A Christmas Surprise?

by Burt on December 23, 2009

The unpopularity of Obamacare, and the insistence of the Democrats on passing it, has many scratching their heads.  Why commit political suicide?

Two answers help explain this odd political development–one makes sense and the other doesn’t.  First, President Obama actually believes government-run healthcare, unlike government-run everything else, will work–or at least be an improvement.   From Amtrack to the Post Office, from the transcontinental railroads to Woodrow Wilson’s government-steel company, and from Jimmy Carter’s stimulus to Obama’s stimulus–federal intervention has been a reverse Midas touch in U. S. history.  That applies to healthcare, too.  Medicare has always had cost-overruns and veterans’ hospitals have been a major source of either incompetence or corruption ever since they were first built (with kickbacks) under President Harding.  Socialized medicine may trump them all with cost-overruns, missing money, and rationed healthcare that actually reduces life expectancy in the United States.

The second reason for pushing an unpopular healthcare program is that once it is enacted, it will be hard to get rid of.  That is a valid point.  When a new political program become law, it develops constituencies and bureaucracies that defend the program even when it fails, costs more than expected, and corrupts the political process.  President Obama believes that once some kind of government health care program is written into law, it will not disappear but will be expanded in future decades.

If we go back to FDR, sure enough we see minimum wage laws, Social Security, TVA, mandatory collective bargaining, and other costly and poorly administered programs seventy years later stronger than ever.  But we did abolish a few boondoggles and that gives hope.  The National Recovery Act bit the dust in 1935, and in the 1940s, the WPA and the NYA were abolished.  The RFC was finally removed in the 1950s.  Those programs funneled billions of dollars into the Democratic Party and they all were vanquished–some even under Democratic rule.

The best solution is for Congress to actually read the new healthcare bill, get embarrassed, and then give voters a Christmas surprise and vote the bill down.  But if the bill passes, we may be able to knock it off down the road when its contents begin to do real damage.

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