More thoughts on healthcare and the republicans

 

Sometimes when there is a lot of hollering and shouting in an attempt to pull one’s focus to the right, you’d better look left to see what you’re missing.  When someone is trying to divert your attention, there’s always something they’re pulling your attention from.

This is what I think about when I think of the republican party.  The healthcare debate is yet another issue in a long line of wedge issues they’ve created to polarize the nation. No matter what one thinks of the healthcare bill, a overreaction where people are actually threatening violence borders on the ridiculous.  The rhetoric coming out of the republican party is calculated to polarize and outrage their supporters over something that’s rather innocuous relative to “freedom and liberty”.  What healthcare reform will do to our long term fiscal condition remains to be seen, but the die on that has been cast on by everything else that has gone on before.   So, even without  a new healthcare entitlement, the path to fiscal crisis was set well in advance by supply side economic theory, unbridled spending and an accommodating Federal Reserve over the past 25 years. 

The republican party has become the bastion of  wedge issues and polarization and it has turned inward to cannibalize those who are the voices of moderation.  In a way, this happened with John McCain, a fairly moderate guy, who was forced by far right elements to take on Sarah Palin as a running mate; an absolute disaster.  They’ve had the religious right and neocons in their ranks with their own particular brand of divisive ideas.  It’s like the republican party has become the party of assorted disaffected malcontents who occupy a minority position, but who are trying to desperately to appear that they’re the majority of Americans by yelling the loudest.  

They have to know they’re destroying themselves and my question is why? What is it that our attention is being diverted away from?

I don’t know if I can answer my own question directly, but I think the key to answer that question is to look at what we might be thinking about and looking at if there were a reasonable level of discourse.  For example, what might have been done with the healthcare reform package had it not been characterized as a communist inspired plot?  Might not we all had understood more of what’s in it and have perhaps pushed it in a better direction?  One of the biggest problems with all of the shouting is that one can’t make an informed judgment on facts.  It’s impossible to make a judgment based on hysteria and if you create enough of that,  everyone’s judgment is clouded, which accounts for the high negatives in response to the reform package.  No one knows what’s really in it other than it’s “socialism”.

What might we be thinking about if it weren’t for all the yelling and hell raising by these malcontents?  We might be raising more questions about how exactly we got into the economic fix we’re in.  We might start to question budget priorities.  For example, in a mere two years time, we will have appropriated over $ 1.2 trillion for military spending, which is more than what the health care bill will cost over 10 years.  Over the same ten year period that heathcare reform will cost $ 950 billion, direct military appropriations at their current level will run $ 6.0 trillion. Moreover, the military budget is sacrosanct and somehow the same government that is inept and wasteful in administering everything else is suddenly the paragon of efficient management when it comes to the military, hence there’s no need to examine waste, fraud and abuse in the military industrial complex’s entitlement program.

As our nation’s fiscal conditions tighten, the fight will be over resources and the fact of the matter is that you can’t do something like health care without ultimately making room for it in somehow. Ultimately, that means that questions may begin to get raised on the entitlement program for the military industrial complex.  Because of our spending on being the world’s policeman, Canada and Europe can forego a massive military expenditure and provide healthcare to their citizens.  This means that the US taxpayer is effectively funding so called government subsidized healthcare in other nations while we ourselves pay more or go without. 

This is what they don’t want you thinking about, hence all the diversionary tactics and loud mouthed proclamations of socialism.  This needs to be seen for what it is.

_____________________________________

Depending upon where one falls at drives how you feel about healthcare reform.  As for me, I currently pay an amount equivalent to a mortgage for healthcare.  Moreover, because I’m self employed, I pay a tax on my premiums; a double whammy after seeing premiums rise by 40% over the past three years.  The proposed exchanges would definitely help in expanding the choices to shop coverages.  A big help would be tort reform.  Actually tort reform would help across the board in a variety of areas as the litigious nature of America society effectively adds a layer of cost to a number of things in addition to healthcare.   

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4 Responses to “More thoughts on healthcare and the republicans”
  1. Brother Greg:

    I can’t agree with your analysis.

    You compare the entire Defense Department spending in two years with ONLY the cost of the new Health Care Bill. It would have been more “above board” for you to note that at present the big three social programs (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) now consume 49% of this federal budget.

    http://withintheblackcommunity.blogspot.com/2010/04/cynthia-tucker-show-pie-chart-of-us.html

    [quote]What healthcare reform will do to our long term fiscal condition remains to be seen, but the die on that has been cast on by everything else that has gone on before. [/quote]

    Again it must be noted that as “Demand Side Economists” trumpet the benefits of these three programs – those who are focused upon the national debt say that these are the three that must be reigned in lest our nation tumble into the economic abyss.

