Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: April 3, 2010

Was health care reform about health or wealth?

Byron York is of the opinion it was as much about wealth as health and has come quotes to back it up.  First Senator Max Baucus:

Health reform is “an income shift,” Democratic Sen. Max Baucus said on March 25. “It is a shift, a leveling, to help lower income, middle income Americans.”
In his halting, jumbled style, Baucus explained that in recent years “the maldistribution of income in America has gone up way too much, the wealthy are getting way, way too wealthy, and the middle income class is left behind.” The new health care legislation, Baucus promised, “will have the effect of addressing that maldistribution of income in America.”

Lest you feel York is making a one-quote mountain out of  a molehill, Howard Dean follows:

At about the same time, Howard Dean, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and presidential candidate, said the health bill was needed to correct economic inequities. “The question is, in a democracy, what is the right balance between those at the top … and those at the bottom?” Dean said during an appearance on CNBC. “When it gets out of whack, as it did in the 1920s, and it has now, you need to do some redistribution. This is a form of redistribution.”

And to make “three’s a crowd”, David Leonhardt:

Summing things up in the New York Times, the liberal economics columnist David Leonhardt called Obamacare “the federal government’s biggest attack on economic inequality since inequality began rising more than three decades ago.”

And, of course, if true that makes the “reform” as much about ideology as health insurance.  It is also exposes one of the most cherished but false myths of the left – that economics is a zero sum game and that it is up to government to level the income playing field via redistribution in the name of “fairness”.  Of course they couldn’t be more wrong on both counts.  As John Steele Gordon points out, poker is a zero sum game and so is robbery (which is why it is illegal) – economics isn’t nor has it ever been and it is a fallacy to believe so. He asks, as an example, “Paul McCartney was born into a poor family in rundown Liverpool and is now one of the richest men in England. Whom, exactly, did he rob?”

The answer is obvious.  Given the answer then, why should he be punished?:

Every major technological development has produced an inflorescence of fortune making. The Industrial Revolution produced so many new rich that Benjamin Disraeli had to coin the word millionaire in 1827 to describe them. Railroads, steel, oil, automobiles, the movies, television, all produced prodigious new fortunes.

But the people who rode the railroads and automobiles, watched the movies and television didn’t get poorer by doing so. Just like the millions who so willingly bought Paul McCartney’s music, they got richer too. They had quicker, cheaper transportation, and better and cheaper entertainment. No one forced them to buy the product, which is a good deal more than can be said for ObamaCare.

Of course, one of the benefits of all the fortune making are the innovations brought to market by those making a fortune. They’ve made life better and cheaper for the rest of us.  Electricity and the light bulb changed the cost and way we illuminated our night and was cheaper, better and safer.  The money we saved was spent on other things in life that may have been previously unaffordable. And that’s the case for most such innovations. Take the microprocessor and what it has done.  The reason we can afford all the gadgets and goodies we have (enjoying that flat panel TV in HD?) is because of those who’ve become rich introducing innovative and cheaper products that have allowed us a standard of living unimagined by our grandfathers.

I don’t begrudge Steve Jobs or Bill Gates a single penny of their fortunes, nor do I believe they “owe” me any of it. I benefit every day in ways unthinkable years ago (this blog post is an example) because of the innovations they, and many others, helped develop and bring to market.

However, what I don’t want, and in fact detest, is a parasite class of politicians engaging in false moral preening under which they claim to be the arbiters of what is “fair” and “unfair” in terms of the distribution of wealth. And I certainly don’t want them attempting to “fix” it through government.

The Howard Deans and Max Baucus of the world don’t seem to understand the very basic economic truth that economics is not a zero-sum game, or if they do, they choose to ignore it for ideological reasons. I have to believe it is for the latter reason. If they didn’t ignore that economic truth they’d have give up their claim (and  power) that acting on that erroneous ideological premise is morally correct. Life, per the Democrats and the left, is not fair and the job of the left is to make it “fair”. The one thing that should be clear by now is they see political power as the way of fulfilling that ideological principle and the control of the federal government as the means of imposing their false Utopian vision. They’re all about gathering power centrally, not diffusing it. That scares people (see the Tea Parties). It should be just as obvious that they’ll do it by any means necessary (review how we got health care reform) and for any reason -right or wrong- needed to accomplish it. “Fairness” works as well as any.

I’d venture to guess most Americans feel the way I do. And that’s why the argument was never made about redistribution while the bill was being sold to the public. It is not a popular argument. York is surprised it is now being made. So is a Democratic strategist he quotes:

But he quickly saw that Democrats talking about redistribution could be politically damaging, echoing the controversy that erupted when candidate Obama famously told Ohio plumber Joe Wurzelbacher that “when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

” ‘Redistribution’ is an easy charge to make,” the Democrat said. “I’m not surprised that it’s an argument critics make; what I’m surprised at is that Democrats are making it.”

I’m not. It’s arrogance. Hubris. The passage of HCR has emboldened them. They’ve convinced themselves, despite the polls, that since HCR has passed it will become accepted and loved. Now, since its passage, they feel they can safely lay out the dirty little secret reason they wanted it passed. Ideology – and the power to impose it. All under the false flag of “fairness”.

And they want the chance to do more.