Why I Oppose the HCR Bill: We’re Broke

Remember that "lock box" that Social Security money was in?  Well government, as government is wont to do, has already raided it over the years, treating Social Security funds as its own private slush fund and left IOUs in there.

This year, for the first time since the 1980s, when Congress last overhauled Social Security, the retirement program is projected to pay out more in benefits than it collects in taxes — nearly $29 billion more.

Sounds like a good time to start tapping the nest egg. Too bad the federal government already spent that money over the years on other programs, preferring to borrow from Social Security rather than foreign creditors. In return, the Treasury Department issued a stack of IOUs — in the form of Treasury bonds — which are kept in a nondescript office building just down the street from Parkersburg’s municipal offices.

Now the government will have to borrow even more money, much of it abroad, to start paying back the IOUs, and the timing couldn’t be worse. The government is projected to post a record $1.5 trillion budget deficit this year, followed by trillion dollar deficits for years to come.

The BigGovernment website, noting this, says there are 2 choices on how to raise this money; taxes and borrowing.  Those are the one mandated by law, but there is another option; change the law and renege on the promise.  (I didn’t say it was a good option.)  No one wants to do any of that, but the combination of a promise made, irresponsible spending on all sorts of "good" programs, and a down economy have combined to create this mess.  And now we’re broke, and our children are going to have to pay the price for our excesses.

All this is foreseeable with health care reform as well.  The creeping socialism of Europe has led it to insolvency as well.  Will somebody please learn from history.  Recent history? 

And if you weren’t already realizing that the Democrats were gaming the numbers to make the costs look good, this report should (hopefully) jolt you into reality.

A new congressional report released Friday says the United States’ long-term fiscal woes are even worse than predicted by President Barack Obama’s grim budget submission last month.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicts that Obama’s budget plans would generate deficits over the upcoming decade that would total $9.8 trillion. That’s $1.2 trillion more than predicted by the administration.

We’re broke, folks, and we’re issuing a credit card to our kids, and using it to fund our own out-of-control spending.  The money’s not there.  It’s gone.  It’s long past time to wake up to this fact before we follow Europe into the black hole.

It is better to empower the people to be more charitable by letting them keep their money in order to give it than to get the government in the health care business.  It is both cheaper and more moral. 

Will people fall through the cracks if this is left up to the people?  Yes.  And it will be the same for a government program.  Don’t let the "perfect" be the enemy of the "good", especially if the "perfect" is clearly known to be unobtainable. 

Trying to obtain that perfection via government will do 2 things.  First, it will not happen.  Second, it will give more power and money to a government already awash in both.  For those that already despise dealing with a more local insurance company, multiply that for dealing with the government.  (Including, yes, "death panels", just like they have in Canada, in behavior if not title.)

But will government involvement, if not perfect, be at least better than we have now?  Perhaps we could ask that cancer patient in Alberta (follow that link up there) who came to Minnesota to get lifesaving surgery.  Or you could read the article in the London Times about how the liberal Labour party hid the truth about patient neglect in their National Health Service.  If your measure of "success" is how many people have health insurance, then sure, it would be "better".  But if you factor in the quality of care, not so much.

Because our system isn’t perfect, don’t make a deal with the devil.  Our founding fathers felt government to be a necessary evil.  They were students of history that saw the natural tendency of government and tried to avoid those problems when they wrote the Constitution so that government’s power was limited.  We are "unwriting" those limits if we do this.

Why I Oppose the HCR Bill: A Moving Target

Nancy Pelosi:

You’ve heard about the controversies within the bill, the process about the bill, one or the other.  But I don’t know if you have heard that it is legislation for the future, not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America, where preventive care is not something that you have to pay a deductible for or out of pocket.  Prevention, prevention, prevention—it’s about diet, not diabetes. It’s going to be very, very exciting.

But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.

Emphasis added (by Reason magazine), and it speaks for itself.  No matter what they tell you about the bill, they’re not telling you everything.  No matter what they say it’ll cost, they won’t say all of it.  "Trust us to overhaul the health care insurance industry, with a bill made with back-room deals with unions, and bribes for votes."

