t in external causes, but in internal processes. Evil arises when human will revolts from human reason. It’s been said that man is the only thing in the universe that is good but can be otherwise — evil, therefore, arises from within us, not from the outside.

This is the lesson of Plato, of Aristotle, of Cicero, of the Bible, of Hobbes and even of Nietzsche in a way. If it weren’t true, then the poor would be incapable of doing good and the rich of doing evil. We know this isn’t the case from a simple observation of the daily headlines.

Unfortunately, President Obama and many members of the Democratic Party today appear to subscribe to that disordered philosophy. They believe the world is created in injustice, and the role of the state is to rectify all the injustice they see. Once it’s eliminated, a more perfect society will emerge. The elimination of the injustice is the justification for the expansion of government.

We must remember however, that John Adams held that the state must allow some wrongs to go unpunished, for if it did not, if it believed its mission was to right all wrongs, then the road to totalitarianism would be very short. Politics must be limited. It cannot be the highest thing. The President would do well to remember that as we continue into the election season.

Victor Tolomeo Victor Tolomeo Victor Tolomeo is a student at Georgetown University. He lives in Sacramento, California.

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