On the big call-out quotes page in Newsweek this week, I saw the following quote :
"Why is it that the government, which they say can't run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business?"
-- Barack Obama, responding to private insurers' criticism of a "public option"
Normally, I can stay calm about politics. But this sort of flagrant attack on common sense makes me angry. The president is insulting my intelligence.
Here's an analogy for you:
Let's say all the umpires in Major League Baseball got together and decided that they would form their own baseball team, and compete against the other Major League teams. They are going to play -- AND officiate -- all the games. Who do you think is going to win in a match-up between the Yankees and the Umpires?The Umpires can't hit 90 mph fastballs . . . but they don't have to. They just call them balls, and every single player up gets a walk to first. The Umpires can't pitch a ball over the plate to save their life . . . but that won't stop them from calling them strikes anyway. Every game is no-hitter, and the Umpires cruise to a World Series victory.
Does anyone have the audacity to call this a "competition?" If the Yankees give up in disgust, does that mean the Umpires are a better baseball team?
The federal "public option" for health care does not have to worry about making a profit . . . unlike every other insurance provider. It's easy to win market share on price, when you can give the product away. The government does not have to persuade people to pay for its products -- they compel payment, through taxes. Or just print more money. The government does not have to persuade doctors to participate in their insurance plan -- they can mandate that they do, or not practice medicine at all. The government does not have to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies -- they mandate drug prices, regardless of market value. Oh, yeah, and they can't get sued.
Let's get this straight. The Obama administration does not intend to fix healthcare by "competing" with private companies, in any meaningful sense of the world. They are doing just the opposite: using monopolist power to kill all competition.If they want to nationalize the healthcare industry, fine, I can understand why they might want to do that. But don't try to dress it up as a "competitor" in a free marketplace.
Curiously, after I read your piece and commented on it, I heard a fair bit about this issue yesterday. Here are a couple of interesting tidbits.
1. Obama was asked in Virginia yesterday by a liberal audience if he would consider a real single-payer system. "We're talking about 1/6 of the economy here," he shot back, emphatically rejecting total nationalization. It is very important to him to introduce a government alternative without gutting the existing private system.
2. Jacob Hacker, a professor of political science at Berkeley, defended an Obama-style plan by arguing that public and private plans could provide a crucial check on each other. "If the public plan becomes too rigid, more Americans will opt for the private plan and if private plans engage in practices that obstruct access to needed care and undermine health security, then the public plan offers a release valve."
I still agree with you that that call-out Obama quote is cheap; government is not playing against private companies on a level playing field. But he's not just trying to institute a program of socialized medicine and gift-wrap it in capitalist lingo.