Yeah, right.  It’s huge and it’s shrouded, and it’s a classic carnival huckster method.  How can people actually fall for this?

Why I Oppose the HCR Bill: Promises Made

I wrote last Friday about "3rd rails" in American politics; programs like Social Security and Medicare that, no matter how wasteful, politicians can’t substantially deal with.  The reason is that the government has made promises, people have reordered their lives around those promises, and thus any attempt to change the conditions of those promises is met with vehement opposition.

This, then, is related to the eternal life of government programs.  Part of the reason some of these programs live on is because the promises made and the responsibility to live up to them and honor them.  The problem is, we have to honor them even if doing so bankrupts us (or, more specifically, future generations).  We have to honor them even if the money could be spent more efficiently another way, getting the same job done only with better results.  We are already saddled with debt because of some of these huge programs, but are also saddled with current and future promised payments that we can’t afford now, and thus will have to tell our children to make good on.

Is that moral?

Some have said that it’s immoral not to take care of the elderly and infirmed, but by doing it on the backs of our children and grandchildren, is that really the more moral route?  With the health care reform bill, we are making promises that future generations must pay for.  And we are making promises that they may not be able to afford at all after this generation has already spent their inheritance on previous promises made.

And, as I noted previously, no matter what you hear from any politician on how much this or that program will cost, it will cost more.  History is strewn with so many examples of this that anyone believing these numbers is utterly ignorant, willfully or otherwise. 

Making promises binds us to honor them, which is a good thing.  But making promises with an inefficient bureaucracy binds us to a millstone that will continue to take us down with its unsustainable load, and we can’t afford that.

No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. So, governments’ programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth. — Ronald Reagan (click here for the audio clip)

I’d say with precious few exceptions, Reagan’s words express a truism for any government instituted by man. 

Given this, it simply doesn’t make sense to make huge changes to our health insurance system, putting so much under the purview of the government, all at once.  Once it’s there, no matter how poorly it work, those who benefit from the programs (or believe they do) will make up such a constituency that no politician will dare cross them.  It’ll become yet another 3rd rail that no one wants to touch.  The only option will be to throw good (borrowed) money after bad.

I can say this with confidence because that tracks with history.  It has happened time and time again, and there’s not one thing to indicate that if this doesn’t do what it claims to do, it’ll be scrapped.  Instead, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that government, regardless of which party’s in charge, will constantly try to "fix it", usually by giving the federal government more control and taking that control and freedom away from the individual. 

The better way to do this is incrementally, but the same problems can plague even these smaller items unless these items increase public freedoms.  For example, allowing health insurance to be purchased across state line is something that would give individuals more choices and hence drive down costs.  When you can only by apples from one  vendor, he can charge what he likes, and it doesn’t matter how good his apples are; where else are you going to go?  When there are 20 vendors, competition ensues and vendors compete on cost and quality.  Allowing this would have immediate results, and the results could be determined to be good or bad.  Actually, I see no real downside to this particular proposal from the Republicans, but if there were, it’s easier to repeal a small law than a huge, intertwined, governmental system. 

[One might ask, doesn’t the proposed public option increase competition?  Well yes, but by 1 rather than by hundreds.  But the general problem with getting the government into the market is that the government makes the market’s rules as well and can undercut competition because it doesn’t have to pay its costs from charging for the service; it can tax everyone on the side, hiding its true price on your 1040 form.]

A massive overhaul of any industry is not something government should be doing.  That’s another reason why I oppose the Democrat’s health care reform bill.

As events continue to unfold while the health insurance reform bill comes either to a vote or a train wreck (or both), I want to hit on a few main reasons why I’m against the Democrats’ idea of "reform".  Today, it’s the money.

Obama has said that whatever he signs must be either deficit-neutral or indeed reduce it, and the claims are that this bill will do just that.  In fact, it’s one of the reasons Democrats say that using reconciliation — typically used for deficit reduction — is appropriate.  They point to the CBO numbers for the bill as coming in under $1 trillion for the first 10 years, while generating savings that would go beyond that.

