Monday, October 19, 2009

America Still Doesn't Get The Public Option

You still don't get it do you?

Alright. I'm gonna give this one last shot.

So the government will set up an insurance company, right? Then, if you can’t afford private insurance you can come to the government and get it at a much lower rate. The lower rate that the government offers will provide competition and that will force private insurers to lower their rates.

It sounds great! But I’m still waiting for someone to convince me that it wouldn’t lead us to a single-payer system.

Now, I understand that many of you think a single-payer system would be great. No insurance companies whatsoever. The government simply covers everybody and the taxpayers foot the bill. Of course this type of system would be impossible without raising taxes on everyone. The rich, the middle class, small business owners, investors. Everyone.

A lot of young people I’ve spoken to tell me that they wouldn’t mind all that much if they had to pay higher taxes so that everyone could have access to a government plan. But would they be willing to lose their job? Would they be willing to live in less comfortable conditions? Pay higher prices for goods and services? Subject their elderly relatives to a lower quality of medical care then they could have enjoyed otherwise?

I only ask because these are the long-term economic repercussions of single-payer and the public option will inevitably lead to such a system.

Here’s how it works:

The medical industry, made up of doctors, nurses, MRI machines, bedpans, etc. gets its money from a few places. The insurance companies and the government both pay the medical industry for the people insured under private plans as well as the millions covered by Medicare and Medicaid. The problem is that the government reimburses the hospitals far less for the care it provides than what the care actually is worth. So, the medical industry forces the insurance companies to pay more for the same care and the insurance companies pass those costs onto their policy holders.

A public option would pay the medical industry a rate comparable to those paid by Medicare and Medicaid. The difference would be that instead of the government plan covering just the elderly and the poor, it would now cover anyone who wanted it.

The private insurance industry is not very profitable- despite what the sophists in the Democratic Party would have you believe. It only makes about 3.5 cents on the dollar in annual profits.

The public option would lead to an increase in the number of people in the system without an increase in the resources it would take to adequately care for all of those people. Additionally the private insurance companies would bear the burden of the costs, since they need to make a profit to survive and the government can, and does, go as far into debt as they want. Because initially the quality of care wouldn’t differ between those under private and public plans, people would inevitably switch to the cheaper plan. Additionally, business owners would have no incentive to keep their employees on the plans they provide for their workers and could save money (at least in the short term) by dropping that coverage. The private insurers would eventually go out of business.

And here’s where the problems really begin.

Once everyone is reliant on the government to pay for the bulk of their medical costs, there are only two ways the government can afford it while paying the medical industry a rate that allows them to maintain a reasonable level of care and not falling too far into debt.

They cut back on care and take a larger role in the decisions made between you and your doctor, even fining physicians for performing procedures that government panels deem unnecessary. Or, they can raise taxes.

In Europe they do both of these things. But, the people of Europe don’t enjoy the high standard of living that we do in this country. Their employment rate is usually much higher than ours. New innovations or technologies rarely come out of these countries because their economic system discourages their citizens from being entrepreneurs. Why? Higher tax rates.

If America had adopted a single-payer system decades ago, the economic booms that the US experienced in the 80’s and 90’s would have never happened. Much of the technology that the world enjoys today would not exist. Let’s face it. What incentive would a Frenchman have to invent Google? Would a Swede have had the incentive to create Amazon? Mp3 players, cell phones. None of those things would be essential elements of human existence without American innovation and creativity and none of that creativity would have existed if we prevented the private sector from rewarding these innovations with untold wealth. High taxes destroy this incentive and a single-payer system would lead to high taxes. The public option would lead to single payer. Thus, the public option could very well be the first step in destroying everything that has enabled the American economy to become the most vibrant that the world has ever known. If you’re willing to make that sacrifice – among others- then that’s your business.

Many young Americans have become spoiled. They don’t understand how well America’s economy has actually worked over the last 30 years and that our unprecedented growth and high standard of living across the entire economic spectrum is no accident. The debate over the public health insurance option has been nasty. It’s because there is a fundamental disagreement between conservatives and liberals over what’s more important to a society in the long term. Freedom or equality. But make no mistake, the decision over the public option will have far reaching ramifications, not just in the realm of health care, but in every other aspect of all of our lives for the rest of our nation’s existence. So think about it. Really think about it.

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How The People of New Jersey Could Save America

Right now Americans are being offered two competing health care visions by Democrats. Both are awful. On the one hand we have the Baucus bill that would lead to a steep rise in insurance costs for Americans who currently have coverage. To the left of Baucus, we have the public option plan that would lead to the destruction of the health insurance industry altogether and which would, in time, result in huge tax increases and stifle economic growth. At this point, it would appear that the Democrats are poised to take advantage of the large majorities they enjoy in Congress and ram one of these two misguided ideas through, regardless of American public's unfavorable view of both of the current proposals. But there still may be hope for citizens who understand the incredible dangers posed by these myopic efforts to reform the system. These hopes are dependent on the voting decisions made by residents of Virginia and New Jersey on November 3rd.

