Chinese laborers who help to build the transcontinental railroad in the 19th century introduced Americans to a pain relieving salve made from snake oil.
Imitators popped up all across the western states, traveling peddlers who hawked all kinds of phony concoctions which supposedly contained snake oil and were good for whatever ailment you had.
Snake oil salesmen were shameless frauds who made preposterous claims, often invented on the spur of the moment. They usually had a shill in the audience who would loudly affirm every miraculous cure the hustler described.
And so the phrase “snake oil salesman” became a staple in American culture.
He was a regular character in all the cowboy shoot-out movies.
Perhaps the most celebrated arch type of the snake oil salesman was Professor Harold Hill in the musical comedy, “Music Man.” A likable scalawag, Hill managed to bamboozle the whole town of River City with fast talk, big promises and superficial charm.
Move over, Robert Preston. You have just been replaced by Barack Obama.
Yesterday, the American people were treated to the most brazen snake oil pitch ever delivered from the back of a chuck wagon or from the oval office.
Faced with a nationwide uprising of Catholics over his insistence that all employers provide health insurance which includes birth control pills, the President went on national television and announced that his administration had come up with a compromise solution.
With a perfectly straight face and a confident air of benign authority, Mr. Obama told us that objecting employers would no longer be required to pay for birth control.
No sir, the employers will not be required to pay for something their religious conviction forbids.
The insurance companies will.
Catholic employers were complaining because they were being required to carry insurance that covered birth control. They were never going to pay for the pills directly. The insurance companies were always going to be the ones to write the check.
Before Obama opened his mouth yesterday, employers were complaining about what their mandated health care insurance was going to pay for.
The snake oil President came up with a wonderful “compromise” solution.
He tells Archbishop Dolan, “You don’t have to pay for it.” Of course, you still have to carry insurance. And the insurance company still has to pay for birth control pills.
Exactly where, Mr. President, is the insurance company going to get the money to pay for the birth control pills?
Insurance companies get their money by charging premiums to their customers. They figure out how much to charge by keeping track of how much they have to pay out in benefits.
So now the actuaries and the accountants who work for the insurance companies can’t have a line item called “birth control benefits.” Birth control pills are a freebee. So put it under “miscellaneous.”
Or whatever. But the cost of birth control pills isn’t going to come out of insurance company profits. Even the President of the United States can’t make that happen.
No sir. The Catholic hospitals are still going to pay the premiums, and the premiums are still going to cover birth control pills.
America has heard the White House snake oil pitch.
Now it’s time for all the loyal shills in the audience to start cheering.