Friday, August 7, 2009


Discussions abound regarding American health care reform, and most hinge on one fundamental question: should we or should we not implement socialized medicine? Both extremes of the political spectrum are out in full force, consciously or unconsciously employing misdirection in an attempt to disprove one another, rather than arguing in favor of their own points (assuming they have any to begin with).

Liberals continue to hammer home Obama's statement that his plan only offers a public option, which will compete with private insurance and encourage lower costs, greater efficiency and happier, healthier Americans.

Conservatives argue that Obama's public option is nothing more than a Trojan horse, a giant step toward socialized health care, and ultimately a socialist America.

Here's the problem: Neither side is correct, nor can they hope to be correct. Regardless of the favored solution, both arguments are fundamentally and irreparably flawed from the get-go. This has never been uncommon in American politics, which could explain why the recent town hall meetings have gone so disastrously awry. Perhaps White House deputy chief of staff, Jim Messina, summed it up best when he told Democratic Senators, "If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard."

Once again, it has come to this. It was barely 150 years ago that Congressman Preston Brooks beat Senator Charles Sumner on the House floor with a wooden cane over a speech regarding slavery. Now stories are flooding in from across the nation of town hall meetings quickly degenerating into violent, uproarious mobs.

But let's suppose we can remove violence and vitriol from political discussions and get down to business. Conservatives oppose the so-called public option on its own merit as an un-American federal encroachment on the free health care market. Thing is, the American health care market is not even close to free and hasn't been since the Great Depression. As the late, great Milton Friedman points out in this eye-opening 2001 article, federally-imposed wage and price controls forced businesses to offer employer health benefits as an incentive to workers. Employers kept these medical benefits off the books long enough that when the IRS finally caught on, the sluggish wheel of industry could not be turned back. This ultimately led to the tax-exemption of employer benefits we enjoy today (which makes individual health insurance inaccessible and unaffordable and has created a monster of the insurance industry).

Partially-socialized health care took root in 1965 with the advent of Medicare and Medicaid and today operates as a virtual black hole for tax revenue (like any good social program).

The third-party payer system is hardly a free market. A free health care market would arguably require an even greater overhaul of the current system in both the public and private sectors. To suggest that preventing the passage of Obama's proposed health care plan somehow preserves our freedom is either ignorant or naive or both.

On the other hand, liberals who argue that the public option would be just that, an option, are only kidding themselves. As Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute points out, the idea that the federal government has any incentive, or is in any position to compete with private insurance companies is laughable. By manipulating its own cost while driving private companies into financial and economical ruin, the public option would likely become the only tenable source for health care coverage. The network tactics used by private insurers to encourage physician involvement will look like child's play compared to awesome, unbridled power of the United States Government.

And anyone who openly supports socialized medicine also stands to be sorely disappointed as the audacious hope for ObamaCare fades a little more each day. Which is to say that no matter where you stand in the American health care debate, you will lose. It is as quintessentially lose/lose as any important issue that has ever faced the American people (see: slavery, abortion, energy, Vietnam, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, etc.)

With this in mind, I am surprised that Town Hall violence hasn't escalated more quickly. But there is certainly time for that, as the health care debate has no apparent end in sight.

1 comment:

  1. Nicely put. My ultimate sense of futility on this subject (and to be honest on most national issues) arises from the fact that that the paradigm of the argument has already been set by the left. It's not a question of if we should rely on the bloated, inefficient, corrupt and incompetent organization that has driven us to this state of medical bedlam. But the debate is set in terms of if we can afford it at the moment... or in the future as the case may be (picture the Treasury's sweaty fingers fumbling for the severely worn Fed Platinum card.)
    When the argument turns into a debate of billions versus trillions I can't help but assume that the debate is already lost. I feel like a man dragged to vegan restaurant who's expected to engage in a debate over whether or not soy-milk is acceptable-- it doesn't really matter to me I'm not getting any meat anyhow.
    The questions remain:
    Why as a self employed individual are my insurance policies not deductible?
    Why can't I pool my own insurance group with my church or community organization in order to get a lower rate?
    Why can't I buy insurance out of state to find better rates on policies that don't have useless coverage I don't need?
    Countless other questions could be included.
    The one ray of hope in the debate is that the liberal side have started calling people who oppose them Nazis.
    It clearly shows they are scared, confused and don't have a leg to stand on.