Free Markets, Free People

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.



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42 Responses to Was health care reform about health or wealth?

  • Well, of COURSE it’s about wealth distribution. LOL. It’s always been a mystery to me why dense righties can’t see the self-evident unfairness of a world in which grunt engineer types can invent something and make a lot of money, while wise academics toil in obscurity dedicating ourselves to teaching younger minds, and have to endure obviously insufficient salaries. And pensions. And you wouldn’t believe how picky the health plan is. My wife, who works at a hospital, often comments about how we ought to have all kinds of additional healthcare stuff, but no one will pay for it, and that’s clearly unfair.

    Corporations are a nasty, awful threat, as I’ve pointed out many times before. Perhaps you grunt types are just too close to the forest to see the trees, or something like that, because it’s totally obvious from the celestial viewpoint of academia that people who create and run big corporations make far more money than they need, and that money could be put to much better use by wise leftists on our journey to collectivist utopia. Where everyone has food and shelter and healthcare and a good, satisfying job that doesn’t involve doing anything too nasty or boring.

    And this claptrap about everyone having access to the stuff created by corporations is such an obvious rationalization! Now, don’t you start up about how my very comment is because of computers and internet access that is part of the stuff they create, because that would totally be irrelevant. Stuff doesn’t matter! Life is a spiritual journey, and all you need is to turn the base necessities over to wise leftists, and you’ll all be free to pursue that journey. Wouldn’t that kind of freedom be so, so much better than the awful, self-reliance, individualistic kind? Why, you might reach a point where you don’t even know where your next meal is coming from! How can you possibly be free when that kind of threat is continuously hanging over your head?

    So we just need to redistribute our wealth so everyone can have enough to pursue that wonderful, spiritual journey and appreciate the leftist utopia we create together when we all sit down and hash things out in a spirit of comradeship. Without any of those awful insults you guys throw at me all the time.

    Yes, and if we did that, the world would be so, so much better. And it would stay better, forever. I decree it. Plus I have analysis that says so. Analysis, analysis, rich, creamy analysis. So don’t you dare bring up the history of socialist societies and start whining about “collapse” and “stagnation” and even more ridiculous stuff like “Atlas shrugging” and “stulifying bureacracy.” Why, I’m part of a bureaucracy, and anyone can see that I’m not stultifying. {chuckle} LOL

  • “Health care reform” was about power.

    The capacity to redistribute wealth is power and about power.

    Bureaucratic control over health care is about power.

    The optimum function of the extended order of liberty, which is the optimum approach to resource allocation, does not require any such kind of power.

    So, this is only about the accrual of political power to movement socialism, which will benefit movement socialists, to whom the real advantages will be distributed.

    Health care will deteriorate steadily. It was never the real object of the exercise.

    • I’ve looked at this as the first step of changing the electoral base of the Democratic party.  Next is immigration reform.
      The idea is to switch out the seniors to the now-illegal aliens.
      The seniors are now getting way too expensive to pander to, so switching to now-illegal aliens is pragmatic.

  • “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?”

    That depends on what you think of his music.

  • Comments from righties about income redistribution are just sour grapes.  So you are worried about your children’s and grandchildren’s futures.  Get them into government service with the iron rice bowl and your worries disappear:
    In terms of compensation, federal workers are rapidly pulling away from private employees. As USA Today’s Dennis Cauchon recently reported, “Federal workers earned an average salary of $67,691 in 2008 for occupations that exist both in government and the private sector, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The average pay for the same mix of jobs in the private sector was $60,046 in 2008, the most recent data available.”
    And that’s only wages. Federal health, pension and other benefits are worth four times [my emphasis] what private workers on average enjoy, Cauchon added.
    Even supposedly ill-paid state and local government workers “have higher total compensation than private workers [in comparable jobs] when the value of benefits is included.”
    Read more:
    /saracasm alert

  • Agree wholeheartedly with the benefits of free markets, and the damage from leftists imposing their own visions of fairness.

    That said, we must admit the preference of businesses to gain monopoly rents and co-opt regulators. leading to tha national socialism variant of tyranny.

    No matter one’s view of Madonna, or Sean Penn, or Tiger Woods, they all got millions to part with money and thus deserve their fortunes.

    But CEOs like O’Neal at Merrill or Prince at Citi (“gotta keep dancin’ “) needed merely to seduce a dozen board members.  For such, no one can claim free market feedback worked.

