Monday, December 21, 2009

We'll Suffer from Obama's Self-indulgent Crusade to Seize the Liberal Holy Grail of "Universal Coverage"

Barack Obama's quest for historic health-care legislation has turned into a parody of leadership. We usually associate presidential leadership with the pursuit of goals that, though initially unpopular, serve America's long-term interests. Obama has reversed this. He's championing increasingly unpopular legislation that threatens the country's long-term interests. "This isn't about me," he likes to say, "I have great health insurance." But of course, it is about him: about the legacy he covets as the president who achieved "universal" health insurance. He'll be disappointed.

Even if Congress passes legislation -- a good bet -- the finished product will fall far short of Obama's extravagant promises. It will not cover everyone. It will not control costs. It will worsen the budget outlook. It will lead to higher taxes. It will disrupt how, or whether, companies provide insurance for their workers. As the real-life (as opposed to rhetorical) consequences unfold, they will rebut Obama's claim that he has "solved" the health-care problem. His reputation will suffer.

The various health-care proposals represent atrocious legislation. To be sure, they would provide insurance to 30 million or more Americans by 2019. People would enjoy more security. But even these gains must be qualified. Some of the newly insured will get healthier, but how many and by how much is unclear. The uninsured now receive 50 to 70 percent as much care as the insured. The administration argues that today's system has massive waste. If so, greater participation in the waste by the newly insured may not make them much better off.

So Obama's plan amounts to this: partial coverage of the uninsured; modest improvements (possibly) in their health; sizable budgetary costs worsening a bleak outlook; significant, unpredictable changes in insurance markets; weak spending control. This is a bad bargain. Health benefits are overstated, long-term economic costs understated. The country would be the worse for this legislation's passage. What it's become is an exercise in political symbolism: Obama's self-indulgent crusade to seize the liberal holy grail of "universal coverage." What it's not is leadership.

~Robert Samuelson in today's Washington Post

HT: Ron Adams


24 Comments:

At 12/21/2009 1:14 PM, Blogger Buce said...

But Carpe, this is very confusing. Everything I've read here over the past few months has led me to believe that the American (and perhaps the world) economy is so powerful, flexible, creative and resilient that absolutely nothing done by this or any other administration can throw it off track. Whom should I believe--Samuelson or you?

 
At 12/21/2009 1:22 PM, Anonymous gettingrational said...

A certain community organizer was recently lectured to by Sgt. Joe Friday and Detective Bill Gannon on this "self indulgent crusade".

 
At 12/21/2009 2:15 PM, Anonymous Benny The Man said...

A huge military of ossified fat, patronage and waste; an entirely unnecessary Department of Agriculture, and now a dubious national health insurance scheme.
We should cap federal outlays at 20percent of GDP, and let the pigs in DC fight over that share of the pie and no more.

 
At 12/21/2009 3:07 PM, Blogger Methinks said...

Obama and his posse are boils on the ass of humanity.

 
At 12/21/2009 3:54 PM, Blogger bob wright said...

Benny,
20% seems like an awful lot of money to give the DC politicians.

The military is one of the few legitimate functions of the federal government.

 
At 12/21/2009 3:57 PM, Blogger bob wright said...

I think we should sue our U.S. senators and congressmen for political malpractice.

If I ran my business the way they run the business of the U.S. government, I'd be in jail.

 
At 12/21/2009 4:21 PM, Blogger Methinks said...

Bob, if you traded on inside information the way the members of congress regularly trade on inside information, you'd be in jail. If you ran a ponzi scheme like Social Security, you'd be kickin' it in jail with Bernie Madoff. If you took bribes and breached fiduciary duty the way they do, you'd be in jail. You just have to remember that some animals are more equal than others. I'm sure that makes you feel much better.

 
At 12/21/2009 4:35 PM, Anonymous Machiavelli999 said...

Samuelson is a dope

http://alturl.com/xsnp

 
At 12/21/2009 4:46 PM, Anonymous Benny The Man said...

Bob-

Well, that is an interesting comment Bob--some of the founding fathers thought that national defense should fall on volunteer militias, formed at local and state level. The Constitution embodies that sentiment in the 2nd Amendment.

Be that as it may, even if we accept a permanent federal national armed force, is there a way to make it streamlined, with a force struicture that reflects the modern reality?

There is no nation-state on Earth with the slightest intention of launching an attack on the United States. There are some punk terrorists.

Can we forget about the Cold War and get the terrorists? For less than $800 billion a year?

 
At 12/21/2009 4:54 PM, Blogger bob wright said...

Benny,

Have you worked in the defense industry? Have you gazed upon a contract to build a weapons system to mil spec?

The only thing that should scare the hee-bee-gee-bees [spelling?] out of us is the 1.3B Chinese - more than half of which are male - many {most?] of which are young and full of vinegar.

 
At 12/21/2009 5:24 PM, Anonymous Lyle said...

