July 16, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Obama's health care hard sell

On Wednesday, the Senate Health Committee approved a bill that would make health care "universal." * Debate of the provisions was unusually sharp for the Senate, and the 13-10 vote was strictly on party lines. Usually the Senate is more cautious and conservative, but in this case, it is the House of Representatives where the opposition to President Obama's plans is the strongest. See the Washington Post. As more people scrutinize the hellishly complex procedures and start to realize how inefficient and inequitable a government-mandated (or government-run) health care system would be, more people are bound to stand up and object.

Just as President Bush had a fleeting "window of opportunity" for enacting comprehensive reforms based on free market principles after his triumphant reelection (which he pretty much wasted), President Obama knows that he only has so much time to accomplish his extremely ambitious agenda. He is working hard and warning of dire consequences for the economy if Congress does not act right away. "It's time!" Obama declares.

Whoa! What's the rush? Actually, there are two reasons for hasty action: In terms of raw politics, the coalition in favor of nationalized health care will gradually start to erode as the detailed provisions become known, and more individual citizens object to the plan. In terms of practicality, the longer this is dragged out, the more that private insurers will try to squeeze patients by denying coverage, so as to build up their reserves. At some critical point, Obama hopes, those insurers will be convinced that they'd be better off by relenting and accepting new (low-income) clients whose health insurance premiums come from the government. As a clever politician, Obama can probably fool a number of those companies, but the smart ones will realize that it's the first step toward a complete government takeover, putting them out of business.

I get the impression that Obama must be feeling confident that he will get his health care reform package passed. During a recent TV interview, he came out and said that he has come to the conclusion that every American should be required to have health insurance. It's no surprise that he thinks that way, but it is a surprise that he would admit it. Nowhere in the United States Constitution does it even hint that the Federal government has the power to force individual citizens to pay for any particular goods or services. I don't think a constitutional amendment to that effect would be upheld on appeal as constitutional, for such a requirement clearly violates the spirit of the Bill of Rights, especially the Fifth and Ninth Amendments. And to think that some people actually pretend that he cares much about freedom!

And just in case you actually believe the White House spin that we will all have the choice between government-run or private health insurance, see the Investor's Business Daily. Under the current Senate bill, for many people, such insurance coverage would become illegal on the day the law goes into effect! Hat tip to Stacey Morris.

On the other hand, if the Republicans fail to articulate a clear market-based alternative policy but merely stall for time so as to make corporate health lobbyists and doctors happy, Obama's case would be greatly strengthened. Almost everyone agrees that the status quo is unacceptable, but it is precisely the job of lobbyists (in most cases) to protect the status quo against would-be reformers. The Republicans must work harder to convince the public that they are not merely tools of the private health care industry.

* The term "universal" is not exactly accurate, under most proposals at least. Health coverage would only apply to American taxpayers (possibly including illegal aliens), but not to people in other countries. This may seem obvious, but it shows how misleading terminology can be.

Kaine & Apple Computer

Three leading Republicans in Virginia are blaming Gov. Tim Kaine for neglecting to address a tax law omission that might have discouraged Apple Computer from coming to the Old Dominion. Del. Scott Lingamfelter, Del. Tommy Wright, state Sen. Frank Ruff, and RPV chairman Pat Mullins are angry that Apple chose to locate its new data center in North Carolina: "Apple was lost, they allege, because Kaine was distracted from his state duties by the partisan post President Barack Obama appointed him to in January." See newsleader.com. The question is whether they can connect Kaine's diversion into national politics (as Democratic National Committee chairman) to the Democratic candidates in this fall's election. Working in the Republicans' favor is the Democrats' heavy emphasis on continuing in the footsteps of the last two governors, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner. If people associate that record with partisan politicking, as well they should, there won't be as many "coat-tail" votes.