    Shareholders had no reason to react at any of the “too big to fail”  firm, nor could markets impose any discipline.

    And government is utterly incompetent to regulate.  The sole role of government is to enforce the premises of free markets: many small independent agents; free flow of information; no subsidies, barriers or distortions; no monopolies; and now as we have learned to our regret, no “TBTF.”

    Instead, government seeks to allow to TBTF, but then heap more layers of yet-more perverse regulation upon them. 

    Do we not recognize the idea of “iatrogenic disease?”

    • That said, we must admit the preference of businesses to gain monopoly rents and co-opt regulators. leading to tha national socialism variant of tyranny.
      Yeah, well there is an easy answer to that cunundrum, DON’T GIVE GOVERNMENT THE POWER TO MEDDLE IN THE MARKET!  Then it cannot help create monopolies or subsidize one business or industry over another.
      We are so far removed from anything like a free market it always makes me chuckle when I hear lefties talking about the dangers of deregulation.

    • But CEOs like O’Neal at Merrill … needed merely to seduce a dozen board members.  For such, no one can claim free market feedback worked.

      Interestingly, Stan O’Neil, when he was CFO at ML, warned repeatedly of the dangers of the sub-prime mortgages. When he became CEO, he then turned 180 degrees and drove ML deep into that market as “socially responsible”.
      Given the impetus behind the sub-prime market, calling it a “free market” (with its natural feedbacks) is laughably ignorant. Calling the financial industry “free market” is likewise laughable – other than pharmaceuticals, it’s the most heavily regulated industry in the US.

    • The WSJ did a piece some 20 years ago about how there is no word for “fair” or “fairness” in many foreign languages.
      The idea of “fair” seems to be an Anglo invention.
      The best example they gave was while one person tries to position themselves for a parking space, another comes along, perhaps in a smaller more agile vehicle, and takes that parking space.  Most Americans would call that “unfair” on the part of the second driver but many Europeans would call that “clever“.
      While Progressive worry so much about America’s image abroad, perhaps they should consider this as well.

      • In German they do use the English word “fair,” but the German equivalent is ungerecht, which can mean “unjust” as well as “unfair.”    Although I think the German who lost out on the parking spot would probably use another word, “Arschloch!” yelled out the window to the guy who took the spot.

  • Well after every progressive stride comes the regressive …
    Obama to Crush Economy with Massive CO2 Taxes as Early as Next Week

  • I think the Democrats have a good idea with wealth redistribution. Let’s start with them. Every Democratic member of Congress must give up enough personal wealth so that they are at the median American wealth level. The redistribution must be to a registered charity, for example the Salvation Army.

  • You cannot separate health and wealth.  People wealthy with good jobs usually have insurance coverage that is the equivalent of any other health care system in the world.  They get excellent care, so long as the profit motivated insurance company doesn’t find some technical reason to deny coverage.   It’s especially the lower middle class who are most often under-insured, or are in risk of medical bankruptcy.  Wealthier people also live longer on average, and have better health.
    Also, note that the Republican party is very much for a lot of redistribution of wealth — they support and often have created programs that do that very thing.   The two parties disagree about the proper boundaries, but in a country where the gap between the rich and poor is larger than any other advanced industrialized country, and has been growing since 1976 to levels not seen since the 19th century, I don’t think the wealthy have too much to worry about.

    • The gap between rich and poor is meaningless, in a backwards agricultural society it might not be very high but everyone lives a subsistence existence.  I would much rather a society where some people are filthy rich, but even the poor are well off compared to other nations.
      You are correct that Republicans sometimes support stupid schemes, but the Democrats always do so there is at least some reason to prefer them.
      In any socialised medicine there will be an eventual deterioration of service, and increased rationing. In that rationing, as is currently the case in Europe, old members of the middle and lower classes often cannot obtain life lengthening treatments.  But the Rich simply pay for it or fly to another country and get it, thus your great plans to equalize continue to fall apart.

      • Yes, I make that point all the time to students: Americans are in the top five percent of the world in wealth, even most middle class poor Americans live in luxury compared to much of the world.   Yet it is also true that politics is not about absolute measures, but relative measures.  And people compare themselves to others.
        European health care operates very well (the UK has the most problems — and they’re really the only ones with what one could argue is socialized medicine).    People can choose doctors in most places, have no waits, and while a basic standard is offered to all, wealthy can buy supplemental insurances.  Most conservatives in Europe support their health care systems, insurance companies compete (in places like Germany and Switzerland) and their outcomes are better than ours overall.    You cannot compare the US to other industrialized states and say we can point to better outcomes.   There is always rationing of course, but market rationing simply makes sure the wealthy get what they want, and the farther down you are, the less likely it is you can have it.   That works very well for rationing swimming pools, Porsches and Lagavulin scotch.  But for health care, it is arguable that this isn’t proper — health care is more like police protection, education, and national defense than fine single malt scotch.

