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.


Anonymous said...

Fact: The government that governs least, governs best.

Let's hope the only people who read this kind of drivel are insomniacs like myself who just keep clicking the "Next Blog" button hoping to read something worthwhile.

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finefroghair said...

Pricks like anonymous are what is driving this country into the dirt off the rails and over the cliff. To chickenshit to even leave his identity knowing full well his comments are worthless and unproductive a definite Reagan and Bush acolyte the worst sort of scum. This country has been sliding towards perdition ever since Reagan foisted the ludicrous notion that smaller gov is better gov the results are now in and the consensus just take a look around.

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The Chicagoan said...

glad to see anonymous is so involved in his community.

small government would be great... except that hasn't been a realistic option since the great depression, when we proved that large government programs are the only way to pull a country out of an economic slump. or effectively manage a country in which it's citizens can travel from state to state so easily. Small government is for small countries.

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Shawn Hendricks said...

Sorry, taking Amtrak is not a blast. It was slow and more expensive than flying. Of course, that was before 9/11. Now, it's slow, more expensive and a softer target. It was crowded too.

Attitudes at the post office are "Buy the more expensive postage!" They ask five times - yes, I counted to reconsider using express when bulk will do just fine. Annoying in the extreme. I would be happy paying five or ten cents more per letter to get the clerks to take interest in customer service.

I'm not on Medicare. I'm VA. They handle things okay but they take full advantage of subsidy by ensuring every and all tests that might possibly apply are completed. At least, that's how it felt. But we can't scrimp on veterans (Yay, us!).

Government does most things well. They just aren't adequately funded (higher price per letter/package anyone?) to do the rest well.

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