Robert Knight: An Unhealthy Government Track Record
This column originally appeared on the Human Events website on November 25, 2009.
The U.S. Senate is now trying to speed-read the 2,074 pages of the health care takeover bill after 60 senators voted to proceed on Nov. 21. It only took an insertion of $300 million to buy wavering Sen. Mary Landrieu’s vote in what some call the second “Louisiana Purchase.”
Majority Leader Harry Reid is boasting that the whole thing could be done before Christmas. If that is so, then Americans will find an enormous lump of coal in their stockings, big enough to change America forever.
President Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi tell us in reassuring tones that if we just gulp down their socialized medicine, health care will be simpler, more efficient, cost less and lower the federal deficit. They stop just short of claiming the plan will cure baldness and let us shed weight by eating more cheeseburgers.
This fierce, greedy leftist power grab in the midst of a recession comes after we’ve experienced decades of government waste with trillions of unaccounted-for dollars, bloated budgets, deadly social consequences and countless souls languishing in red tape. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are on the verge of bankrupting the nation just as millions of Baby Boomers are retiring. In 2008, the three programs accounted for $1.3 trillion, or 43 percent of federal spending. But mere facts like this don’t dampen one whit the ardor of liberals for ever more government.
We all need to keep in mind the government’s track record during the health care debate. The Washington Times’ David Dixon notes that in 1965, Congress estimated the hospital insurance portion of Medicare would cost $9 billion by 1990. The actual cost was more than seven times that — $67 billion. In 1967, Congress said Medicare as a whole would cost $12 billion by 1990. The real cost was more than eight times higher — $98 billion.
You can find similar examples in all the government’s health programs, as well as entitlement programs like food stamps. In 1965, food stamps cost taxpayers $75 million. The 2009 food stamp budget? Try $40 billion.
Here are more examples of why the Democrats’ assurance of fiscal restraint in the health care takeover bill is patently absurd.
Stimulus fraud. The Obama administration claims that the $787 billion stimulus spending bill would “create or save” 3.5 million jobs over the next two years, and has already created “or saved” 640,000 jobs at a cost of $160 billion. Unemployment, however, has risen to 10.2 percent in October from the 8.1 percent in February when the bill passed, and to 17.5 percent in October if you count the “under-employed.”
But that’s kid’s stuff compared to what ABC News turned up at www.recovery.gov, the $18 million website touted by stimulus manager Vice President Joe Biden as a showpiece that will “blow you away.” Well, it does blow you away when the site claims $6 billion spent in 440 non-existent congressional districts. For example, Arizona was listed as saving 30 jobs in its 15th congressional district, and more in its 86th district. Arizona has only eight congressional districts.
Postal pain. The U.S. Postal Service, the largest civilian federal agency, with 727,000 employees and 38,000 facilities, continues to go deeper into the red. Despite cutting back on employees and some services and raising the price of stamps for its monopoly on first-class letter delivery, the service will lose a projected $7 billion in fiscal 2009 and another $7 billion in fiscal 2010, bringing its total debt up to $13 billion, according to a Government Accounting Office report.
Swine flu. The Department of Health and Human Services, after issuing dire warnings about the spreading plague, is lacking millions of doses of H1N1 vaccine, prompting Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) to send letters to the heads of three federal agencies. Gannett News reports, “Since October, 43 million doses have been made available – far short of the supply needed for the 159 million people considered at high risk for complications from swine flu. The government initially projected that 120 million doses would be available by mid-October…..”
Perhaps the drug companies are too busy defending themselves against the coming federal confiscation to be bothered making enough medicine.
Who’s your landlord? Having blown up the housing market and plunged the nation into recession by forcing lenders to give loans to people who could not possibly afford them, Barney Frank and the federal government now own upwards of 50,000 vacant homes as reported by USA Today. And speaking of the fed’s role as a landowner, the government spends $25 billion each year in taxpayers’ money to maintain vacant or unused federal properties.
The health care takeover bill is a monumental mistake and could be the final straw in which government spending breaks the private sector and we all wind up as government serfs. Given the government’s track record, do we really want it taking over our health care system?
As Harvard Medical School Dean Jeffrey S. Flier wrote about the bill recently in the Wall Street Journal, “there are no provisions to substantively control the growth of costs or raise the quality of care.” He noted from his front row seat in Boston that the costs of the vaunted Massachusetts experiment in mandatory health insurance are “skyrocketing” and concluded, “We should not be making public policy in such a crucial area by keeping the electorate ignorant of the actual road ahead.”
But that is the crucial aspect of the Democrats’ plan. If enough Americans knew what it would really cost us, our children and grandchildren, then Obama, Pelosi and Reid might have to sidetrack the train instead of taking us right over a cliff into the abyss of socialism.