Sunday, December 6, 2009

In Defense Of Government

With the current health care debate, I'm sure you've regularly heard something like, "If the government can't run the post office, how can it run health care;" or "If the Feds can't run Medicare without a huge deficit, how can they run the rest of our health care system." Now, without debating (as I easily could) the premise that the health care reform package would result in a health care system "run" by the Federal Government, I take issue with the claim that the Federal Government is a poor administrator of the most commonly criticized government programs. The three I hear most often is Amtrak, the Post Office, and Medicare (or all three and more at once).

Let's start with the Post Office. Let's say you want to send your Grandmother a letter in the most rural parts of Tennessee. And let's say she doesn't use e-mail. You write the letter, you spend all of $.44, and in two or three days, she is reading it. Do you use Netflix? U.S. Mail. Does it run a deficit? Sure it does. But if it were not to run a deficit, you'd probably have to pay a hell of a lot more for that letter to Grandma.

Now Amtrak. Let us be clear - Amtrak cannot support itself. But why? Is it because the Government run it poorly? No. It is because there is no demand for rail travel in most of the country. But does the Government run it badly? No way. Taking Amtrak is a blast. Politicians have decided to keep Amtrak alive (which makes me happy), but it is supply/demand problems, not problems inherent in Government that leads to the difficulties.

Lastly, Medicare (and Social Security). The Government runs them amazingly well, and that might very well be the problem. When was the last time you heard a Medicare or Social Security recipient complain that he or she did not receive his or her check? The problem with Social Security and Medicare finances is structural, not administrative. In fact, it is my understanding that Medicare, with no profit motive, runs a much more efficient ship than private insurance.

In closing, I think Government is capable of running all of these programs effectively. But perhaps not economically. But that is because of supply/demand (Amtrak), public demand for unrealistically low price (Post Office) or inherent structural problems (Medicare/Social Security). So yes, I think "government run" health care - which is not at issue in the Congress - could be very effectively run.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Health Care Fill In The Blank

Today, I heard Senator Coburn and his GOP compatriots discussing health care on the Senate floor, when the issue of Medicare came up. First, he argued that we cannot cut Medicare because it is too important to Senior Citizens. Second, he contended that Medicare is a good example of Government run health care driven into a financial ditch, and that we cannot have another expensive Government administered health care program that is as expensive and wasteful as Medicare. Saying we cannot reform Medicare while saying at the same time that Medicare is about to go bankrupt as it is currently configured is an example of _________.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Unmitigated Gall! (And I'm Not Being Sarcastic)

There is nothing more galling than listening to the Right criticise Obama's Afghanistan strategy. Cheney actually said that it projected "weakness." Rove called it "isolationist." Cheney and Rove were key cogs in an administration that had 7 years to win the war in Afghanistan - and failed - leaving the mess for Obama. Now he tries a new strategy different than their demonstrably failed strategy, and they claim it is the wrong strategy to win. One question for them. If they know how to win, why didn't they do it 3 or 5 or 7 years ago? The Right's critique is so clearly political and without soul it is obscene.

What Did You Expect?

That is my question for those on the left and the right when I hear their criticisms of the two most important policies currently being pushed by the Obama administration. The Right likes to act as if major health care reform is wholly unexpected and that the American people did not vote for it. Bullshit! A major issue in the Democratic primary was significant health care reform. Anyone paying attention knew that Obama was going to change health care in the U.S. So the American people DID vote for this kind of change.

But, my fellow travellers on the Left, you are not let off the hook. So many of you seem shocked, SHOCKED, that Obama is sending more troops to Afghanistan. But were you not listening to him during the campaign. He ran against the Iraq war, but said that Afghanistan is the war we had to win. If you were paying attention, you knew this was possible, if not likely.

These are not broken promises by President Obama, these are kept promises.