American Elephants

The Liberal Faith In the Perfectibility of Politics by The Elephant's Child

Perhaps it all starts with a childish whine “It isn’t fair.” Some mothers respond that life isn’t fair, and set their offspring on the path of conservatism, and others ignore the whiny brat or give the kid a hug and a cookie (rewarding the child for the whine) and tell him yes, that’s really too bad and raise a little liberal.  That may be a bit fanciful, but what is clear is that a goodly portion of young people have grown up with the idea that America is not fair, and needs fixing.

Irving Kristol once wrote “In every society the overwhelming majority of people live lives of considerable frustration and if society is to endure, it needs to rely on a goodly measure of stoical resignation.”

Liberals have never been ones for stoical resignation. They want to fix things. Republicans are inclined to oppose Big Government, and ascribe most of our country’s problems to  Liberals’ fondness for Big Government. I think this is incorrect. Liberals want desperately to be in charge. They want to win. They want to defeat Conservatives utterly and so completely that they will never again be strong enough to annoy or compete. But Big Government or burgeoning bureaucracy is a result of their policies, not their initial aim.

I saved this quote from a 1999 Wall Street Journal editorial.

The error behind all these failures is the liberal faith in the perfectibility of politics. Liberals believe that the next law, or next federal agency, will somehow make up for imperfect human nature. But America’s founders understood that politics could never be perfected precisely because men weren’t perfect. So they designed a system with a minimum of bureaucratic and legal control in which disputes could be settled by political debate. They did not want to rely on lawyers or experts who could maneuver around or through a maze of campaign and ethics laws. It’s taken us twenty years of picking through the ruins of liberal reform to relearn how right they were.

The next law will make up for imperfect human nature. One of liberals’ most persistent desires is to eliminate poverty. They worry a lot about the gap between the rich and the poor. They have earnestly tried to fix that ever since Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” and his War on Poverty. We have spent $15 trillion of other people’s money and currently have more people on food stamps than ever before in the nation’s history. The EBT card is a combination of food stamps and cash benefits. The Tsarnave brothers apparently bought their bomb supplies with their EBT cards. We could give each person in poverty a yearly check for $69,000 and save money.

We need fixes for fat people, fixes for standard lightbulbs, fixes for cars not getting high enough mpg, or just using gasoline, fixes for home appliances, fixes for fat kids, fixes for unaffordable college, fixes (again) for infrastructure, fixes for bullies, fixes for transgendered people’s bathroom needs, fixes for women who don’t want to pay for their own contraceptives, fixes for people who try to capture rainwater, fixes for farm dust. So many, many annoyances.

The most evident case is, of course, the best health care system in the world. It must be fixed because government regulation is driving up the cost. (Never mind that the cost was declining). The British have  National Health Service, which is socialized medicine. Horrible system, but it’s “free” at the point of service, and people are afraid to lose it and apt to continually vote for Labour to keep it. Note the important phrase. So they kill off a lot of their older people with neglect and denied care, but it’s “free at the point of service.”

Lots of new regulations, so providers have to expand their bureaucracies. And on top of the expanded health care system, comes a vast federal bureaucracy to control, deny, regulate, manage and expand. Liberals look at this diagram of the needed new bureaucracy with thousands of  highly paid, unionized employees, and are absolutely convinced that President Obama’s promises about keeping your own doctor if you like him and keeping your own insurance and it will all cost less— “bend the cost curve down” was the phrase— are absolutely true and will come to fruition just as he says. It is and was an enormous lie.

So Democrats don’t go into a political campaign saying they want bigger government. Republicans accuse them of it, but it is obviously not true. We will get Big Government because that is the inevitable result of liberal faith in the perfectibility of politics. You have the perfect example before you this week in the machinations of the Internal Revenue Service. Mark Steyn recounts the travails of Frank VanderSloot, whose offense was that he decided to donate money to the Romney campaign. After audits of his return, his business return, and  a Department of Labor investigation of his cattle ranch , the government could find nothing on Mr. VanderSloot, but it has cost him $80,000 in legal fees to fend off the bureaucrats. A big bureaucracy thinks it’s fine to demand that an evangelical group report in writing what they pray about. Anybody have relatives running for office?

It has often been said that every Liberal has a tyrant inside, struggling to get out. They don’t like studies. They’re uninterested in consequences and baffled by the idea of incentives. They need to be in charge so they can fix the things that aren’t fair.


Premiums Up. Costs Up. Government Control Up. Consumer Confidence Way Down. by The Elephant's Child

Consumers are, about now, receiving the bad news about their health care premiums.  They are going up, and in many cases going up very significantly.  Naive members of Congress believe that just because something would be “nice” that writing it into law would be a fine idea.  The Law of Unintended Consequences simply says that the actions of people — especially  people in government — often have effects that are unanticipated or unintended.

Because Democrats are reluctant to rely on the evidence of the experience of others, or to  look  at studies and scholarly investigations with care, they get socked with unintended consequences more often than Republicans do, but Republicans have their share as well. Democrats can be depended on to rail against evil insurance companies without any understanding that issuing health insurance policies  is a business. The  Health Care Plans business ranks #86 by profit margin,  at 3.3%.  There are 85 industries more profitable than health care plans which includes companies like Cigna, Aetna, Well Point, etc.

So why will insurance costs go up?  1) Mandated Benefits. The CBO estimates that the benefit mandates in ObamaCare will increase premiums 27-30 percent in the individual market and up to 3% in the small group market.

2) Preventive Services. No cost sharing. Preventive care is likely to increase costs, and do little to improve health outcomes.

3) Minimal Discount for the Young and Healthy. Estimated premiums for those 18-14 will rise by 45 percent, 36 percent for those age 25-59 and 26 percent for those age 30-34.

4) Limits on Cost Sharing and Deductibles.  Means that individuals have little incentive to economize on their use of health care services.  The CBO says a 10% decrease in cost sharing increases spending by 1-2 percent.

5) Elimination of Good Health Discount.  In order to keep costs down for older folks, young healthy people will have to pay a larger share.

6) Taxes on Insurers, Pharmaceutical Companies and Medical Device Makers.  These taxes will all be passed on to consumers, increasing premiums by 2.5 % or more.

These are only a few of the many unintended consequences that will raise costs to consumers. Common sense will tell you why they will kick in.  The authors of the bill seemed to think that making lots of tests free for patients would catch potential disease in the early stages, but lab tests and scans are very expensive, and usually ordered by a doctor in  response to a symptom.  A lot of tests on perfectly healthy people will not turn up much disease.

The mandates for everyone to buy insurance depend on the young and healthy bearing much of the cost for those not quite so young and not quite so healthy.  ObamaCare also relies heavily on the idea that there are “best practices” that can be chosen by bureaucrats that all doctors must follow.  This demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the doctor-patient relationship.

When you get down to the most basic ideas behind this whole thing, you find an arrogant belief that the elite in Washington know better than you do, and can, with enough regulation of doctors and hospitals and providers of all sorts make health care cost less. Most doctors will not accept Medicaid patients, and drastic cuts in Medicare payments suggest that Medicare will soon follow.

My sense of the whole thing is that it will fail in a fairly short time span if it is not repealed.  Perhaps I am overly cynical, but I am familiar with the evidence from other countries. We have had the best health care system in the world.  Costs have risen unnecessarily because of government interference in the marketplace.

The members of Congress who had a hand in writing this 2,409 page monstrosity have a lot to answer for.  We should get rid of the lot of them this next week.

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