        • You don’t understand markets, Scott. Or you don’t want to understand them because to do so would vitiate your purpose as an advocate of social engineering.

          The supposed thirty million Americans without health insurance coverage is 10% of the population.

          Only idiots believe that to get that 10% covered do you need to give the federal government bureaucratic control over the entire market for health care.

          And the fact is that forcing coverage of that 10% through a bureaucratic manipulation of the medical industry will damage the entire industry. But the people doing it don’t really care about that.

          The first point of damage will be to price structure, which will precipitate deterioration throughout the industry, and we won’t have to wait four years for that to kick in.

          All of this has been one enormous lie, and I can only believe that that is among the reasons you are so attracted to it. It somehow proves to you that reality is made up out of whole cloth the way you yourself make things up out of whole cloth, and this gives you a sense of satisfaction in addition to the satisfaction you gain from an increase in socialism and a decrease in America.

        • But for health care, it is arguable that this isn’t proper — health care is more like police protection, education, and national defense

          No, it’s not, and it has never been.  You’re using an unproven premise.  Health care is not something a government is obligated to provide.

          • In fact the police power of the state does not provide “police protection.” Police protection is something usually reserved for politicians and material witnesses.

            Further, the police power of the state is a source of authority and is not by necessity a state provided service. It is actually a flexible kind of agency, even though it is most often handled by government. There is also the crucual element of individual responsibility: more guns, less crime — and that’s where the authority of the law and individual protection merge in a free society.

            Also, if the way that public education has been bungled and deteriorated over the years is any indicator of what will transpire with health care, then we will see a society of well-indoctrinated sick people. Plenty of social hygiene but minimal real medicine. That’s very costly, you know (something everyone will be remined of whenever they seek modern medicine).

            Compulsory public education more and more resembles a mass penal colony in this country. I really hope that more and more parents can avoid encarcerating kids in it.

          • We can choose.  If we want to make it more like police protection, we can.  All other advanced industrialized states have done so.  Even conservative Sarkozy of France mocked the way the US avoided doing so in the past.  We are now moving in that direction.  We have the power to do so, we have the freedom to do so.

          • “All other advanced industrialized states have done so.”

            That is one of the poorest excuses I have ever heard and yet I hear it time and again.  What will you do Erb the next time one of your children tells you that you should allow them to do something all because “all of the other children have done so” – if I remember correctly my parents countered this by saying “And if all of the other children are jumping off of cliffs you should do the same?”

          • Yes, there it is again, “all the other advanced industrial countries…blah, blah.”

            Who cares? Canada’s an “advanced industrial country” right here on the North American continent and Canadians come to the U.S. when they need prompt advanced industrial medical care.

            My father, who was wiser than I ever knew, had it all in a nutshell: “Anything for free stinks.”

            That’s the exact opposite of the Howdy Doody Erb socialist worldview. In the world of the advanced extended order of liberty, profit drives quality and innovation. Bureaucratic distribution drives nothing but rules, social hygiene indoctrination, and slow mediocre service.

            Americans still breathing American principles and American air know the difference.

        • Well Erb I call it socialism because only a stooge would not see that it is indeed a slow path to socialism. It certainly will lead to rationing because we cannot pay for it.
          Your problem is that each day brings you a tabula rasa on the antics of the democratic party. Whereas the rest of us remember their many schemes which turned into exactly what they said it would not be, we remember the bloated costs and the unintended consequences.
          But you just close an eye to left wing history.

  • “the maldistribution of income in America has gone up way too much

    >>>I believe this argument is a winner. And the GOP should use it to attack……the out of whack salaries of govt workers, which are majorly increased over those in the private sector.

    A smart and gutsy party could do damage to the Dems with this one

  • You forgot some other kind of “innovation”: legal and political innovation.
    Lawyers create new laws, and thus demand for their product. 2700 pages is a lot of demand.
    The Politicians came up with a new way to game the CBO. Again, innovation.
    Innovation is not always good and should not always be rewarded.

