Le Québécois Libre, August 15, 2009, No 269.
As the healthcare debate rages on, there is one reality that even the proponents of this hostile takeover of healthcare by government cannot ignore—and that is money. The government simply does not have the money for a new, expansive, public healthcare plan. The country is in a deep recession that will deepen even further with the coming collapse of the commercial real estate market. The last thing we need is for government to increase and expand taxes to pay for another damaging, wasteful program.
Foreigners are becoming less enthusiastic about buying our debt, and creating another open-ended welfare program when we cannot pay for what is already in place, will not help. Champions of socialized medicine want to tax the rich, tax businesses that already cannot afford to provide health plans to employees, and tax people who don't want to participate in the government's scheme by buying an approved healthcare plan. Presumably, all these taxes are to induce compliance. This is not freedom, nor will it improve healthcare.
There are limits to how much government can tax before it kills the host. Even worse, when government attempts to subsidize prices, it has the net effect of inflating them instead. The economic reality is that you cannot distort natural market pressures without unintended consequences. Market forces would drive prices down. Government meddling negates these pressures, adds regulatory compliance costs and layers of bureaucracy, and in the end, drives prices up.
The non-partisan CBO estimates that the healthcare plan will cost almost a trillion dollars over the next ten years. But government crystal balls always massively underestimate costs. It is not hard to imagine the final cost being two or three times the estimates, even though the estimates are bad enough.
It is still surreal that in a free country we are talking only about HOW government should fix healthcare, rather than WHY government should fix healthcare. This should be between doctors and patients. But this has been the discussion since the 60's and the inception of Medicare and Medicaid, when government first began intervening to keep costs down and make sure everyone had access. The result of Medicaid/Medicare price controls and regulatory burden has been to drive more doctors out of the system—making it more difficult for the poor and the elderly to receive quality care! Seemingly, there are no failed government programs, only underfunded ones. If we refuse to acknowledge common sense economics, the prescription will always be the same: more government.
Make no mistake, government control and micromanagement of healthcare will hurt, not help healthcare in this country. However, if for a moment, we allowed the assumption that it really would accomplish all they claim, paying for it would still plunge the country into poverty. This solves nothing. The government, like any household struggling with bills to pay, should prioritize its budget. If the administration is serious about supporting healthcare without contributing to our skyrocketing deficits, they should fulfill promises to reduce our overseas commitments and use some of those savings to take care of Americans at home instead of killing foreigners abroad.
The leadership in Washington persists in a fantasy world of unlimited money to spend on unlimited programs and wars to garner unlimited control. But there is a fast-approaching limit to our ability to borrow, steal, and print. Acknowledging this reality is not mean-spirited or cruel. On the contrary, it could be the only thing that saves us from complete and total economic meltdown.
Healthcare is a Good, Not a Right
Political philosopher Richard Weaver famously and correctly stated that ideas have consequences. Take for example ideas about rights versus goods. Natural law states that people have rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. A good is something you work for and earn. It might be a need, like food, but more "goods" seem to be becoming "rights" in our culture, and this has troubling consequences. It might seem harmless enough to decide that people have a right to things like education, employment, housing or healthcare. But if we look a little further into the consequences, we can see that the workings of the community and economy are thrown wildly off balance when people accept those ideas.
First of all, other people must pay for things like healthcare. Those people have bills to pay and families to support, just as you do. If there is a "right" to healthcare, you must force the providers of those goods, or others, to serve you.
Obviously, if healthcare providers were suddenly considered outright slaves to healthcare consumers, our medical schools would quickly empty. As the government continues to convince us that healthcare is a right instead of a good, it also very generously agrees to step in as middle man. Politicians can be very good at making it sound as if healthcare will be free for everybody. Nothing could be further from the truth. The administration doesn't want you to think too much about how hospitals will be funded, or how you will somehow get something for nothing in the healthcare arena. We are asked to just trust the politicians. Somehow it will all work out.
Universal Healthcare never quite works out the way the people are led to believe before implementing it. Citizens in countries with nationalized healthcare never would have accepted this system had they known upfront about the rationing of care and the long lines.
As bureaucrats take over medicine, costs go up and quality goes down because doctors spend more and more of their time on paperwork and less time helping patients. As costs skyrocket, as they always do when inefficient bureaucrats take the reins, government will need to confiscate more and more money from an already foundering economy to somehow pay the bills. As we have seen many times, the more money and power that government has, the more power it will abuse. The frightening aspect of all this is that cutting costs, which they will inevitably do, could very well mean denying vital services. And since participation will be mandatory, no legal alternatives will be available.
The government will be paying the bills, forcing doctors and hospitals to dance more and more to the government's tune. Having to subject our health to this bureaucratic insanity and mismanagement is possibly the biggest danger we face. The great irony is that in turning the good of healthcare into a right, your life and liberty are put in jeopardy.
Instead of further removing healthcare from the market, we should return to a true free market in healthcare, one that empowers individuals, not bureaucrats, with control of healthcare dollars. My bill HR 1495 the Comprehensive Healthcare Reform Act provides tax credits and medical savings accounts designed to do just that.
* Ron Paul is a member of the U.S. Congress (R) representing the 14th District of Texas. **These Texas Straight Talks were first published on August 3rd and July 20th.