The Left Can't Understand Why People Question Obamacare

August 07, 2009|By RON SMITH

America's liberals have gone from swooning over Barack Obama's ascension to the White House and gloating over their Bush-induced domination of Congress to near-hysteria because ordinary middle-class Americans are rising in anger against the Democrats' planned hijacking of the nation's health care system. MSNBC's Chris Matthews worked himself into his characteristic spittle-laced frenzy while sputtering about the legions of protestors showing up to make meetings designed to sell Obamacare into "Town Hell" occasions.

He had Sen. Barbara Boxer of California on his "Hardball" program to pass along a condemnation of these town hall protestors as being "well-dressed middle-class people in pinks and limes ... [a] Brooks Brothers Brigade." How dare these people adopt the tactics of the left, like the ACORN or SEIU organizers, and plan demonstrations of political dissatisfaction. The left would have us believe that such actions are illegitimate if performed by any other than their own supporters.

This is amusing, as are the awkward attempts by Mr. Matthews and his like to suggest that those folks giving the health care reform backers from Congress a frosty reception as they try to sell their nationalized health care plans are shills for the health insurance industry.

Truth is, the health insurance industry is as silent as the shorter half of Penn and Teller. As the Wall Street Journal points out, "If anything, the health-care business lobbies are helping Democrats by keeping quiet and hoping their silence buys them survival as heavily-regulated utilities."

What's actually happening represents a rare political development - the arousal of what Richard Nixon dubbed "The Silent Majority," in this case by what they correctly believe to be a threat to their cherished right to choose their own doctors and exercise autonomy in matters relating to their medical well-being.

Everybody knows the current system is exceedingly expensive and that tens of millions of their fellow citizens are without health insurance, but a majority of Americans, in poll after poll, express satisfaction with their own coverage and share an understandable disbelief that government run health care is going to make things better.

It's trite to ask why one should think government could efficiently provide health care when it demonstrably can't do anything efficiently. As we know, trite can be true, and the evidence of governmental incompetence is overwhelming, even if it is ignored by people such as those who write newspaper editorials or host certain cable talk shows.

I want to recommend a paper by a man named Clifford Asness, a money-manager who blogs at StumblinOnTruth.com. It's titled "Health Care Mythology," and in it he makes several key points, some of which are counterintuitive, such as the fact that though what we spend on health care has indeed risen, in absolute terms, this does not mean costs are soaring.

He suggests one cannot judge the "cost" of something simply by what one spends, but also by what one gets. And when it comes to health care, what we get in 2009 dwarfs what we got in, say, 1950.

The system could be better, but what's being proposed in the various measures making their rounds in Congress isn't going to make it better. And lacking any kind of tort reform proposals, the whole exercise is bound to fail as any means of controlling runaway costs.

Defenders of the tort system argue that the cost of making people like John Edwards rich by seducing jurors into believing that obstetrical mistakes are the cause of cerebral palsy is exaggerated. They point out that actual payoffs to plaintiffs are a tiny percentage of health costs.

True, but they ignore the massive costs of "defensive medicine," the kind that must be practiced to ward off legal attacks by the tort toads. Those costs are hard to determine, but the consensus is that they are somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 billion dollars annually.

Why no prospect of caps on this windfall? The tort bar is a key money provider for the Democratic office-holders. Maybe Chris Matthews will mention that fact one fine day. Ha.

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