The Government’s Promises Are Worthless

By 1992, the regulations and distortions the government had imposed on the healthcare and insurance industries had driven up the price of health insurance — which had been cheaply and widely available just a generation earlier to anyone who wanted it, in an era that already didn't have a free market — to the point that many people couldn't afford it.

The economy was in recession, and President George H.W. Bush's approval ratings had fallen below 50% because of it (or more likely due to the influence of mainstream media opinion makers; the ruling elite had evidently decided for some reason that Bush had to go).

Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, running for the Democratic nomination, made healthcare a key issue. He promised to get health insurance for all Americans, reign in spiraling healthcare costs, and make HMOs (which had been created by government in the 1970s) more accountable for the care they provided. In short, be promised to solve all of the problems caused by government with more government. He outlined his plans in his 1992 campaign book, sappily-titled, “Putting People First: How We Can All Change America.”

After winning the election, the new president agitated throughout 1993-94 for a bill to force (always the operative word with government) all Americans to obtain health insurance, among many other edicts.

The result was a monstrous 1,342 page bill called the Health Security Act. Among its provisions were to create a National Health Board, appointed by the president, that would have full control over all medical treatments, prices, and benefits; create regional health alliances, through which all Americans would be required to obtain health insurance, and which would enforce the federal healthcare regulations at the local level; and would mandate that all employers either offer all employees the standard government plan, or at least pay 80% of the cost; plus numerous other requirements.

In his 1994 State of the Union address, President Clinton outlined the plan, showed the I.D. card all Americans would be required to have to get healthcare, and promised to veto any legislation that didn't guarantee health insurance for all Americans.

Around this time, Republican strategist Bill Kristol circulated a private memo, advising Republicans to kill, rather than try to amend, the bill — not because of principled opposition, but because he felt it was their best strategy for picking up seats in the upcoming mid-term elections.

The public was largely hostile to the bill, to the point that many Democrats refused to back it, fearing for their political lives in the upcoming election.

The bill failed to come up for a vote before election day, when the drama culminated with the Republicans winning 54 seats in the House and eight in the Senate, giving the GOP control of both houses for the first time in 40 years. Tom Foley became the first Speaker of the House since the Civil War to lose his seat; two other powerful Congressmen, Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski and Judiciary Chairman Jack Brooks, also went down.

The GOP also won 12 gubernatorial races and 472 state legislative seats, taking control of 20 state legislatures from the Democrats; this gave them control of the majority of governorships for the first time in 22 years, and the majority of state legislatures for the first time in 50 years.

No incumbent Republican lost his or her election.

Establishment anchorman Peter Jennings described all of this at the time as the voters throwing a “temper tantrum.”

In his 1995 State of the Union address, President Clinton — who had one year earlier proposed socializing the entire healthcare industry — knew which way the wind was blowing; he looked into the camera, and said with a straight face, “We know big government does not have all the answers. We know there's not a program for every problem. We have worked to give the American people a smaller, less bureaucratic government in Washington. And we have to give the American people one that lives within its means. The era of big government is over”

The socialized healthcare bill was dead.

But, because there's really only one party, the Republicans changed nothing, and proceeded to pass much of the HillaryCare bill piecemeal.

Dead like Jason

Since then, technological advancement and competition in the market have driven down the prices of computers, flat-panel televisions (which didn't even exist then), DVD players (which didn't exist then), cell phones (which didn't exist then like they do today), and numerous other goods by more than 90% — and that's without even factoring in the government's theft known as inflation.

Meanwhile, in the insurance and technology-driven healthcare industries, which have been saddled with many thousands of more regulations and other impositions since then (again, many put in place by the Republican Congress that gained power in response to the last bill, and which had a Republican president for eight years), and with government now spending about 50% of all healthcare dollars, prices have mysteriously continued to climb.

In response, the new president and the Democratic Congress have begun agitating for a similar bill, again attempting to force all Americans to buy health insurance. The resulting monstrosity is called H.R. 3200, the America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009; it's also similar to its predecessor of nearly a generation ago because it's 1,018 pages long. (I have no idea how these bills get written so quickly to be so long, but I do know why: because of special interest pork, of course, but more importantly to ensure — along with being written in virtually indecipherable legalese — that no one — including the people in Congress voting for it — will read it, understand it, or even have any idea what's in it.)

Fortunately, like its predecessor, this bill has met with a glorious public backlash. During the past two months, people in Congress from districts all over the country have attempted to hold town halls back home with their constituents to sell them on the bill, only to be accosted and shouted down by angry mobs of protesters; in numerous cases, they've needed police escorts just to make it back to their cars safely. And, although likely not just because of the healthcare bill, President Obama's approval ratings have plummeted to around 50% just seven months into his term, and the number of people who “strongly disapprove” of his performance has risen from around 10% when he took office to about 40% today.

