Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Magic Beans of ObamaCare

The Democrats controlling the U.S. Congress are ready to trade the worn-out cow of economic sanity for the magic beans of ObamaCare. For many of us, like silly Jack, magical thinking transcends good sense and a hopeful and enticing story is enough to persuade. Leading us along down this road, are our representatives, and others with a callous will to power and political advantage.

The story is that the American "healthcare" system is "broken" and can only be fixed by falling one and all, into the welcoming arms of the federal government. As has become customary, the government will use private businesses to the greatest degree possible to implement their plans, just as they currently compel them to be their (uncompensated) revenue collectors and record keepers for sales, income and excise taxes to fund everyday government operations. Yet the proposed government plan can only claim success by virtue of adding more regulation.

Nominally accounting for some 20-30% of the current "healthcare" costs are the salaries of paper shufflers inside the care providers' offices who send (meaningless) invoices to patients, while at the same time processing claims upon their patients' insurance policies, all of which makes the satisfaction of a medical bill a lengthy process. These workers, while dedicated & skillful at what they do, are drawing-off some very big money which adds substantially to the cost of insurance premiums, without ever providing a lick of actual "healthcare" themselves. In addition, there are the government bureaucrats in their thousands, who, at every level, spend their lives as the polar opposites of their private counterparts, sorting, approving, collating and monitoring their reports. They, in turn, report to their current legislative and executive political wings who never stop creating evermore time-swallowing procedural mandates and substantive regulations requiring timely compliance from medical practitioners within the ever-larger loop they create. All government-driven costs.

Add to that the extra 10% or 15% Americans pay for all of the medical research and development financed by American medical device and drug companies that off-shore socialized governments don't perform but benefit from, and another 10% or so for individual state-mandated coverages, plus the aging, litigious, and increasingly risk-averse U.S. population that expects to live forever at any cost, (taking their treatments in the new standard marble-and-oak-paneled clinics and hospitals), and there you have the reasons that the healthcare sector is marauding through the U.S. economy and fast gobbling-up the rest of it. Not to mention the small army of actuaries and attorneys at $200K per year, both in and out of government, that are milking the system on a daily basis.

Lost somewhere in that cacophony of compliance behaviors, lawsuits, marketing costs and paper-pushing are the patients, their doctors and their nurses. Much of the conundrum is a direct result of the legal, financial and social interventions of today's government policies and prescriptions imposed upon the business of doctoring and patient care. So, as is typically the case in Washington, the solution for bad government today is even more government tomorrow.

As Mark Steyn has put it:
Well, says the president, shuffling his cups and moving the pea under another shell, we’re spending too much on health care. By “we’re,” he means you and you and you and you and millions of other Americans making individual choices over which he casually claims collective jurisdiction.

And that, ultimately, gets closer than anything else he says to giving the game away. For most of the previous presidency, the Left accused George W. Bush of using 9/11 as a pretext to attack Iraq. Since January, his successor has used the economic slump as a pretext to “reform” health care. Most voters don’t buy it: They see it as Obama’s “war of choice,” and the more frantically he talks about it as a matter of urgency the weirder it seems. If he’s having difficulty selling it, that’s because it’s not about “health.” As I’ve written before, the appeal of this issue to him and to Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank, et al., is that governmentalization of health care is the fastest way to a permanent left-of-center political culture — one in which elections are always fought on the Left’s issues and on the Left’s terms, and in which “conservative” parties no longer talk about small government and individual liberty but find themselves retreating to one last pitiful rationale: that they can run the left-wing state more effectively than the Left can. Listen to your average British Tory or French Gaullist on the campaign trail pledging to “deliver” government services more “efficiently.”
When Jack finally climbs his beanstalk, ascending into the clouds, the giant he finds there will be a leviathan federal government, devouring everything it can grasp. And Jack will hear the giant bellowing as it bears down upon him, as children have heard since long ago, "Be he alive or be he dead, I'll grind his bones to make my bread..."

And that's what passes for "heathcare" reform under this Congress and this administration.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The enigma that is Barack Obama grows day by day. Contradiction after contradiction, abrupt gear shifts, perpetual motion that never reaches a destination. 'Obscene' Wall Street bonuses suddenly transmute into well earned rewards for a good guy golfing buddy; the imperative to act boldly on the jobs crisis means placing it the callous hands of Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley of health care fame; the plotting of exit strategies from Afghanistan by 2011 becomes a 'long as we have to' occupation. All these contrapuntal reversals against a sound track of non-stop exhortation and a restless shuttling from one photo-op to another. Who is this guy, anyway?

A few elements of Obama's personality are now evident: a strong narcissistic streak, an ingrained sense of superiority, a nimbleness - intellectual and political - enabled by the incredible lightness of his conviction about anything, an audacious ambition yet no gumption for a fight. Behind these traits, there is something even more basic discernible. Obama is two people, one superimposed on the other. The visible, surface man is the epitome of an enlightened, Ivy League, socially responsible liberal. This is Obama the community organizer (albeit an exceptionally non-confrontational one), Obama the African American political activist who attends Jeremiah Wright's cosmopolitan church, Obama the orator who routinely hits the high 'Cs' of the call to conscience, Obama the optimist who appeals to, and for the better angels of our idealistic American selves. This is Obama the African-American who moved enough voters to be elected President of the United States.