Free Markets, Free People
Well, how about government mandates?
If government wants to lower the cost of health care, there’s an immediate means of doing so. Health insurance should be like a Chinese restaurant menu – pick one from column A and two from column B. But if you don’t want acupuncture coverage or massage therapy or, in fact, have a uterus, why in the world should you forced to buy coverage for all of that?
Nick Gillespie and Reason do a good job of dispelling the myth that our problem is a revenue problem, the nonsense that always prompts the “tax the rich” mantra.
Taxes aren’t the problem, never have been – it is a spending problem. We’re spending more than we take in. Cut that difference and you cut the deficit to nothing. Cut it enough and you begin to work down the debt.
Taxing the rich at a higher rate might make the class warriors on the left feel good, but it does nothing to address the real problem.
Spending addiction – something Michael alludes too below. What we have are the addicted trying to handle their own addiction, and essentially their solution has nothing to do with the problem.
There are a number of people dancing in the street because there’s finally a bill in existence that the CBO says will reduce the deficit. Not by much, but that’s really irrelevant – it does the job that meets one of President Obama’s primary goals.
Of course the plan, authored by Sen. Max Baucus, has also come under fire from both the right and left for various aspects each doesn’t like. But that CBO endorsement, well, they’re pretty happy about that.
However, a close examination of that endorsement should warn everyone with an understanding of politicians and Congressional history off of the plan.
Let me explain. While the CBO does indeed say this plan will reduce the deficit, it makes it very clear that such a reduction is contingent upon some very unlikely happenstance.
[T]he Chairman’s proposal would reduce the federal deficit by $16 billion in 2019, CBO and JCT estimate. After that, the added revenues and cost savings are projected to grow more rapidly than the cost of the coverage expansion. Consequently, CBO expects that the proposal, if enacted, would reduce federal budget deficits over the ensuing decade relative to those projected under current law, with a total effect during that decade that is in a broad range around one-half percent of GDP….
Now that which is very, very unlikely:
These projections assume that the proposals are enacted and remain unchanged throughout the next two decades, which is often not the case for major legislation. For example, the sustainable growth rate (SGR) mechanism governing Medicare’s payments to physicians has frequently been modified (either through legislation or administrative action) to avoid reductions in those payments. The projected savings for the Chairman’s proposal reflect the cumulative impact of a number of specifications that would constrain payment rates for providers of Medicare services. The long-term budgetary impact could be quite different if those provisions were ultimately changed or not fully implemented.
The Baucus plan, just like the House plan, derives the majority of its “savings” in cuts in Medicare spending. However, as Peter Suderman at Reason’s Hit & Run explains, the likelyhood of those cuts ever being made, at least to the point necessary to reduce the deficit, is poor at best. Why?
Because of the mechanism the bill uses to make them:
It’s true that the Baucus plan, which creates a commission to figure out how to cut Medicare costs, sets up a slightly more robust framework for cost-cutting than currently exists. But that commission still only gets to make recommendations, and Congress still has the power to block them.
To review – in order to meet the CBO numbers, the bill must be enacted and remain unmodified for two decades. And, Congress must enact the Medicare cuts to the level required of the bill to achieve those reductions.
I ask you – what would you bet on either of those things actually ever coming to pass?
Yeah, you probably thought immediately, “he’s being facetious and talking about New York city”. Ah, you got me. From Jacob Sullum at Reason:
Vince Nastri III paid $9,000 for the coffee machine he installed in his lower Manhattan tobacco shop. Now it could cost him thousands of dollars more. The city’s health department is threatening him with fines, saying he is operating a “food-service establishment” without a permit, even though the coffee is free. Nastri could apply for a permit, but then his customers would no longer be allowed to smoke.
Damned if he does, no coffee if he doesn’t. Tell me, since when did it become any government’s job to decide whether or not you could offer free coffee to customers of your establishment if you chose to do so?
And does this mean that lawyer’s and doctor’s offices which offer free coffee to clients and patients are “operating a food-service establishment without a permit”, or is this really just a bit of selective targeting and enforcement to harass an out of favor business?