Rationing

Sarah Palin pinpointed possibly the biggest concern with socialized medicine in a public statement against the bill, saying the government would wind up having “death panels” where bureaucrats cut costs by denying care to the elderly, disabled, and extremely ill.

On her Facebook page, she wrote, “As more Americans delve into the disturbing details of the nationalized health care plan that the current administration is rushing through Congress, our collective jaw is dropping, and we're saying not just no, but hell no!

“The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.”

You don't need to worry

In response to Palin's comments, President Obama said, “I just lost my grandmother last year. I know what it's like to watch somebody you love, who's aging, deteriorate, and have to struggle with that.

“So the notion that somehow I ran for public office, or members of Congress are in this so that they can go around pulling the plug on grandma? I mean, when you start making arguments like that, that's simply dishonest.”

A recent piece in the New York Times asserted that “There is nothing in any of the legislative proposals that would call for the creation of death panels or any other governmental body that would cut off care for the critically ill as a cost-cutting measure.”

Former Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean said Palin “just made that up . . . There's nothing like euthanasia in the bill.”

John Rother, executive vice-president of the influential lobbying group AARP, said of the public's reaction, “I guess what surprised me is the ferocity; it's much stronger than I expected.” He went on to characterize such opponents of the bill as “people who are ideologically opposed to Mr. Obama” who are taking “the opportunity to weaken the president.”

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann called Palin's suggestion “an absurd idea.”

The next day, ABC's Bill Weir said on Good Morning America, “There is nothing like that in the impending legislation.”

The day after that, Washington Post reporter Cecil Connolly wrote, “There are no such 'death panels' mentioned in any of the House bills;” New York Times columnist David Brooks appeared on NBC's Meet the Press, calling Palin's assertion “crazy;” CNN's Jessica Yellin said on their program, State of the Union, “That's not an accurate assessment of what this panel is;” and George Stephanopoulos said on ABC's This Week program, “Those phrases appear nowhere in the bill..”

Even National Review asserted that Palin had attempted “to leap across a logical canyon,” adding that “we should be against hysteria.”

Well, that settles it. Good thing we have a chorus of people who stand to profit from the bill and of economically-illiterate media hacks, all assuring us in unison that there's nothing in the bill to establish “death panels” — as if that's relevant, even if it's true. Never mind the fact that no one can possibly know how much this will cost. Or that it's guaranteed to cost far more than anyone projects. Or that every other country with socialized medicine has responded to soaring costs by rationing and denying care, to which hundreds of documented horror stories can attest. Or that no one even knows what's in the bill. Or that any of these people might be lying if they do know what's in it. Or that, even if it's really not in the bill now — or even if the bill specifically prohibits it, that can be changed later. Or that the language in enacted bills means whatever the government says it means. Or that history is full of examples of the emptiness of government's promises. Never mind any of that. Just take our word that there are no provisions in the bill for rationing or “death panels” as the final say on all of your worries and shut up.

The crowning touch on the media reaction was the recent piece in the Washington Post by Howard Kurtz, Post columnist and host of CNN's Reliable Sources, titled, “Journalists, Left Out of The Debate: Few Americans Seem to Hear Health Care Facts,” in which he catalogued many of the attempts of the Establishment's opinion makers to assure people that the bill made no provisions for “death panels,” then complained about how so many people aren't listening. “Perhaps journalists are no more trusted than politicians these days, or many folks never saw the knockdown stories. But this was a stunning illustration of the traditional media's impotence.” Boo-hoo, the Establishment media is having a hard time telling people what to think. People don't read newspapers or watch network news anymore; they no longer just swallow any propaganda the Establishment puts out; they think for themselves too much.

For the sake of such contrary troublemakers, let's examine the obvious objections to the bill — all of which the mainstream media are ignoring — in more detail, instead of ignoring them as our masters would like. As we'll see, the chant of virtually the entire Establishment in unison that provisions for “death panels” aren't in the bill is irrelevant — even if it's true.

Socialism can't calculate

Flippant dismissals about rationing and denial of care aside, anyone who understands economics knows that such an outcome isn't just possible; it's guaranteed.

Government projections about costs are useless. For one example, when Medicare was passed in 1965, it's projected cost for 1990 was $3 billion (about $12 billion in 1990 dollars, thanks to the government theft of inflation). The real cost to run Medicare in 1990 turned out to be $98 billion.

