Barack Obama, Demagogue in Chief

From the diaries…

With no great pleasure, I must lay out the case against Barack Obama, Demagogue in Chief.

Barack Obama, as most politicians, loves the argument by anecdote.  In his health care speech on September 9 in support of government health care, he brought up several cases of people who had lost their insurance because their insurance company had discovered they’d made false statements on their applications.  If you knowingly make false statements on a government application, you go to jail for perjury.  Unless you’re an Obama appointee, that is.

The Obama speech was full of deceptions.  For instance:

Then there’s the problem of rising costs. We spend one-and-a-half times more per person on health care than any other country, but we aren’t any healthier for it. This is one of the reasons that insurance premiums have gone up three times faster than wages. It’s why so many employers – especially small businesses – are forcing their employees to pay more for insurance, or are dropping their coverage entirely. It’s why so many aspiring entrepreneurs cannot afford to open a business in the first place, and why American businesses that compete internationally – like our automakers – are at a huge disadvantage. And it’s why those of us with health insurance are also paying a hidden and growing tax for those without it – about $1000 per year that pays for somebody else’s emergency room and charitable care. [emphasis added]

We spend more per person.  So?  We are not those other countries, and they are not us.  Notice that he didn’t say we were not better off or as healthy for it, merely “no healthier”.  But we are in fact healthier for it than the people of say, Chad, which is covered under “any other country”.  And we don’t wait years for care, and are not denied care by government edict, especially for the preventative tests like colonoscopies and PSA tests Mr. Obama says will save us so much, but are discouraged under government-run health systems. More importantly, even if we were less healthy, it would still be okay with me, because we are more free because of our system.

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He says this excess spending is the reason for rising insurance premiums. As an exercise in oversimplification, he’s done a fine job there. But there is no law — yet — saying that a business has to provide insurance for its employees, so why would rising rates keep anyone from starting a business? If anything, his demand that employers provide insurance, or pay an equivalent fine, is exactly what will keep businesses from starting, or expanding past the point of his choosing.

He says American businesses like our automakers can’t compete with foreign companies because our companies have to pay higher health care costs.  No, they can’t compete because they are saddled with union contracts that demand Cadillac coverage for current and retired workers, contracts that also demand insane work rules pitting employer and employee against one another.  Foreign car companies with plants in the United States do just fine, with American workers, on American soil, with American health care.

Finally, he admits to the biggest lie in this entire health care debate: claiming that people without insurance do not get health care.  We mandate, by law, that people can walk up to a public hospital and receive care if they need it, insured or not.  If they can’t walk, an ambulance will come pick them up for a ride. Charitable hospitals routinely write off the cost of caring for people who cannot afford it, and in fact, doing so is their core mission.  Cost recovery is already built in to the system.

Skipping a bit:

Let me repeat this: nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.

The fallacy here is in the construction: you won’t have to change your policy, but what you have will change or go away. As he said, insurance companies will be required to cover a list of mandated health problems and procedures. There will be maximum out-of-pocket rates, and maximum co-payments.  So insurance rates will change, and you may not be able to afford your current plan (or your insurance company may get out of the health insurance business).  Most importantly, if your employer decides that it will be cheaper to drop coverage altogether and pay whatever fee, penalty, fine, or tax is required to send you to the public option, then you will lose your insurance.

Allow me to skip to the most illogical part of his entire speech:

Reducing the waste and inefficiency in Medicare and Medicaid will pay for most of this plan. Much of the rest would be paid for with revenues from the very same drug and insurance companies that stand to benefit from tens of millions of new customers. This reform will charge insurance companies a fee for their most expensive policies, which will encourage them to provide greater value for the money – an idea which has the support of Democratic and Republican experts. And according to these same experts, this modest change could help hold down the cost of health care for all of us in the long-run.[emphasis added]

If there is “waste and inefficiency in Medicare and Medicaid”, let’s get rid of it today. Show it to us, Dear Leader. I think the waste and inefficiency he’s talking about is keeping old people alive past their Obama-approved expiration dates.

But here’s the thing: those tens of millions of new customers can only provide money to the system if they are healthy and don’t need the care. If they use medical care enough to make up for the premiums (or new taxes) they pay, then there is no advantage to the government. And these “revenues from the very same drug and insurance companies” will come not from pixie dust and tickets to unicorn trail rides, but from the premiums paid by ordinary customers. In other words, the cost will all be passed down to the customer or their taxpaying grandchildren, one way or another.

Obama’s ending was impassioned, clear, and utterly wrong-headed.  As usual, he could not avoid being deceptive; it’s his nature.

You see, our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem. They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, and the vulnerable can be exploited.

Markets can still crash.  Government is the ultimate monopoly.  And the lack of health insurance to people we are already caring for does nothing to exploit them, even if it were a problem of regulation, like antitrust laws or creation of the SEC.   What he’s talking about is wholly different, a wealth redistribution scheme.  Selling it as the same thing as those others is dishonest.

Mr. Obama brought nothing new to the discussion in his speech to Congress. We must not let his deceptions pass.