    • Greg L says:

      Hey CF,

      Disagreement noted on this one. Let me expound a bit on my position. I think I’m going to do an entire post on this issue as this is an issue that could stand some examination.

      I see four entitlement programs; the three you just mentioned and that of the military industrial complex. I consider it an entitlement in the sense that rather than individuals getting paid, we’ve got major corporations lined up at the government trough with legislators doing their bidding to ensure that military appropriations find their way to their district or to their favored constituents. This spending which has not kept us safe, accounts for nearly half of worldwide expenditures and is nearly equal to the rest of the world’s war spending combined. We outspend our nearest potential adversary, China, 6 to 1 and we’ve got big bad Iran outspent by 98 times. Our spending in this area means that the US taxpayer is effectively funding socialist European economies along with Canadian healthcare while the opportunity cost of what we might develop is incalculable. Moreover, the US taxpayer effectively underwrites R&D for weapons development that wind up getting sold in the worldwide arms market, the profits of which are private. Any consideration of the national debt must factor in this sort of spending, which is never cut and never evaluated for effectiveness. The defense budget is considered sanscrosant by both parties and is never questioned.

      I’m going to come back in another post on this, but suffice it to say that even the social security excess has gone to fund this sort of expenditure beginning with Johnson’s guns and butter approach back in the 60’s and continues to this very day. Our level of military appropriations is just as unsustainable as some of the other stuff and creates some other problems. In fact, in my view, it’s very much part of the faulty economic thinking that has us in a mess right now.

  2. Greg L:

    As far as I am concerned the “Wall Street Raiders” of the Federal Treasury are little different from the “Social Justice Raiders”. The job of the GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS is to keep both of them at bay, and not destroying our fiscal solvency as each of them score their political advantage.

    I understand your point about the “funds” that stand behind Social Security and Medicaid that are paid for by payroll taxes and employers. The point is that there is a clear trajectory by which BOTH OF THEM will have more forces drawing upon them than there are to replenish them.

    At this point the “General Fund” will be used to pay them (as it is right now) but not with the “IOU” that are present as proof that money was paid in.

    http://www.federalbudget.com/

    Any way you slice it up – WE ARE IN TROUBLE in this country. Until everyone “feels the consequence” they are merely going to continue doing what they have been doing.

    http://www.iousathemovie.com

  3. Greg L says:

    CF,

    Sorry about the delay in your comments appearing. Apparently your links set off wordpress’ spam filter. I’ll have to figure out how to fix that.

    No doubt we’re in trouble. There’s no dispute about that and a lot of that is related to not feeling the consequence. I’m arguing that the consequence has not been felt because funny accounting starting with Johnson and taken advantage of by every president since has masked the problems.

    There’s no doubt that social security has an actuarial problem in the sense that when it was created, the average American was only living to age 62. The fact that we’re living much longer definitely causes stress on the system and would have required addressing anyway, but this would have been far easier to deal with if there had been a lockbox on the trust funds. The fact is that the trust funds were diverted to pay for non-social security spending so the politicians could avoid raising taxes. This is like taking your 401K accumulation and spending it on everything else other than retirement. Clearly, if someone does that, they’re going to face a problem later down the road. This is what the government has done with the social security trust fund and as far as I’m concerned, that’s borderline criminal.

    So, in the discussion about entitlements, everyone focuses on the actuarial problem and talks indirectly about the funding problem, but no one ever gets into the totality of why we have a funding problem to begin with. One of the greatest contributing factor is the invasion of the trust funds. They stole our money.

    Once we pull the trust funds expenditures out, we see that defense spending really constitutes the largest piece of federal spending, which is what Johnson was trying to mask to begin with. The level of expenditures in this area need to addressed as well, but both Obama and the republicans have foresworn even touching it and I think that’s BS for the reasons mentioned in the post and in the response above. Everything has to come out on the table. We can’t afford a number of things, including a foreign policy that drives unbridled defense spending.

    The new healthcare entitlement is designed to bailout medicare/medicaid but also cast the die for a set of new taxes
    as we move toward the ultimate bailout. Some folks are speculating that we’re going to move to a national sales tax while still maintaining the income tax structure. I don’t think that’s beyond the realm of possibility and if anything, the expansion of the entitlements sets up that issue.

    The challenge is whether or not the implementation of the VAT tax will impose enough pain or whether it set us up to continue with the same freewheeling spending we’ve done in the past.

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