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May 15, 2009

Obama voters, the French Cowboy would like to ask you a question. Do you want your president to do things like this:

President Barack Obama described the agreement this week with six major health care organizations as a “watershed event,” hailing what the White House said was their promise to reduce spending by 1.5 percentage points annually for a decade, which he said could save as much as $2 trillion over that span.

But in a conference call Thursday, President Richard Umbdenstock told 230 member organizations that the agreement had been misrepresented. The groups, he said, had agreed to gradually ramp up to the 1.5 percentage-point target over 10 years — not to reduce spending by that much in each of the 10 years.


A health care lobbyist said the participants weren’t prepared to go live with the news over the weekend, when the news of a deal, including the $2 trillion savings claim, was announced by White House officials to reporters. The fact sheet they distributed at the time offered general categories from which the savings would come but few specifics on how they would be achieved.

“This was all a general commitment to be part of bending the cost curve and nobody had specifics and all of sudden right before the weekend hit they said, ‘Get us a list of their specifics,’” the lobbyist said. “What really did come last minute at the end of the week was the White House looking for specific things that these people think would reduce costs.”

Before you answer, let me inform you that those organisations have a strong self-interest in reducing their costs for any given output. It may be hard for you to believe but they don’t need the president to remind them to reduce costs in order to do so whenever reasonable.

Imagine Obama invited you to the White House for a face-to-face chat. He would do so because he wanted to tell you that you must read to your kids more often. You are a working mom and read to your kids as often as you can, which is about three times a week. But President Obama thinks you have to read to your kids more than three times a week. How about five times a week? Four and a half? OK, now quickly write down on which four and half days of the week you are going to read to your kids and we have something to tell to the press. President Obama then steps in front of the cameras and tells the nation that you have agreed to read to your kids every day of the week. The nation jubilates that the president has succeeded in extracting a concession from you. They call it a watershed event.

A few months later Congress will pass a bill that gives federal government the authority to read to your kids. President Obama signs the bill into law. Two times a week a state nanny comes to your house and reads to your kids. A Washington bureaucracy decides which books are read, how many times they are read and how many pages per session are read. You will no longer be authorised to read to your kids yourself, but you will contribute to the reading sessions in the form of a reading tax that will pay for the state nannies who are visiting every household in the nation. Because the union-organised nannies receive good payment, social security and health care benefits, the reading tax has to be increased gradually. The reading sessions have to be reduced over time. From next month on the state nanny will read to your kids only once every two weeks.

But this is ridiculous, you say. Is it?, the French Cowboy asks you. Don’t you know that many Americans aren’t as lucky as you are and cannot read to their kids three times a week. Some of them can’t read to them at all. Something has to be done about it. And since the Obama-led government is the only honest broker placing reading-to-kids into the government’s caring hands is the best solution. Otherwise it will never be ensured that all children are read books to at least a sufficient, ie to-be-set-by-Congress, number of times per week. Being read to is a right that the government has to guarantee.

The point the French Cowboy wants to make with all this is that President Obama’s premise is that only government is honest and can solve problems. And he cynically makes a show about how he allegedly improves formerly private markets. When health care organisations are invited to negotiate cost cuts in their operations with the Obama administration, are we supposed to believe that those don’t mean lower quality for those organisations’ services? If those cuts didn’t come with lower quality of output why wouldn’t they be made without the president’s bidding? President Obama acts as if companies deliberately made bad decisions, indeed he seems to believe this to be the case. And in order to help the poor idiots, as in the case of the automakers, the president himself has to step in and micromanage them: deciding how much the employees get paid, how much is spent on advertising and what kind of products are made.

Why would Team Obama know better how to run a health care organisation than health care professionals? Why would government have to take over the health care sector (incrementally or all at once) because some people aren’t insured? Why does everybody hate monopolies but when government wants to become your uncontested health care provider you expect that to be a better solution than a free market where you can chose among a number of different offers? Do you want your president to negotiate ‘cost reduction’ deals with health care organisations in order to present himself as the only man who can make those greedy misanthropes give up some of their undeserved, filthy profits they reel in at your expense? Do you really believe that the president should treat the private sector as if all profits were proof of unfairness and the result of established rich taking from helpless poor? Because this is what President Obama is doing.


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