Methinks: a Ponzi scheme requires that the scheme be hidden it never has been for social security. It was always an inter generational transfer program. If you run a scheme like a ponzi scheme but sell it as it truly is its not illegal, since everyone knows its a Ponzi scheme, and if they are foolish enough to invest in it then its their own tough luck.
Note that as compared to the past the bribes now go to the locals as compared to directly to the congressmen (see Credit Molbier and the CP railroad in the 1860s).
Legislation has always been made the way we see it being made, but in the past rose colored glasses where used on school children to hide the details of the sausage making. I was reading a book about the design of Wash DC in the 1790-1800 period and there was as much log rolling as now. In fact Washington DC itself is a product of log rolling, Hamilton agreed to it in exchange for the first bank of the US.

It is just that now the fun and games is exposed as compared to the past. Robert Merry on C-Spans Q&A last night was asked if politics is dirtier than in the past and he said it is not (He was commenting on a book he wrote on James K. Polk. It was dirty in 1790-1804, around Andrew Jackson, the Civil War and the run up to it as well as the Golden Age. But of course school history avoids a lot of that because it would not conform to the image of the country they desire to project.

 
At 12/21/2009 5:41 PM, Anonymous Benny The Man said...

Bob-

You make my point exactly.

Can we not cleverly adapt the incredible improvements made in private sector hardware for military use?

Why is the private sector racing far ahead of our military-industrial complex?

Cheaper, better, faster--except for military hardware, which gets more and more expensive. Too expensive to risk in battle, is one old saw.

The military we have now is not sustainable. It is way too expensive.

Like other federal spending, it needs to whacked back.

 
At 12/21/2009 6:25 PM, Blogger OA said...

Lyle said...
Methinks: a Ponzi scheme requires that the scheme be hidden it never has been for social security. It was always an inter generational transfer program. If you run a scheme like a ponzi scheme but sell it as it truly is its not illegal, since everyone knows its a Ponzi scheme, and if they are foolish enough to invest in it then its their own tough luck.


And if you force people into it, what is it then?

I'd doubt more than 30% of Americans can correctly explain the overall economics of Social Security. Like all those people who think they paid their share for Medicare, people think their SS money is set aside for them.

 
At 12/21/2009 6:32 PM, Blogger Methinks said...

Lyle, thanks for the thoughtful answer. Unfortunately, I don't remember being "sold" on social security. As I remember, I didn't have a choice. So, the fact that it's an open Ponzi scheme and there for "legal" does little to improve it for me. Murdering Jews was legal in Nazi Germany. Marrying 12 year old girls is legal in Iran. Laws, beyond rule of law, don't fool me into thinking that a reprehensible activity is somehow more correct and a benign activity less so.

I understand that politics is no dirtier now than it was in the past. However, the more powerful government becomes, the more intense the game and the more the serfs have to lose. That's the real change between today's government and historical government.

 
At 12/21/2009 9:06 PM, Blogger marketdoc said...

Make no mistake. Access to a waiting list is not the same as access to good healthcare.

 
At 12/21/2009 9:14 PM, Blogger marketdoc said...

Make no mistake. Access to a waiting list is not the same as access to good healthcare.

 
At 12/21/2009 9:51 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"The military is one of the few legitimate functions of the federal government"...

Well Bob Wright don't expect the pseudo benny to understand the Constitution, no one has read it to him...

Besides when the pseudo benny spews nonsense like this: "Why is the private sector racing far ahead of our military-industrial complex?" its obvious his grip on reality is obviously quite tenuous...

"Samuelson is a dope"...

Well mach999 considering the dopey things you say maybe Samuelson should feel flattered...

 
At 12/21/2009 10:20 PM, Anonymous Lyle said...

MeThinks you were not sold but your parents or grandparents were. I recall my grandfather opposed the social security (and all things FDR related). He was born in the 1890s so that was the generation that was sold social security. The facts have always been out there, but as with much in our society were not marketed. My parents regarded it as a way to help my other grandparents who where farmers, as there was a special deal in the 1940s to get social security if you paid in a small number of years. I suspect a number of folks in the WWII generation viewed it as a way to get help to their parents without the stigma of welfare.
For example until I went to the SS web site I did not find the concept of bend points which makes SS more of a welfare program (benefit is based on 90% of the first 900 a month, 32% from 901 to 3200 and 15% above that. )

 
At 12/21/2009 11:30 PM, Blogger Methinks said...

Lyle, I appreciate that your parents and grandparents were sold on the idea. However, mine weren't - I'm an immigrant. My grandparents were sold on whatever horse crap Stalin was brainwashing them with. And those who weren't we didn't hear from again. Anyway, I was forced to accept whatever your grandparents willingly accepted. It may not fit the narrow definition of a Ponzi scheme, but if your participation is coerced, I'd argue its even worse than a Ponzi scheme.

So, whether they were sold on it or not is irrelevant. How the supporters viewed forced redistribution is also irrelevant. Many people can't think beyond step one. That's a problem for everyone. The problem isn't that some people supported this government coercion but that those who didn't couldn't opt out.

and just so I don't have to start another post...

