Pushing the Liberal Agenda of Universal Health Care

As is typical of most liberals, the Dead Fish Wrapper thinks that more and more government is always the solution to all of society's problems. They have been demonstrating this lately on more than one occasion. The first is an editorial touting a new "framework" for a universal health care system in Oregon as reported by the Fish Wrapper. And, as usual, the editors gloss over important facts while pushing the hype:

Nobody, of course, is ready to endorse a final version of the plan. There is no final version. Virtually all of the details have yet to be worked out, and that's going to mean a long, painful process.

The commission's draft bill lacks crucial details, such as costs, but it does outline a broad proposal for dramatically changing how Oregonians would buy and receive health care.

Yup, that sounds like a well thought out plan with lots of detail; definitely something worth promoting.

The second occasion is an article on Ron Wyden's proposal for a national health care plan.

After reading the article, it's pretty obvious where the Fish Wrapper stands on this issue. The entire article explains the plan, but glosses over any issues that might pose problems for it. In the entire 10 paragraph section of the article entitled Obstacles and positioning, there were two whole sentences that mentioned any possible obstacles:

Wyden's 166-page bill faces political obstacles, and Wyden doesn't expect it to pass easily or without amendment. He has no co-sponsors yet.

Then there's the obstacle like the fact that universal health care has failed miserably in places like Canada and Great Britain, but, like I always say, don't let the facts get in the way...

So how does all this work?

The Wyden measure would change the rules for all Americans except those covered by Medicare or through the military. State-by-state Medicaid programs would continue only for poor children and disabled people.

The law would require employers to end health insurance benefits and put the money into employee salaries. Workers would use that money -- protected by a new tax deduction -- to buy health insurance. They would pay premiums through income taxes.

So let me get this straight; I get a tax deduction for my insurance premiums which I then turn around and pay in income taxes? Nothing confusing there...

People in households with incomes of less than $40,000 would pay less out of pocket than they do now for medical and dental coverage comparable to what members of Congress and other federal employees get. On average, households with incomes between $50,000 and $150,000 would pay about $300 more a year, but many would have more health plans to choose from and get fuller coverage in return.

Here is a chart published with the article that shows how much more or less a family would have to pay with this new plan.

But here's where the savings are:

The projected savings under Wyden's proposal, he said, would come from administrative simplification, a stronger emphasis on preventive care and cost control resulting from individuals taking more responsibility for choosing their health plan.

All this sounds great, but the reality is that it is all pie in the sky. Can anyone point out a time where government has ever been more efficient than private industry? Ever?? I doubt it. It's one reason the Soviet system failed; they tried to plan the economy instead of letting supply and demand determine it. When has the government ever demonstrated "administrative simplification"? The terms "government" and "administrative simplification" together form an oxymoron.

But what's assumed is that there would be no problems with government making health care choices for us. This is a very dangerous assumption, as exemplified by Canada and Great Britain.

  • Patients being denied appointments with consultants in a systematic attempt to ration care and save the government money.
  • A woman (a former man who had a sex change operation) gets a tattoo removed, but a woman with cancer is denied a cancer treatment drug because it costs too much, even though it cost the same as the tattoo removal
  • People are denied surgeries not because they have no benefit, but because they cost too much.
  • A recent study in Canada found that "12 percent of physicians and 4 percent of nurses believe they have had patients die specifically because of long waits for needed care."

And Deroy Murdock points out even more examples of why universal health care is dangerous for the patient.

So after all this, I have one question: why is only one side of this story told by Mr. Graves and Mr. Colburn? It seems the answer is that when you're a liberal, you know your side is the only one worth telling.

As long as the healthcare

As long as the healthcare industry is dominated by private industries, the system is going to continue to be fundamentally flawed. The nature of capitalism is to take as much as possible with giving as little as possible. Do you really think an ideology like that applies that well to something like healthcare? Conservatives bitch about the amount of drug addicts out on the streets and the country's demand for drugs, but do you think these ppl can afford drug rehab? Locking addicts in jail won't do anything but drain the state's money and turn them into real criminals.

