Politics & Society
July Tue 28, 2009
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Am I the only one getting tired of this line of argument: Inaction is not an option, doing something is better than doing nothing, and then proceeding to enact legislation (written by Congress) that does not solve the problem on which doing nothing was not an option, but is outrageously expensive?
How about, first do no harm? We need health care reform, just like we needed an economic stimulus. However, we did not need the stimulus that was enacted. Do we need what is being offered for health care? One thing that was sold this way, but that we did not need, was Hammerin' Hank's TARP!
I am in favor of all people in the U.S. having access to quality, affordable health care. The Massachusetts model, a variation of which is what is being proposed, is failing because it did nothing to lower health care costs. The rising cost of health care, the increasing amount of GDP it is consuming, is the root of the problem. All of us need to ask what is being done on that front. The meetings the administration has held to extract promises to lower cost are mere hand-shake agreements for public opinion purposes, they are not binding.
As California, which, along with Texas on the opposite end of the political spectrum, is a laboratory for experiments in bad government, is finding out, raising taxes during a recession actually leads to declining government revenues because, in many cases, the tax increase is the straw that breaks the camel's back. So, while soaking the rich to pay for health care may appeal to the populist in all of us, raising their marginal rates higher than what the wealthy pay in places like Denmark, France, etc. will further impede economic growth and lead to a longer recession. Far from reducing the drag of health care on the economy, such a move arguably increases it.
Writing in the NY Times yesterday, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, in a column called Costs and Compassion, cuts to the chase: "As a practical, political matter... controlling health care costs and expanding health care access aren’t opposing alternatives — you have to do both, or neither." It is easy forget that right now the U.S. spends more per capita on health care than any other country. It seems to me the goal should be achieving universal coverage without spending one dime more than we currently spend in the aggregate. Here's a question, can we achieve universal coverage and spend less? That's a good question for the president and members of Congress.
In his Monday Times column, David Brooks offers a plausible diagnosis of what is happening politically: Liberal Suicide March. He is correct to state that any hope lies with the so-called Blue Dog Democrats. "These brave moderates are trying to restrain the fiscal explosion. But moderates inherently lack seniority (they are from swing districts). They are usually bought off by leadership at the end of the day. And so here we are again. Every new majority overinterprets its mandate. We’ve been here before. We’ll be here again."
One of the diplomatic failures experienced by the president himself, was when several European countries, Germany being the most prominent, refused to pass reckless stimulus legislation at his behest because they were thinking up-front about the incurred debt. At some point, those currently in power have to realize that truth of what economist Milton Friedman said when he averred that there are no free lunches. As a country, we are paying for everything on one big, collective credit card. Instead of economic stimulus to help those whose lives have been negatively impacted, those in power seem content to buy another round of drinks for their friends, leaving us to pick up the tab.
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