But here’s the thing. 

First of all, they’re gaming the CBO system.  By putting off any real serious spending for 4 years or so, while collecting taxes in anticipation of the spending, the real cost of the program is hidden.  To find the real estimates, click here to hear Democratic Senator Max Baucus give a better number for it; $2.5 trillion.  The difference?  In his words; if you start counting from the year 2014.  Knowing that the CBO rules only look 10 years out from bill passage, Democrats have crafted the timetable to favor a low CBO number, and they trumpet this fake number on the talk shows.  At least we have Senate video to show that they do know better, but they’re just hoping their constituents aren’t paying attention (which it looks like they aren’t).

Second of all, government programs virtually always cost more than original estimates, whether this is because the first estimates were faulty or gamed, or whether folks like the giveaways so much they ask for more, or whether politicians buy votes by increasing benefits.  The "experts" who were estimating the cost of Medicare back in 1966 — when it cost $3 billion — said that by 1990 it would cost $12 billion, allowing for inflation.  Instead they were off by almost 9 times; it was $107 billion.  And in 2007, it was costing us $431 billion.  For just 1 year.  Even after cost cutting measure like reducing payments to doctors, which then causes some doctors to leave the Medicare market.  (Follow the link for other medical cost underestimating.)

So in order to get this past the American people, Democrats are massaging the data to fit the narrative, while knowing full well (if they have any knowledge of history at all) that they are low-balling by an order of magnitude or more. 

It’s not just the cost estimates; it’s the disingenuousness and outright lying that is going on that should give any supporter pause as to what it is they’ve bought into.

The stifling of diss…

The stifling of diss…
The stifling of dissent among those protesting the stifling of dissent.

Untold however, was the ironic story of a similar struggle within the anti-war camp, where some leaders, activists and writers who voiced opposition to leadership say they were stigmatized and labeled “red-baiters” and “McCarthyists” in an alleged attempt to intimidate and silence dissent within protest ranks.

Take Nathan Newman as an example.

Newman, former vice president of the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, is a union lawyer, political activist and frequent contributor to Technology Review, Progressive Populist, and American Prospect.

A political activist and former union organizer, he also was the project director at NetAction, a consumer technology advocacy group and wrote “Net Loss,” a book addressing Internet policy and related issues of economic inequality.

Newman’s offense? He repeatedly has described the ANSWER [Act Now to Stop War and End Racism] coalition, a prominent organizer of the anti-war rallies, as a front group for the neo-Stalinist Worker’s World Party, or WWP, a group he describes as supporters of “mass murderers,” “morally reprehensible,” and “not fit to associate with.”

Is that some sort of trumped-up charge, or can he back up that allegation of a tie-in?

To those who questioned his characterizing of ANSWER as a front group for the WWP, Newman responded, “I’ve worked with the WWP in various coalitions. You may not know how front groups work, but when the website was created by, the office is run by, and the main spokespeople are all from a single group like the Workers World Party, it is fair to characterize the group as being derived from that group.”

He added, “And as a member of the leadership of the National Lawyers Guild, which has endorsed ANSWER – against my vote – and who has key people doing their legal work, I know pretty well the role of the WWP in organizing this stuff. ”

“If the main group leading ANSWER supports mass murderers, ” Newman concluded, “those working with them have some responsibility for disassociating themselves from those views.”

Pretty convincing stuff. A “conscientious objector” in the ranks of those who would (normally) wear that label as a badge of honor. Newman says he’s just trying to hold the folks on his side to the same standard they apply to the conservatives.

Newman called for consistency, saying the left rightly had condemned Trent Lott for his association with “neo-confederate racists,” but added, “The same principle applies to the left not casually ignoring its own association with supporters of authoritarian butchers.”

There’s more in the article, but you get the idea. I disagree with him on the anti-war stance he takes, but you’ve got to admire a guy who’s willing to take a long look at his own side and use the same standard of measurement with them. Well, apparently, some folks wouldn’t admire that.