Very good post, thanks a lot.

Very good post, thanks a lot.

Why do you hate people that can't afford healthcare?

Why do hate people who can't afford healthcare? I guess because you have it and others don't too hell with them. "Me, me, me, piss on the rest of you!" Are you a "Christian" by any chance. You sure seem like one. So much for love hy neighbor.

What a prime example of a

What a prime example of a nasty radical liberal socialist who hates christians. What does his relegious beliefs have to do with his discussion. Absolutely nothing! Are you an athiest? Are you muslim??????? If you were approached the way you fired back at him for making some great points by the way, you would likely explode. He makes some very accurate, fact based conclusions and they all make sense. This isnt a conspiracy.

Let me see if I can peg you. Your are an angry middle aged liberal who hates christians. You likely have had or are currently recieving benefits from the government. If you have a job its a minimum wage job. Your angry that your life and the world hasent given you what everybody else has and you despise the rich. Ya know, the ones that pay most of the taxes in this country. How close did I come.

Give me a break

So if someone challenges or disagrees with a health care plan, it means they automatically "hate" the people that the plan affects?

Are we not allowed to ask for a better plan - without getting _labeled_ - or to disagree with parts of a plan because I don't think it serves people as well as it could, or because it doesn't seem to be planned out very well???

I didn't read anything that spelled hate in Steve's post. I just read some carefully thought out criticisms of the proposed health care plan. It should always be ok to challenge, and challenge does not equal hate.

Accusing the challenger of hate takes the focus off the issues at hand, and moves them into personal judgements and emotions. Why do you feel the need to do that? Is there some reason you're not able to stick to the facts?

I Don't Hate Anybody

Wow, that's quite a lot to extrapolate from my post, and unfortunately, it's all incorrect. You obviously totally missed my point, which was this; it is not the government that should be providing health care to everybody. As I demonstrated, universal health care has been attempted in places like Canada and Great Britain and has failed to the point where health care is being rationed out, and it has dire consequences. There are better ways to provide health care, but relying on the government is not one of them.

To answer your other question, yes, I am a Christian, and I suggest you find out how much I do give to those who are less fortunate before you start making judgements.

Just a question

Just a question--how do you suppose we get healthcare costs under control and get healthcare to those that need it? Next, you say that the Canadian and Great Britain System is so bad that every person I know from Canada, family, friends and work collegues, say they would never trade their system for the U.S.'s. In short, you say their system is so bad like somehow ours is so good.

As for the Christian comment, it shouldn't be how much you give, but how much love you have in your heart. If you were a real Christian you probably wouldn't be spending all this time writing hate about your fellow man. I guess it depends on what your definition of "Christian" is. We will let God sort that all out for you.

In regard to your first

In regard to your first question, I don't have a definite plan for providing health care to every single person. Coming from an economics background, I can tell you that private enterprise can do almost anything much better and more efficiently than government every time. It has been demonstrated over and over again. Does the term "government waste" sound familiar? It's a typical liberal tendency to want to think that government can cure all ills. It was a Democrat that made us into the welfare state that we are today.

So I'm still curious to know how what I wrote is "hate for my fellow man." I said absolutely nothing of the kind. My point - for the second time - is that we should not always turn to the government to cure all of our problems. So can you be specific? Am I "hateful" because I speak out against the way liberals want to make us so dependent on government? It's interesting how judgemental you choose to be when you know nothing about me.

Congratulations to everybody you know who loves the Canadian system (do they also love the amount of taxes they have to pay?). All I know is that for years I have heard story after story of how people have to wait and wait for care, and by the time they are seen, the problem is much worse than it should have been, among other horrors.

Right-wingers drowning America in a bath tub

"I don't have a definite plan for providing health care to every single person."

Why not? When will you have one?

