Those Calls For Action: It's The Media, StupidDon't just...


February 14, 1993

Those Calls For Action: It's The Media, Stupid

Don't just do something, stand there. It might be better advice than we would imagine.

The (very sizable) liberal arm of the media, having created a recession in order to elect a president, is focused now on the "first 100 days." . . . The identifier is the liberal media's mechanism for arousing great expectations (or apprehensions, to many of us) among the populace, while at the same time turning up the heat on the new administration to do the things that the liberal media would like.

Having been presented with the opportunity (i.e., the "recession"), the then-candidate declared that his first priority would be to "jump start" the economy. But the media has betrayed him, by allowing, now, that the economy appears to be improving. . . . If the economy is "recovering," possibly the best thing to do is let it alone. Wasn't there someone in the White House previously who took that position, evidently correctly?

Well, there is still priority No. 2. At the end of four years, reduce the federal budget deficit to half of the projected level. Not an unattainable objective, of course, because, once the actual level of the deficit is known, a projection can be found, or made, that will be double the size of the actual. But the media has been less than helpful again, having now announced that the current year's deficit will be half again as high as was projected only a few months ago. They knew at the time, of course, that the official projection was conservative (as did, reportedly, campaign management), but it obviously served their purpose better to disregard the more realistic analysis, so that a promise to reduce it by half would sound more reasonable. The reduction of the deficit by half, as we are informed, is no longer a priority of the new administration. Their objective now is to reduce it by something (but using which projection?).

All right, move to Item Three on the list of priorities. The cost of health care increases by about 12 percent annually, and containment is needed. The trouble is the cause is not where it was commonly thought to be.

Data in the "Statistical Abstract of the United States" (available to any citizen from the Government Printing Office for about $30) shows that the earnings of family physicians have been increasing at an average of about 4 percent annually, while total compensation in all domestic industries has increased by about 5 percent annually, and the data suggests that growth in the earnings of physicians is at least partly attributable to an increase in numbers of services rendered.

(Earnings of certain medical specialists have increased more rapidly, also attributable, apparently, to an increase in the number of services, and probably more to the malpractice threat and the increasing sophistication and complexity of procedures and technology.)

Hospital charges, the abstract shows, have increased markedly, but it suggests at least one reason for that: From 1972 to 1990, the number of hospital personnel per 100 patients increased from 221 to 482 (salaries increasing also). The growth in staff is undoubtedly heavily attributable to government and private bureaucracies that multiply regulations and demand voluminous reports and that challenge services rendered, while the trend in malpractice awards necessitates that the patient be tested for bubonic plague when the complaint is of a head cold.

Another substantial part of the increase in hospital charges has to be the need to acquire the state-of-the-art equipment that we expect even our community hospitals to have -- which, in turn, requires staff trained to maintain and operate the equipment.

All such factors are undoubtedly contributors, but the most fundamental reason for the annual increase in the (aggregate, not unit) expenditure for health care is utilization, facilitated by the ever-increasing availability and comprehensiveness of third party payment mechanisms (private and government).

The net result is that containment of the continuing escalation in the expenditure for health care will have to include the rationing or prioritizing of services (another bureaucracy, to decide whether or not this patient is entitled to a kidney transplant. That would hardly be popular; imagine what the liberal media would do with it). Thus, addressing that problem in the first 100 days seems less than likely also. . . .

In the meantime, there remains the commitment to amend (i.e., cancel) armed forces regulations relative to homosexuals (Will the electorate have forgotten by the time of the next election?).

And, the promise to remove restrictions on abortion, to further encourage that abortion be the preferred means for birth control, especially among certain of those who are served at public expense.

Maybe the best advice really is don't just do something, stand there. It might, after all, take a while to figure out what needs to be done, and what can be done.

But the liberal media will not wait. The heat will be turned up. After all, it elected a president, and now it wants (its kind of) action.

James A. Runser


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