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Monday, March 18 , 2019, 7:53 pm | Fair 59º


Joe Armendariz: The Audacity of Deceit

Government-run health care is bound to fail, but that may not really matter to those who are pushing it

At the end of the 2008 fiscal year, the Treasury Department’s “Financial Report of the U.S. Government” showed the present value of America’s unfunded liabilities had reached a staggering $56 trillion, or nearly four times our nation’s GDP.

Joe Armendariz
Joe Armendariz

In about a month, the 2009 Financial Report will be released, and those in the know expect it to show our unfunded liabilities growing to more than $60 trillion, effectively tripling in a decade.

Every day we delay rehabilitating our nation’s spending addiction, America sinks $11 billion deeper into an ocean of red ink.

What is the response from Congress to this out-of-control spending habit? Pass a massive new health-care entitlement, of course ... what else?

We’ve heard the argument from the “big-government-is-good-and-bigger-government-is-even-better” crowd; if we insure the 47 million uninsured it will lower the cost of health care for everyone else who has insurance. The problem is that to believe this excruciatingly obnoxious canard requires you to believe in the Loch Ness Monster, the Tooth Fairy and that O.J. really was searching for the real killers.

In other words, it requires a suspension of disbelief. And for those of us who understand how the real world works, we might as well attempt to suspend the laws of gravity as we throw ourselves off the top of a tall building.

Yes, Virginia, government-run health care will fail because everything government runs eventually fails.

The issue with the recent health-care bill passed by the House of Representatives last Saturday is that it fundamentally ignores human nature and the power of incentives. Take the provision whereby a person who refuses to buy expensive insurance coverage would either be forced to pay a relatively small fine or go to jail for five years. Ignoring for a moment the stench surrounding the notion that the federal government would incarcerate someone for not buying health insurance ... does anyone really think someone will choose a huge insurance premium over a small fine?

Oh, but wait, that would be irrational, say the “big-government-is-good-and-bigger-government-is-even-better” crowd. After all, people understand they need insurance in case they get sick. The incentive, therefore, is for people to buy the insurance coverage as opposed to paying the fine just in case they are on the verge of a catastrophic illness ... right? Wrong!

The House bill provides for guaranteed issue coverage. In other words, no matter what your medical status or condition, you will be allowed to purchase the coverage you need to pay the doctor for the treatment you want or require. Wow, why didn’t insurance companies think to offer such a wonderful benefit? How come insurance agents didn’t insist on it? Oh, the commissions I would’ve made.

Well, I’m no expert, but I think if insurance companies allowed people to wait until they got sick before they bought health insurance it would have maybe sort of kind of bankrupted the company ... something about actuarial tables, risk management and the need to make a profit and stuff. Of course, these tedious details would be of no concern to a company with a money-printing operation — such as the federal government.

Which gets us back to the issue of fiscal responsibility and the future fiscal health of the United States of America. I know it seems crass to worry about such things when people are walking around without insurance. but indulge me if you will: What is the real motive behind this rush to socialized medicine anyway? Is it really to “bend the cost curve downward” as suggested by President Barack Obama? I think not.

Indeed, I think the real reason was actually given to us over the weekend by John Cassidy, who The Wall Street Journal refers to as part of the left-wing stable at the The New Yorker.

Cassidy wrote last week on the magazine’s Web site that “it’s important to be clear about what the reform amounts to.” He continued:

“The U.S. government is making a costly and open-ended commitment,” he wrote. “Let’s not pretend that it isn’t a big deal, or that it will be self-financing, or that it will work out exactly as planned. It won’t. What is really unfolding, I suspect, is the scenario that many conservatives feared. The Obama administration ... is creating a new entitlement program, which, once established, will be virtually impossible to rescind.”

Ya think? I think Cassidy’s on to something here.

Make no mistake, the current system of private health insurance will eventually be replaced by a government-run health-care system like the one they have in Europe. That is the preference of those on the left and at least people like Cassidy have the guts to admit it. Obama also wants this but he now lacks the political courage to say it.

There are words for that. I think it’s called Hope and Change.

— Joe Armendariz is a Carpinteria city councilman and executive director of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association and the Santa Barbara Technology & Industry Association. He can be reached at: 805.684.0678.

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