Both Virginia and New Jersey will hold gubernatorial elections in two weeks. In Virginia, it appears that Republican Bob McDonnell is headed for a comfortable victory. Faced with a weak opponent and bolstered by growing backlash against the Obama agenda in the Commonwealth, it is likely that he will achieve a victory that could range anywhere from 5% to 15%. The final margin of victory is hard to predict since it’s unclear how many young and African-American voters who came out specifically to support Barack Obama last fall will return to the polls for a mid-term election with far less historical significance. Whatever happens, Republicans are growing increasingly confident about this race.

The situation in New Jersey is far less predictable. Right now, incumbent Democratic governor John Corzine is fighting for his life in one of America’s bluest states. Polls show the race tied, but the truth is that Corzine would probably be behind by several points if not for Independent candidate Chris Daggett, who is siphoning off support from Corzine’s Republican challenger Chris Christie. If Christie can pull out a victory in the Garden State, national Democrats will have no choice but to take notice.

If Christie can win in a state that Barack Obama carried by 15 points last November, congressional Democrats who are up for re-election in 2010 will think twice before throwing their support towards divisive health care proposals that seem to hemorrhage support every time the electorate is reminded exactly what they contain.

If Christie loses, congressional Democrats will be less likely to fully comprehend the wake-up call that would be loud and clear if he were to win. While the message could very well be sent again in 2010, if it is diluted by a Corzine victory then there is far less chance of stopping health care reform by instilling the fear of God in these fence-sitting Blue Dogs. There would be no shame for Republicans in a New Jersey loss, but the people of New Jersey who understand the dangers of the current health care proposals being discussed on Capitol Hill, need to be made aware of the national significance of their choice before pulling the lever for Mr. Daggett on Election Day

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, October 09, 2009

Nobel Prize Will Cement Early Obama Narrative

The Nobel Peace Prize ceased to represent anything remotely associated with “peace” long ago. In recent years, the once prestigious award has been bestowed upon a terrorist in Yasser Arafat and an enabler of dictators in Jimmy Carter. In giving the award to President Obama the Nobel selection committee has proven once and for all that the award itself is more of an honor that recognizes those who talk about “peace” rather than those who take meaningful steps towards actually achieving it.

But today’s shocking development will do more than serve as a reminder of the meaningless nature of the award itself. When viewed in the context of recent events, today’s announcement will undoubtedly serve to highlight just how little Barack Obama has actually accomplished during his time in office and that much of the praise heaped upon him by his promoters is largely undeserved.

The talking heads and Internet pundits are still abuzz over Saturday Night Live's recent decision to finally take the gloves off and chide Obama for his lack of effectiveness since taking office. This portrayal was met with a sense of relief from the Right, which was unsure if late-night comedians would ever begin subjecting Obama to the same level of good-natured comedic scrutiny that all of his predecessors enjoyed. It was met with relative silence from the Left, which may not have thought SNL’s jabs were very funny but knew in their hearts that such mockery was warranted.

I fully expect that at 11:30 tomorrow evening SNL will use today’s development, which is laughable in its own right, to once again shine light on the fact that Obama has done very little to deserve such adulation and praise.

By presenting Obama with Nobel’s highest honor, the committee may have just completed the caricature that SNL began drawing last weekend. Comedy has always been an important factor in defining our political leadership. It was SNL and the late-night talk show hosts that successfully branded Bill Clinton as a fast food-loving, womanizing scoundrel. They portrayed George W. Bush as an imbecilic man child and that portrayal helped to solidify the conventional wisdom of many of his detractors. They mercilessly mocked Sarah Palin to the point that many could not differentiate between statements actually made by the former governor and those made by Tina Fey. These over-the-top portrayals of our elected officials can have a very real impact on the evolution of the American people’s perception of them. The fact that Obama’s lack of accomplishment is being met with awards from the world community rather than its skepticism should make him a huge target, even for the liberal, late-night jesters.

Again, Obama talks a good game, but thus far that talk has led to no meaningful action. While Obama is lauded for promoting “peace,” he dithers as Afghanistan plummets further into chaos. As he calls for a world without nuclear weapons, he seems hesitant to take a hard stance as Iran’s Mullahs come ever closer to acquiring them. The discrepancy between the way Obama is treated by his adoring fans and his effectiveness should become the comedic narrative used to define Obama’s young presidency. As we know, these satirical send-ups have a way of taking on a life of their own.

-Dan Joseph

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, October 07, 2009