The following article was published in The Atlanta Journal Constitution on Monday, July 20. It’s author is former Republican Congressman from Georgia Bob Barr. Mr. Barr is currently a member of the Libertarian Party.
Health care ‘Never Never Land’
by Bob Barr
In “Sicko,” iconoclastic filmmaker Michael Moore extols the virtue of health care in such liberal “paradises” as the United Kingdom and Cuba. Leaving his audience to wonder where he would choose to go for treatment if he were facing a life-threatening illness — the People’s Hospital in Havana or the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. — Moore exhibits the same Alice-in-Wonderland delusion that has settled over the Obama administration.
A majority of members of Congress, too, seem to believe that if only enough bureaucracy and taxpayer dollars are thrown at the health care “crisis,” then everyone in the country will have their every medical need met, when they want it, and at much reduced cost. Such a mind set turns Peter Pan’s Never Never Land into a reality show.
For starters, advocates of the House legislation might want to talk to governors of those states, like Massachusetts, that have already implemented “universal” coverage plans. Increasing program costs, coupled with decreased state revenues as a result of the economic downturn, are causing serious fiscal problems and are forcing those states to consider cutbacks in coverage.
However, witnessing the irrational, “gotta-do-this-now” push in our nation’s capitol to pass comprehensive health care “reform” within the next few weeks, it is obvious the proponents of Obama-care are not interested in anyone throwing the cold water of fiscal reality on their parade.
The House version of the legislation, unveiled by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week, includes substantial mandates on American businesses (including a severe, 8 percent payroll tax on any business that fails to offer health insurance coverage to its employees). Still, the Pollyannaish Pelosi claimed (with a straight face) it would “lower costs to businesses.” This is government logic at its finest — you lower the cost of doing business by raising taxes on those businesses.
Pelosi’s obvious inability to grasp even the most basic of economic concepts was further displayed when she claimed that the “costs to consumers,” too, would be lowered. Apparently, this would be accomplished by placing a new surtax on those American consumers whose income exceeded the levels deemed worthy by the legislators.
Analysts of the 1,000-plus page legislation calculate its 10-year cost to exceed $1 trillion. Other experts fear such a figure greatly underestimates its true cost. Even the Congressional Budget Office calculates that the government subsidy for health care coverage will amount to some $6,000 per person within the next decade, which figures to more than $1.8 trillion.
Pelosi’s bill would also create a government-run insurance plan to compete with private insurers. Such a scenario, of course, is never a fair “competition,” because the government “owner” can always print money, spend borrowed money indefinitely, operate without regard for cost-benefit analysis, and threaten legal sanctions for those who fail to comply. None of these remedies are available to businesses (except, of course, for the “new” General Motors).
The smoke-and-mirrors approach is evident also in the fact that high-income taxpayers, who would already be taxed in order to pay for the “universal” coverage for their less-well-off compatriots, would face escalating taxes if the government fails in the years ahead to achieve targeted “savings” in Medicaid and Medicare. In other words, the government will set “savings targets,” but if it fails to meet them, it is taxpayers who will pay the penalty, not those members of Congress or federal bureaucrats who decide how much to spend on the entitlement programs.
Other industries, including pharmaceuticals, will face increased taxes as well, in order to pay for this “reform.” The more successful drug makers will pay a higher percentage tax than their smaller, less successful colleagues. Once again, success in the business arena is punished in the government arena.
Truly, this bill is a monstrosity.
Bob Barr, an Atlanta attorney, is a former member of Congress and Libertarian presidential candidate.