Spiraling costs are inherent with government programs for several reasons: They obtain their funds through coercion, rather than voluntary payments, which means they're not subject to the same profit and loss information as a business. When a business fails to satisfy its customers, it goes bankrupt, and its assets are liquidated to others who can put them to profitable use serving others. But people in government have no incentive to cut costs, because they're not spending their own money — and they embrace the inevitable failures their programs bring in spite of their huge budgets, because they can use them as excuses for even bigger budgets, which will make the program work this time for sure. And people who are dissatisfied with what they receive can't take their business elsewhere. In fact, the people receiving the benefits aren't even the customers; the “customers” who must be pleased are politicians and bureaucrats overseeing the program. And when coercion is introduced into a situation, people don't continue acting as they did before; when healthcare becomes “free,” people will use more of it than they did before, further increasing costs.

And when costs start spiraling out of control — and they will, that's when things really start to get ugly. As we've seen with every country that has had socialized medicine, such systems cut costs by denying care. On the market, anyone with a need or a want is a potential customer, someone who can give you the money you want if you can figure out how to satisfy his need or desire. But, with socialism, anyone who needs or wants anything is a burden, a drain on scarce resources. Socialism without rationing and waiting lines is like dry water; anyone who says their utopian socialist fantasies won't have such problems has no credibility; they're either lying or completely ignorant.

And the Establishment response to these concerns ignores five further points that should be obvious to anyone with any sophistication regarding history or how government functions — which, despite the best efforts of government schools and the mainstream media, is apparently a lot more people than the Establishment expected.

1. The bill is more than 1,000 pages long.

Why should we believe that even one politician has read it all and knows everything that's in it? This is exemplified by a prominent proponent of the bill, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) admitting that he hasn't read it, has no intention of reading it, wouldn't have time to read it before the scheduled vote next month even if he wanted to, and would have to rely on lawyers to explain it to him even if he did read it, because it's written in such legalese.

2. Even if they have read and understood it all, the people giving the assurances about what the bill does or does not contain could be lying.

“How do you tell when a politician is lying?”

“His lips move.”

The problem with that old joke is it's usually not a joke; the suggestion that a politician “could be” lying is usually quite generous.

It's especially generous for President Obama, given that numerous videos exist of him saying he's a proponent of single-payer, “universal” healthcare.

In a June 15 speech to the AMA (architect of coercive medical licensure in the 19th century), Obama said that that this bill is only intended to provide a “public option” for people without health insurance, and that concerns that it's really a Trojan horse for a single-payer system are “illegitimate.”

But, at the March 24, 2007 SEIU Healthcare Forum, Obama said, “My commitment is to make sure that we've got universal healthcare for all Americans by the end of my first term as president. I would hope that we can set up a system that allows those who can go through their employers to access a federal system or a state pool of some sort. But I don't think we're going to be able to eliminate employer coverage immediately; there's potentially going to be some transition process. I can envision a decade out or 15 years out or 20 years out.” (Of course, employer coverage was created by the wage controls during WWII, and is maintained through subsequent distortions in the tax code. So it should be eliminated — but by a free market, not by government replacing private insurance.)

And, in a 2003 speech before the coercive AFL-CIO labor union, Obama said, “I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer, universal healthcare plan.”

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) has also said, “I think if we get a good public option, it could lead to single-payer, and that's the best way to reach single-payer.”

And, according to this summary of the bill posted at New Republic (which also catalogues numerous other horrors and absurdities elsewhere in the bill), pages 425-430 give the federal government numerous provisions to determine what treatments people may receive at the end of their lives. Surely none of those provisions could possibly be used to authorize “death panels.” (About.com has a link that contains what is supposed to be the text of those pages; while it's written to dismiss concerns about the section as “urban legends,” it's useful because it isolates the verbatim section of the bill, and because reading it shows the kind of nearly indecipherable legalese in which bills are written. The entire bill in .PDF form is available on the House.gov site.)

3. Even if they're telling the truth now, any part of a bill can be amended or repealed with future legislation.

This needs no further explanation, except to point out that it's one of the most obvious objections to the bill — and that it totally demolishes in one sentence the Establishment's entire, unified rebuttal. And, despite that, it's another point that the mainstream media is basically ignoring.

4. The government probably wouldn't even have to bother with amending or repealing anything, because the wording of laws and regulations means whatever the government says it means.

Comparing the constitution to the federal behemoth we have today should prove the futility of restraining political power with words. All people interpret all words — no matter how objectively-written they may seem — subjectively. The first amendment plainly makes any federal infringement on freedom of speech or the press illegal. The second amendment plainly makes any federal infringement on any aspect of any weapon illegal. (The constitution doesn't give the federal government jurisdiction over common crimes, so real crimes — like murder — involving weapons are irrelevant here.) The ninth and tenth amendments make easily 90% of what the federal government does today illegal, given that there have been no amendments passed to authorize Social Security, federal drug laws, the very existence of the IRS, FBI, BATF, OSHA, the EEOC, etc, etc, etc.