Newman’s public expression of disdain for the WWP and ANSWER soon set him at loggerheads with the Guild, which maintains a cozy relationship with the groups.

Newman reported the Guild’s National Executive Committee rebuked him and the New York City Guild chapter he led for their strident criticism of these key groups that wrested organizational control of and led the recent anti-war rallies.

At the time of his rebuke, Newman told fellow activists, “At the moment, I am being denounced by name within the National Exec Committee of my own organization, the National Lawyers Guild, for being critical of the WWP’s connection to ANSWER on my personal blog, and a resolution is being voted on to denounce all such criticisms as red-baiting … denying that ANSWER can in any way be described as a front group of WWP, thus making any accusation of such ‘unfounded’ and a ‘vicious attack.’

It’s getting personal, but here’s comes the clincher.

“Our executive director wanted to add part of the resolution that no local chapter could criticize the WWP’s role or otherwise deviate from the national line (something the NYC chapter already has done in its own resolutions), so this ‘anti-red baiting’ position is turning into its own form of authoritarianism within various left organizations and publications.”

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, here’s the liberal answer to “McCarthyism”: More “McCarthyism”, but this time featuring the question, “Are you now, or have you ever been, a critic of the Communist Party?” John Ashcroft is not forbidding these folks from protesting publicly, he’s not stifling dissent, but leftists themselves are doing far worse than they accuse him of. And this is not coming from some moderate, or some Blue Dog Democrat.

“I consider myself a ‘leftist,’ he said, “even Marxist in some vague ways, and have been member of softer left groups like Democratic Socialists of America and the Committees of Correspondence. So my opinion is not ‘anti-left’ or ‘anti-Party’ per se, but anti a particular kind of sectarianism.”

There’s a lot more in the WorldNetDaily article; a lot of background. Well worth the read. And it looks like Mr Newman has read it and generally approves of the article. (Instapundit would jokingly quip “Cats and dogs living together!”) On his blog, Newman writes:

Rightwing on Me and WWP

WorldNetDaily, the popular rightwing online news site, has a full-fledged story on the attacks on critics of the WWP-ANSWER within the left, with a lot on my history within the National Lawyers Guild. They seemed to have combed every email list and web site to piece together the story. Although they didn’t bother to even contact me for comment, a pretty shabby failure.

It’s not too slanted, since it emphasizes how isolated ideologically the WWP is on the Left and distinguishes the vast numbers who opposed the war versus the tiny clique around WWP-ANSWER who were pro-Saddam.

The article even points out why the media pays more attention to fringe rightwing groups than to Stalinist groups like the WWP– the rightwing groups are actively murdering people in the US. Quoting one source:

“The far right becomes relevant when it’s shooting abortion doctors or blowing up courthouses,” he said, “There aren’t a lot of leftists blowing things up.”

Which of course highlights why the rightwing is kind of silly to itself spend too much time talking breathlessly about fringe groups, when it tolerates Klan allies and abortion doctors in its midst. I wonder how many exposes WND has done on those?

To which I’d add a few things.

  • While the shootings and bombings mentioned are tragic and should not happen, any group (fringe or not) that finds moral equivalence between that and the hundreds of thousands in North Korean gulags where thousands die every year is seriously overdue for some introspection.
  • Oh, and there are leftists blowing things and people up too. (Anyone remember the Unabomber who was a big Al Gore fan?)
  • And finally, while there may have been just a “tiny clique” in the WWP-ANSWER movement who were morally pro-Saddam, the rest of crowd, marching to keep him in power and continue his skimming of billions (with a ‘b’) of dollars from the UN Oil-for-Palaces Food program, were effectively pro-Saddam, regardless of their intent.

Anyway, just something to think about when you hear the left complaining about the “stifling of dissent”. Again, as Instapundit would jokingly quip, “I blame Ashcroft”, except this time it could read “I blame the Ashcroft protestors.”