Well, unless I see a lot of citations in the coming months citing business establishments of all types and sizes who provide coffee to their employees or customers as “operating a food establishment without a permit”, I’ll have to conclude its the latter.
That’s what Nick Gillespie at Reason hopes the death of Ted Kennedy signals.
Gillespie says that when all the lionizing of Kennedy is said and done, a little perusal of what he has been responsible for during his tenure is called for. And, while doing that, we should ponder the effect on our national culture those pieces of legislation have had. After making that analysis, freedom loving people should vow, “never again”.
The legislation for which he will be remembered is precisely the sort of top-down, centralized legislation that needs to be jettisoned in the 21st century. Like Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) and the recently deposed Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Kennedy was in fact a man out of time, a bridge back to the past rather than a guide to the future. His mind-set was very much of a piece with a best-and-the-brightest, centralized mentality that has never served America well over the long haul.
Bigger was better, and government at every level but especially at the highest level, had to lead the way. In an increasingly flat, dispersed, networked world in which power, information, knowledge, purchasing power, and more was rapidly decentralizing, Kennedy was all for sitting at the top of a pyramid and directing activity. In this way, he was of his time and place, a post-war America that figured that all the kinks of everyday life had been mastered by a few experts in government, business, and culture. All you needed to do was have the right guys twirling the dials up and down. As thoughtful observers of all political stripes have noted, this sort of thinking was at best delusional, at worst destructive. And it was always massively expensive.
We are, at this very moment in time, confronting both the cost and the damage wrought by the Kennedy legacy. And the administration in place is, hopefully, the dying gasp of that sort of 20th century thinking brought forward by political impetus alone.
The real message of the August townhalls is that the American people have had enough of that sort of thinking and that sort of legislating. What you’re hearing and seeing are a people beginning to understand and reject the Byrds, Stevens, Kennedys, Obamas and Pelosis of the political world because the price, both literally and figuratively, has become much too high in terms of the their money and their liberty.
Ted Kennedy did what he believed was right and good for America. He was, as Gillespie says, a man of his time. As with all men, his time has passed. It is also time to bury his legacy because just like him, its time has passed as well.
Nick Gillespie at Reason is none too impressed with the new Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act just signed into law.
At a mere 5.7 billion dollars +200 mil in “stimulus” funds – and yes I’m being facetious (and don’t worry, they’re saving 100 mil among the administration cabinet) – we get legislation that:
reauthorizes and expands national service programs administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency created in 1993. The Corporation engages four million Americans in result-driven service each year, including 75,000 AmeriCorps members, 492,000 Senior Corps volunteers, 1.1 million Learn and Serve America students, and 2.2 million additional community volunteers mobilized and managed through the agency’s programs.
Or an expansion of the Community Organizer’s Full Employment Act if you really want to come clean about it.
Paid “volunteerism”. Is that government’s job?
And as Gillespie points out, the language under which this is organized – and I use the term loosely – is rife with opportunities for urban entrepreneurs to “benefit” mightily from things which will be extremely hard to measure (even though it claims, in the language, to have it covered):
The Serve America Act, which goes into effect on October 1, would increase and enhance opportunities for Americans of all ages to serve by increasing AmeriCorps from 75,000 to 250,000 positions over the next eight years, while increasing opportunities for students and older Americans to serve. It will strengthen America’s civic infrastructure through social innovation, volunteer mobilization, and building nonprofit capacity. The new law is also designed to strengthen the management, cost-effectiveness and accountability of national service programs by increasing flexibility, consolidating funding streams, and introducing more competition.
Ye gods – what could go wrong with that?
And this, as Gillespie points out, in the face of attempts to limit charitable tax breaks for the income class which makes most of those donations and are the engine for much of the charitable giving. Make sense?
Well, it does if your entire focus is to see how dependent on government you can make the population, certainly. This is another example of a liberal wet dream.
But what you should keep in mind is it was begun under Clinton and survived 8 years of a Republican administration.
Tell me – whose fault is that?