  • SShiell, it’s not jumping off the roof, that hurts people.  This is giving health care, saving lives, and improving health.  It’s the right thing to do.  It’s a disgrace it’s taken us this long; this is a moral, ethical issue — it’s about preserving life.   Still, this reform was only a first step, it doesn’t solve all the problems.

    • More nonsense. You don’t need to enact a bureaucratic takeover of an entire medical industry to provide 10% of your population with health coverage, which will then deteriorate and still be rationed in its deteriorated state.

      The biggest lesson of the 20th Century was that attempts to centralize industries does not work. Why? Because the central bureaucrats can never obtain enough knowledge to make it work properly. Price signals are obstructed and costs rise as service deteriorates and choices narrow.

      This sort of thing comes down to acquiring power and controlling lives. It has nothing to do with “giving health care” or “saving lives.” That’s just a lie.

    • You’re pathetic.  You use a childish rationale for why we should have health care – because “Everybody Else Does” and then you can’t even put together a coherent response beyond it is the right thing to do blah, blah, blah!.

      I have never once argued against reforms in the health care industry.  I have never once argued against providing a safety net for those who are unable to fend for themsleves.  I do however take exception in “The Government Answer is the only answer” type of approach the Democrats have cobbled together and you continue to defend.  And I further take exception to the deceptions used by the Democrats in hiding the true cost of this fiasco which is again something you continue to defend.

      And for once I agree with you that this reform is but a first step.  The next steps are to take back the House, the Senate, the Oval Office, kill the bill, keep the good parts and start over.

      • I note that others provide health care and have superior results.   We can learn from that.  I don’t think government is the “only answer.”

        • Except that they don’t have superior results, which reduces your whole argument to flinders.

          • Yes, on almost every measure other states out do us in health care.  They also have superior results in education, with a far more centralized government education system than we have.  Look at the real world, not at ideology.

        • I don’t think government is the “only answer.”

          But you continue to defend this trasvesty of a bill without such a disclaimer.  Nor did you make any such disclaimer during the entire health care “debate”.

          Back room deals, NON-transparency, cost double-speak, demonization of helath care opponents, and outright deception from the Democrats regarding the contents of the bill was defended by you at every turn – so now don’t be surprised when we LOL when you say I don’t think government is the “only answer.”  

          • You’re wrong – I think the bill needed to pass, but it’s not at all perfect, and hopefully can be tweaked and improved over time.  I think the GOP can play a role in doing so.  As I said, I’d prefer a German style system, the US plan has less government than in any advanced industrialized state.   That’s why the hyperbolic rhetoric around it is ridiculous.

          • “As I said, I’d prefer a German style system, the US plan has less government than in any advanced industrialized state.   That’s why the hyperbolic rhetoric around it is ridiculous.”

            And with hardly any effort at all we can round up speech after speech by Obama prior to his candidacy that he wants a government run system and that it will not happen all at once.  One step at a time – “in 10 or 20 years, it will happen, we will be there” those are his words.

            You can’t be so ignorant as to ignore the step-by-step progress to the single payer system, can you?  And that is why your comments regarding hyperbolic rhetoric are so ridiculous.   Either you are defending the system and the ultimate goal or you are not – and you have been an avid proponent from the beginning – in other words, you are an advocate for single payer.

  • Professor Erb:
    (circa 2010) “This is giving health care, saving lives, and improving health.  It’s the right thing to do.”
    (circa 2020)  “Yes, I know it’s a complete mess, but we meant well!”
    Jeez, if ever there was a rock-solid predictor of failure, it is a Progressive saying that something  is the right thing to do.  They use that when they have no other sensible reason for doing what they “feel” should be done.

    • Your prediction, notherbob, is based on fantasy.  Looking at reality — how other health care systems work — the idea it’ll be a complete mess in ten years is very unlikely.

      • ” . . the idea it’ll be a complete mess in ten years is very unlikely.”

        And, pray tell us, what kind of evidence can you produce to back up this prediction of yours?  The US government track record for:
        AmTrak?  Broke!
        Medicare?  Broken!
        Medicaid?  Broken!
        Postal Service?  Broken!
        VA Hostipal System?  Broken!
        US Education System?  Broken!
        US Energy Department?  Broken!

        In fact, let us indeed look at reality – outside the US military, can you provide a single solitary success story care of the US government?  Something, anything that we can possibly see any likiehood that it won’t  “be a complete mess in ten years.”

  • “ribbet”,  “ribbit”