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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Macomber on HillaryCare

Just another note about Hillary’s health care plan from Shawn Macomber (who, occasionally, pops his head up from writing his upcoming examination of global class warfare to deliver interesting commentary):

[A]fter I wrote this piece upon the unveiling of MittCare last year I was invited to appear on a Boston newscast as part of a panel of skeptics. As was made clear to me in the breathtakingly rude lectures I was subjected to both in the “green room” and on-air by my fellow guests, the left-wing saw MittCare much as I imagine they’ll see Hillary’s new plan: A necessary, hopefully short-lived Trojan horse to carry universality through the city gates and create the crisis that will send the populace into the arms of single-payer.

Read the rest.

For that matter, read this teaser on the YearlyKos event that gives us a hint of the article that will be coming up from Shawn in the October issue of American Spectator.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

When Honesty Isn’t the Best Policy (At Least, Not Complete Honesty)

John Podhoretz, who seems close to ready to cede the presidential election to Hillary Clinton, notes one of her points of both growth and strength.

If you want to know why the safest bet is that Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States, you need only consider the brilliant drafting of her health-care plan and the meaning of it next to her 1993 plan. The 1993 plan was intellectually honest — it was thousands of pages long because it attempted to foresee and plug any conceivable loophole in the effort to bring about universal coverage. It was positively Talmudic in that respect and therefore suffered from the weakness of all Talmudic efforts that do not involve the interpretation of a divinely inspired document — in the effort to foreclose all possible escapes, there was something bullying about it.

The 2007 plan, by contrast, is intellectually dishonest in the sense that it leaves all the managerial details to be handled later. Leaving aside profound philosophical questions, the key problem with universal health care plans is primarily that they create a managerial nightmare whose inevitable end is the creation of a system entirely controlled by federal bureaucrats — since somebody has to set enforceable terms that are constant from one town to the other, one state to the other.

The new Hillary health care plan deals with this by pretending that it can all work itself out simply by allowing people to stay with the plans they have and force those plans to cover everything. This huge increase in mandated expenses is to be covered not only by new taxes but by compelling everyone in the country and his employer to pay for health care.

That order is necessary because it will force people into the system — and there are tens of millions of them — who don’t have health care coverage because they have determined they don’t need it or can do without it. By expanding the risk pool in this way to include those who won’t actually spend any money, or will spend far less than they pay in, the system will in theory be able to sustain itself.

I think he has a point, although I think that he overestimates her chance of being elected to the office. First, health care is a big concern for most Americans, and a plan that sounds good will do much to sway voters. Her plan--not vague enough that she can be accused of offering up a plan with no substance, but not specific enough to be, as Podhoretz notes, bullying--sounds good. This isn’t the right time to get into the specific discussion of why I think her plan would be far more expensive than she suggests and is merely a stepping stone to a single payer system of socialized health care that could be disastrously ruinous to our economy, but let me acknowledge the strengths of her proposal in a political sense.

  1. She’s left enough room (with individual mandates, for example) to make sure that she can still say that it isn’t a socialized system and be somewhat believable. Not accurate, from my view, but believable.
  2. She’s left a loophole of illegal immigration-sized proportions, and I don’t think that was an oversight. This gives her room to suggest that the costs for illegals will not be covered by her plan or simply say that details like this will need to be discussed at a later date. Given that she will face pressure from both sides of the immigration debate, this actively sidesteps the worst of that controversy.
  3. Read her lips: No new taxes. Instead, Hillary would roll back taxes on the hated rich, ask companies to pony up a portion if they decide against providing insurance directly to their employees, and remove some current government subsidies do insurance companies--this along with government leverage and “pooling” power would hold costs down to a manageable level, according to Hillary. While I believe her assumptions are flawed, her presentation of her ideas could still win converts who believe in the miraculous power of taxing others and government giving away bundles of “free” services. 

Just-vague-enough is Hillary’s friend and a politically brilliant move for someone who the political right had been hoping would roll out another thousand-page health care plan. In a practical sense, it would have been much easier to discredit a plan that looked more like her original proposal. It’s damned good politics.

I could argue against the plan and cite the dangers of the “individual mandate”, the uncontrolled costs of universal access, and the creeping move towards an even more expensive single-payer system. I could talk about the offensive intrusion of a government forcing me to buy health care insurance. None of that matters at this stage of the presidential race, though; what counts is providing answers that sound strong, are presented well, and convince enough people to come out to vote. The end result of Hillarycare 2.0 will undoubtedly look different when viewed through the lens of whatever new laws have to be passed and bureaucracies created to support the plan. But no matter how appetizing it tastes when the details are in place, this glimpse of her recipe looks awfully good now to people who are worried about their health care futures and for the companies that continue to pay hefty increases every year to the insurance companies.

The reason that I think Podhoretz is wrong about her chances in the election come down to the motivational animosity that so many voters have toward Clinton and her husband. I think that it would be insane to bet on any other Democrat candidate winning the nomination, but that nomination doesn’t win the election. Much of the election will hinge, of course, on progress in Iraq, but some of it will come down to who voters like the more they look at the final candidates. Hillary still has a lot of ill will to overcome before she can win the presidency.

None of which explains the irritation I feel whenever I hear that Budweiser commercial that reminds me of the electric violin solo in Revenge of the Nerds. Maybe that’s just me, though…

Friday, August 10, 2007

I’ll Go Ahead and Answer That One

“Do you think Medicare is socialized medicine?” Clinton asked...

Yes. If, as the American Heritage Dictionary defines it, we accept “socialized” to mean “To place under government or group ownership or control”, then it would be hard to call Medicare anything other than socialized medicine. It’s tax payer funded health care for a subset of the citizenry.

I’m not sure why she would suggest that it isn’t socialized medicine, although I do understand why she would want to do so. Socialized is a dirty word to many Americans and if they think something is “socialist”, they aren’t particularly likely to support it not least because “socialized” programs tend to require tax increases. Hillary Clinton is not a dumb woman; she knows precisely what it is that any universal health care program would entail. Government mandated coverage means either government subsidies or tax credits for employers (which amount quite nearly to the same thing) and tax increases for coverage of the unemployed--and that comes along with a heavy dose of new government regulations on the health care industry.

Now, whether that is all worthwhile or not is another debate. There isn’t any room for discussing whether any true universal health care system is “socialized medicine” or not, though. It is, it will be, and to suggest otherwise is a bit of a dodge.

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