Guess what? The courts don't care. And why should they? They're also part of the government! It's like the daily reports we see of thuggish government police committing horrific assaults on citizens, which are invariably followed within a couple of months — unless a particular incident sparks sufficient outcry from the public — with the headline, “Police Dept. Investigates Itself; Clears Itself of All Charges.”

The Supreme Court — which was never even supposed to be the final, unchallenged arbiter of federal power — has more than 200 years of rulings behind it, consistently interpreting the language of the constitution in an expansive way when it comes to governmental power, and in a restrictive way when it comes to individual liberty. In the case of the first and second amendments, they've ruled numerous times that the word “no” actually means “yes;” these are examples of why it would be meaningless even if the Obama healthcare bill specifically prohibited horrors like death panels. (As we'll see in the next point, the original Medicare bill contained language specifically forbidding governmental interference in doctors' decisions.)

5. History is riddled with examples irrefutably illustrating the emptiness of government's promises.

When the income tax was passed in 1913, it was only going to apply to the richest 1% of Americans, those making at least $50,000 a year (about $1 million today), and even the rate for them would never go above 6%. In 1918 — just five years later — the top marginal rate was 77%. It reached a high of 94% in 1945, and remained at 91% from 1951-63. It has never been below 24% since 1916.

The Social Security tax started at 2%, and the funds were saved.

Federal aid to education would never mean federal interference with education.

Federal highway funds would never mean attaching conditions to states receiving the money.

Medicare would never allow bureaucrats to interfere with doctors' decisions; in fact, the original Medicare bill contained language specifically prohibiting it.

The Pure Food and Drug Act would only require everything to be labeled, but would never restrict or prohibit what could be sold, or at what price.

The Civil Rights Act would never force racial quotas on businesses.

RICO, asset forfeiture, and money laundering laws would only be applied to the mafia and major drug dealers.

The Dept. of Homeland Security and the TSA would only be focused on stereotypical, swarthy, towel-headed terrorists.

How many more examples do you need?

Fool me once . . .

Given these facts, how can any proponent of this horrendous bill think they can alleviate such concerns by dismissively asserting that “'death panels' (or provisions for rationing or some other problem inherent in socialized medicine) aren't in there?” Do they really think people are going to be satisfied with that answer, that they'll take that at face value and say, “Oh, okay,” and just sit down?

Free market cure

The solution to the perpetual healthcare crisis is to get the government completely out of healthcare. That would once again make patients the paying customers, and medical professionals, medical facilities, and pharmaceutical and insurance companies would have to earn their money by serving them. In a real free market, competition, innovation and increasing technology would drive down prices, and charity hospitals, free clinics and doctors working pro bono would be available for the truly needy — just as they were until the 1960s, when government regulations drove them out of business.

So why don't these people restore liberty to the healthcare industry?

In a real free market, no one could rely on the force of government to artificially inflate their incomes by giving them licensure, monopolies, cartels, regulations forcing patients to pay for insurance provisions they don't want before they get sick and for tests they don't need when they do, patent protections, etc.

And, in a real free market, politicians and bureaucrats would have to go into that market and earn an honest living doing something productive that people pay them for voluntarily, instead of justifying the coercive power they presume to hold over us by touting endless “reforms” to the problems they caused in the first place, and which would disappear if they would just leave us all alone.

Further, if the mainstream media championed a real free market, they would alienate their government contacts — at least until the elites who employ them fired them and replaced them with people who will do as they're told and further the elite's system. And, in the meantime, they'd have one less piece of “serious” news to discuss, shallowly discussing the government's perpetual “reforms” that always make matters worse; then they'd be left to fill even more idle hours covering Jon and Kate's divorce, Michael Jackson's death, or what in the world Michelle Obama was thinking wearing those shorts.

So I wonder why none of them promote a free market in healthcare — or in much of anything else?

Trust us

Well, until we get one (don't hold your breath), pay no attention to the assurances of anyone in government or the media that the horrors inherent in socialized medicine won't happen here. It matters not whether those assurances are given out of ignorance or deceit; all that matters is they're worthless.

Johnny Kramer holds a BA in journalism from Wichita State University. He is one of the authors and editors of the first-ever biography of Ron Paul, Ron Paul: a Life of Ideas. For more information on his work, or to hire him as a writer, editor, or to speak at your next event, please visit his website.


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