As for "efficiencies" of the private sector, maybe we can ask Ken Lay and his buddies how those "efficiencies" work. I am sure the over exploded saleries that they get makes them pretty efficient. You think? I will tell you this much "efficiency" doesn't always mean quality.

And one more thing, we, meaning you and I, are the government. We can make it as efficient and effective as we want. Dismantling our safety net isn't the route the majority of Americans want to go, so you need to move on from that push. It is unproductive and a complete waste of time.

Why not use your "economics" expertise and help try to improve America instead of trying to tear it down. If not, I can suggest a nice Island you and your family can move to. It is called Bikini Atoll. But if you do care about America and your fellow citizens, you can start reading the below article and learn some facts about Canadian's public sector you make think you know so much about. Like a great Senator once said, you are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts.

Seven Public Sector Myths

By Ed Finn

To hear right-wing businessmen and politicians tell it, the public sector is the root of all economic evil.

By discrediting the public sector and glorifying the private sector, they seek to divert more government revenue into their own pockets to ‘privatize’ those public services that can be made profitable, and to cut back further on the funding of health care, education, unemployment insurance and most other social programs.

To accomplish these objectives and repeal the 20th century, the forces of the New Right in Canada are disseminating fallacies and distortions about the public sector and public employees. This article examines some of these myths and provides facts and figures to dispel them.

Myth No. 1: Governments in Canada have become too large

No matter how you measure government growth, statistics don’t support this widely-held belief. The number of public sector workers is less than one-fifth of the work force. Governments still account for less than 10 per cent of total capital investment in Canada. Government consumption of resources is less than one-quarter of total spending in the economy and has not increased significantly in the past decade. The chief form of government growth in recent years has been transfer payments old age pensions, the Canada/Quebec Pension Plan, unemployment insurance payments, family allowances, social welfare benefits and other cash payments from government to individual Canadians.

The role of governments in these transfers is to reallocate funds from some people to others through the tax system. Governments don’t spend all this money. It is spent by the recipients of all these social benefits and spent for the most part in the private sector.

Is it therefore misleading to point to the increases in transfer payments as evidence of excessive government growth. The major increases have been in unemployment insurance and welfare benefits, which have been necessary to help the victims of a faltering economy.

The public sector in Canada is still smaller than it is in many other countries smaller, in fact, than the average for the 13 OECD countries. Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Britain all have larger public sectors than does Canada.

It is the private sector in Canada that employs four-fifths of the labour force, absorbs over 90 per cent of investment and accounts for over 75 per cent of consumption in the economy.

These figures give the lie to right-wing charges that government spending in out of control.

Myth No. 2: Economic slumps are caused by government mismanagement

It takes merely a glance at the history of the private enterprise system to see that economic recessions have occurred at regular intervals right from the start. Following a pattern known as ‘the business cycle,’ the system has continually lurched from periods of overproduction and high profits to periods of unemployment and bankruptcies. This pattern existed long before governments began to intervene in the economy in any significant way.

One reason governments began intruding in the economy was to moderate the excesses of the business cycle that led to the Great Depression. To put it more bluntly, governments had to intervene to prevent the capitalist system from destroying itself.

The problem today is not that governments have too much control over the economy, but that they don’t have enough or their policies are wrong-headed. Fiscal policies that worked in the past are now ineffective, because corporations have the power either to evade such measures or to force governments to back down.

Basic decisions on the extent and direction of investment are now made by the multinationals and by the international banking and financial institutions not by governments. If governments won’t provide the tax concessions, grants and other subsidies business demands, the multinationals can and do turn off the investment tap.

The reality of our present economic system, then, contrary to the anti-government tirades of the business community, is that governments have too little economic power, not too much. They are being blamed for economic problems they didn’t create and have no power to control.

Myth No. 3: Canada’s social programs are too generous, and cost too much

Spending on education, health care, pensions, unemployment insurance and other social programs has indeed risen substantially in Canada since the 1950’s but less than it has in most other countries.