Marketdoc hit the nail smack on the head. Access to something that we'll call healthcare but which actually doesn't resemble anything anyone would recognize as health care today is pretty worthless. What exactly will these people have access to? Samuelson makes the mistake of assuming that the currently uninsured will get better health care than they do now. They will have even less access to an even worse product than they have now. If that makes them feel secure, then there are far more stupid people in the world than I thought (and I'm pretty cynical). Make no mistake. Under this system only the wealthy and the well connected with have access to health care but we will all be less wealthy and more desperate. This is what happens when the government tries to force one group of people to pay for another.

"The state is the great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else" - Bastiat

 
At 12/21/2009 11:48 PM, Anonymous Machiavelli999 said...

Well Bob Wright don't expect the pseudo benny to understand the Constitution, no one has read it to him...

Educate me juandos because you claim to know everything about the Constitution well here are a couple things from the Constitution:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, WHEN CALLED into the actual Service of the United States

That's Article 2, Section 2, Clause 1. That is the ONLY mention of the word army in the entire Constitution and it implies that the Army shall not be in perpetual service. To drive that point further, the Department of Defense was first called the Department of War because it was only during War that it should have had any purpose.

Now you might say now, "OK, mach, how ridicilous are you? You think we shouldn't have an army with all the threats in the world right now"

NO, I don't think that. But if you are going to wrap yourself in the Constitution to justify all your views you have to be consistent.

Let's see what else the Constitution says.

Congress shall have the power to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes

I don't think I am stretching it too much to say that what the Consitution means here in Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 is that it gives Congress the power to....well...regulate commerce?? Am I wrong? I mean it seems pretty clear to me. It's there in black & white.

And as for some historical backing, how long do you think it was from the time the US Constitution went into effect that the first National Bank was chartered by the US government. Was it years or generations after the Founding Fathers had died and their lessons long forgotten??

Nope. It was in year TWO! That's right, in year TWO of America under the US Constitution the US got involved in "economic manipulation".

So, don't go all high and mighty and pretend that the US Constitution and the Founding Fathers were all behind what you were doing. They are not. And if you disagree, then take your case to the Supreme Court, because according to the CONSTIUTION they are the only ones that have the power to interpret whether certain laws are constitutional or not, not YOU.

If you don't like that, then you don't like the Constitution.

 
At 12/21/2009 11:59 PM, Anonymous Machiavelli999 said...

Well mach999 considering the dopey things you say maybe Samuelson should feel flattered...

I am just trying to keep you consistent juandos. You act like you are some sort of libertarian idealogue, but like all other 'conservatives', you are not for limited government, you are for government doing things that you think it should do.

I love Ron Paul. Not cause I agree with him, but because he shows conservatives who wrap themselves in the Constitution, what a true libertarian constitutionalist is. He is very consistent and I could never accuse him of being a hypocrite.

But, if you, for example support all the overseas military adventures this country has been on, that's fine. You can make your case for it and we can argue it out. But don't turn around and then say the reason you are against health care reform is because its unconstitutional.

 
At 12/22/2009 2:14 AM, Blogger W.E. Heasley said...

Machiavelli999, Methinks, Lyle, OA, Juandos, Benny, and Wright:

You all make interesting points.

(1) The “Common Defense” is clearly discussed in the Federalist Papers. Try that as source/reference that lead up to the reference of the Common Defense within the Constitution,

(1a) Defense Spending is not the problem. Entitlements are the problem,

(2) Social Security was debated in the 1930’s as a fully funded program or a pay as you go program aka Ponzi Scheme. The fully funded program idea lost out as it was determined the US Government would eventually be the country’s largest stockholder and that was a bad idea as the Government would control too much of the market,

Robert Samuelson is correct in his article. The Legislation is not addressing cost, its merely addressing Price leading into a Price Control Scheme. The bill is full of really poor economics. However, bad economic ideas never die, they are merely recycled and sold to the gullible.

Finally, for Benny, here is a forgotten fact about Military Spending: its mainly domestic production and expenditure. That is, the vast majority of the Suppliers must be US based and that’s by law and based on the premise of National Security.

Benny, you will really enjoy this lost fact. Ronald Reagan went supply side with the aid of Art Laffer and the Laffer Curve. Yes Reagan cut taxes. However, Reagan also used Keynesian Style Deficit Government Spending in the background. Reagan knew that Protectionism is always a political stumbling block. Reagan also knew that Shovel Ready Projects are always available in the military (there are always a ton of projects in the pipeline awaiting funding within the military). Hence Reagan stimulated domestic production without criticism of Protectionism with immediately-ready-projects (aka shovel ready) by increasing military spending.

 
At 12/22/2009 9:14 AM, Blogger DB said...

"The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, WHEN CALLED into the actual Service of the United States"

It may come down to subtleties of puncutation and sentence form, but the phrase "when called into the actual service of the United States" may apply only to the "militia of the several states". The distinction required by that phrase may have been necessary only to clarify the call-up of the militia, since the "Army and Navy of the United States" would always be in service to the United States. Just a thought.

 
At 12/22/2009 10:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Hope" is trying to get re-elected... and "Change"? We'll have oodles of it... we just got marketed Pork by the Great Nobel One!

 

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