Tuesday, March 9, 2010

On an Open Letter to the President Re Healthcare and Economics

An Open Letter to President Obama at Cafe Hayek is quite the witty rejoinder to a key part of the Democratic Party's core argument for healthcare reform. It's brief enough to simply copy:

Dear Mr. Obama:

CBS radio news this morning ran a clip of one of your recent speeches. In it, you criticize insurance companies because they “ration coverage … according to who can pay and who can’t.”

My first thought was “not exactly; coverage is rationed according to who pays and who doesn’t.” Ability to pay isn’t the same thing as actually paying, and what insurers care about is the latter. Many folks – especially young adults – have the ability to pay but choose not to do so. They get no coverage.

But further pondering of your point leads me to look beyond such nit-picking to see fascinating possibilities. Not only insurers, but all producers who greedily refuse to supply persons who don’t pay should be set aright. Now I’m sure that you don’t ration the supply of the books you write according to any criteria as sordid as requiring people actually to pay for them. But our society is full of people less enlightened than you.

For example, the typical worker rations his labor services according to who pays and who doesn’t. That must stop. Oh, and supermarkets! Every single one rations groceries according to who pays. Likewise with restaurants, clothing stores, home-builders, furniture makers, even lawyers! You name it, rationing is done according to who pays. Indeed, my own county government has been corrupted by this greedy attitude: if I don’t pay my taxes, the sheriff takes my house – effectively booting me out of the county merely because I didn’t pay for its services.


I look forward to your changing this selfish and unfair system of rationing that for too long now has kept Americans impoverished.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

Whatever one's position is on healthcare as a right and various legislative details, the Professor has a point.

Politically, the President attacks insurance companies, suggesting they are low-life entities. Why, then, did he not fight for the "public option"? Why does he fight so hard for a law that forces all Americans to become clients of these same insurance companies?

If we're going to have socialized medicine- where the points Dr. Boudreaux would not apply just as our socialized armed forces protect all citizens regardless of whether they pay taxes or not- then why not go Canadian or British and just have government do it?

Methinks this contradiction of complaining about private companies acting as they are supposed to act--to maximize profits-- and then empowering them to take massive amounts of our money supposedly for the greater good-- is part of the President's problem on healthcare. It's a hybrid public-private non-partnership in which Washington holds all the trump cards.

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