Social spending now makes up about 22 per cent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but in West Germany it’s 31 per cent, in Italy 29 per cent, in Britain 24 per cent and in France 23 per cent.

Far from being a big spender on social programs, Canada ranks 15th on a list of 19 industrialized countries, according to a study conducted by Prof. Harold Wilensky of the University of California. Our public pensions, our workers’ compensation, our UIC payments, and most of our other social programs are not nearly as generous as those in most other countries.

Right-wingers often claim our allegedly too rich social benefits make people lazy and less productive. But West German workers, who are among the most productive in the world, also receive the most in social welfare. So the two are not at all incompatible. It could more reasonably be argued that workers who don’t have to worry about the costs of getting old or sick, or of educating their children, would tend to be more efficient in their jobs.

The fact is that Canada has been far more stingy in its approach to social spending since 1975 than have most other nations. The problem is not how to control the costs of Canada’s social programs, but how to prevent their continuing erosion.

Myth No. 4: Government deficits must be reduced and the best way to do it is to cut public services

Government debt has risen in Canada in spite of sharp cuts in the funding of social services over the past decade.

The main cause of these deficits is the very policy of fiscal restraint that our federal and provincial governments had adopted. The economy has been stifled, output reduced and tax revenues lowered.

Unemployed people don’t pay taxes. Instead, they are a multi-billion dollar drain on government finances. Economists estimate that if our unemployment rate had been held to even seven per cent instead of being allowed to rise to nearly twice that level, government deficits would have been wiped out, or even converted into a surplus.

Another reason for the growing public debt has been the sharp reduction of taxes on corporations and the wealthy. Corporate taxes 30 years ago provided more than 21 per cent of total government revenue, but today that share has dropped to just over six per cent.

Similarly, the reduction of the top marginal income tax rate from 84 per cent to 49.9 per cent since 1972, along with the introduction of numerous tax loopholes, has given our wealthiest citizens the equivalent of an annual $13 billion tax rebate.

Finally, much of the swollen federal government deficit has been brought on by that government’s high interest rate policy. Interest charges on the federal debt amounted to more than $31 billion over a recent two-year period. In other words, nearly one-fifth of all federal government spending in those two years went into interest payments.

Instead of being unduly concerned about the size of government deficits and calling for more ‘restraint,’ Canadians should be pressing for a switch to policies that will foster economic growth, cut interest rates and make our tax system more equitable.

Myth No. 5: Public sector growth and spending are harmful to the private sector

Business people who claim that government activity interferes with ‘free enterprise’ could only be taken seriously if the public and private sectors were entirely separate in Canada.

In fact, the two are so interdependent that it’s often difficult to distinguish between them. Most goods and services are produced through the combined effort and resources of both the public and private sectors. And even the most seemingly independent of entrepreneurs relies in some way on government assistance.

A great deal of government spending takes the form of direct or indirect financial aid to business. The corporations receive more than $12 billion annually in such handouts from the federal government, and billions more from the provinces. When they complain about ‘big government’ and ‘public sector waste,’ they’re presumably not referring to all this tax revenue being lavished on them.

So what are big business executives talking about when they object to government spending? Are they talking about the funding of health care and education? About the money spent on highways and airports? About government-financed job training courses?

The truth is that much government ‘intervention’ in the private sector is not only desirable, but indispensable. Very few economic activities can be described as purely private or purely public. Our is a ‘mixed’ economy.

Take this example: A private company extracts public gas, sends it through a public pipeline to another private company which combines it with public electricity and private clay to make bricks, which go by private trucks on public roads to a private building contractor who is building public housing on private land to be sold to a private citizen with a mortgage from a public housing agency.

Obviously, all that would be achieved by reducing the public sector’s role in this economic process would be to hurt the private companies involved not help them.

They couldn’t operate without the help of the public sector they’re always complaining about.

