Those on the Left hail the passing of the Healthcare bill as a great victory for the middle class. Meanwhile, across the aisle, those on the Right are labelling it as the first step on the slippery slope toward state control and socialism.
We can argue the ideological implications of this decision long into the night, but all this exercise does is distract us from the fact that the compromise solution is an unmitigated disaster that has been doomed from the get-go.
Early on in the debate the full public option (socialized medicine) was removed from the table. From that point onwards, the discussion has drifted from one variation of a hybrid of socialized and private medicine, to another. This is like trying to combine an elephant and a donkey – whatever the outcome, it can only be ugly.
This compromise is destined for failure for a number of reasons:
1. It places the government in competition with existing firms in providing health care to the public. The government has limitless reserves to draw upon in relation to any competitor, thereby giving it an unfair advantage. Also, there are no guidelines as to what this will look like in practice.
2. There is no precedent for such a hybrid solution, therefore there are bound to be a whole slew of secondary and tertiary consequences that have yet to be considered. The level of overhaul being proposed is an immense administrative challenge. The fractious atmosphere in Washington, and the lack of consensus of public opinion, means that the administration has nowhere near the leverage to effectively implement such sweeping changes.
3. The existing Medical System is a model of corruption and incompetence. Expanding such a system without first doing a thorough housecleaning, is only throwing good money after bad. Even well functioning systems can only sustain a limited rate of expansion. In this case, a defective system is supposed to multiply in size, practically overnight. Under such circumstances the risk of creating complete chaos, is almost a certainty.
4. The notion that this legislation will not add to cost is reminiscent of Stockton’s Voodoo economics – the plan to increase military spending while balancing the budget during the Regan presidency. (Of course that seemed to be far less offensive to the Republicans then Health Care is today.) These specious arguments typically are based upon estimates of inefficiency within the system, and then mathematically extrapolating what such systems would yield if all the inefficiencies were eradicated. For anyone knowledgeable about systems, this is nothing more than a cynical attempt a blind the public with science.
5. The federal government is effectively bankrupt. Where is the additional funding supposed to come from?
The greatest tragedy in all this is that a great opportunity to reconnect Washington with the man in the street was squandered. The concept of socialized medicine itself was not the problem. If the government could have negotiated better terms with the pharmaceuticals, net savings could have largely offset the additional administrative expense of expanding the system. The problem lies with an unrealistic appraisal of the likelihood of such legislation making it through the system.
It took over two centuries for Washington to descend into its present state; a leviathan of cynically motivated Players, so concerned with their own narrow self interest, that the thought of addressing the real issue at hand never seems to cross their mind. How then, can anyone expect all those in power to suddenly have an epiphany, and put bipartisan biases, and special interests behind them, and work together for a better, somehow saner tomorrow?