Myth No. 6: Most government services could be provided more efficiently if transferred to the private sector

There are only two ways a private company can supply a service at a lower cost than a government can by paying the workers less, and by reducing the quality of the service. Most contractors do both.

Often, in order to get a public sector contract, a private firm will enter an unrealistically low bid. Then, after the public agency has lost the staff and equipment to do the work, the contract firm will jack up its rates when the contract is renewed.

The fact that the cost of private sector services must include a profit margin automatically gives the public sector a 20 per cent advantage. Whenever controlled experiments gave been conducted, such as dividing a service of public works project between a private contractor and the government’s own employees, the work performed by the private company is invariably found to be inferior and more costly.

This is not surprising. Contracted-out services have many drawbacks. For one thing, the public employer can no longer ensure that the services are being provided by qualified employees who take pride in their work. The chances are that, being underpaid, they’ll be less qualified and conscientious.

Contracting-out also limits the public employer’s ability to make long-term plans or to have the flexibility required to make late changes or adjustments to a project.

Contracting-out breeds corruption. The more public officials deal with private contractors, the more taxpayers suffer through graft, kickbacks, overcharging,tax evasions, and price-fixing.

There are also hidden costs associated with contracting-out that aren’t usually considered in making comparisons. Like having to monitor the performance of the contractor. Like the cost of patching up or revising the contractor’s unsatisfactory work. Like the cost of the tendering process itself.

The first fact is that contracting-out or ‘privatizing’ public services results not in greater efficiency, but in higher costs and taxes, and lower standards of service.

Myth No. 7: Government regulations are bad for industries and consumers

The push for the deregulation of airlines, banks, telecommunications, trucking and other industries is part of a broader campaign by right-wing elements for less government involvement in the economy.

But the would-be deregulators overlook the reasons these industries were regulated in the first place. They don’t tell us that some industries that can only function effectively as monopolies must be regulated to protect the public form excessive prices. They don’t tell us that other industries have to be regulated to stop corruption, bid-rigging, and other corporate abuses. They don’t tell us that, without regulation, some business firms disregard public health and safety, create environmental disasters, and provide inadequate levels of services to some groups or regions.

The advocates of deregulation in Canada point to the deregulation of the American airline industry to support their case. But the U.S. experience really hasn’t been all that beneficial.

A survey by the U.S. Civil Aeronautics Board disclosed that, since deregulation in 1978, 106 communities in 31 states have been cut off completely from air service, while another 351 cities and towns have had services reduced.

Deregulation has also led to the loss of more than 20,000 airline jobs and substantial pay cuts for many thousands of other airline employees.

Nor has there been an overall lowering of airfares in the U.S. On certain high-density routes (such as New York to Los Angeles), rates have dropped; but on less competitive routes they have risen considerably. According to the Commons Standing Committee on Transport, overall, air travel rates in the U.S. have actually risen by 17 per cent per annum since deregulation.

No one would deny that there are shortcomings in the current system of government regulations, including some unreasonably high rates. But the answer is not to remove all public safeguards. It is to reform the regulatory agencies and practices to make them more responsive to the needs and interests of those who use the services.

Nice Try, But Irrelevant

So now your opinion is "facts", and mine is just "opinion"? Who exactly made that determination?

Every rule has its exception, and it's easy to point out the exceptions like Ken Lay and Enron. Yes, there were accounting scandals, and you will also notice that the feds have been going after people like that with a vengeance. I have to deal with the aftermath of that every day at my job.

Nice article. The problems with it are 1) it doesn't really deal with what I am talking about, and 2) it's obviously more of an opinion piece than a fact based economics essay.

You still haven't answered my question; how is what I wrote showing "hate for my fellow man"? How is it "tearing down America" and "not caring about America and my fellow citizens"? I don't think having a full reliance on government for health care is a good thing, and I said as much. Is my opinion only valid as long as it doesn't disagree with you?

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