Medicare was a scam from the start. It had to be a scam because its ostensible purpose — providing health insurance for the elderly — was never the objective of its proponents. Instead, Medicare was a stepping stone to a utopia its champions dared not acknowledge: A compulsory universal-health-care system administered by government experts. FDR’s Committee on Economic Security initially intended to issue a health-care plan in conjunction with its universal, compulsory Social Security proposal in 1934. As Cato’s Charlotte Twight recounts, the former was dropped due to fear that pervasive opposition among the public and the medical profession would jeopardize passage of the latter. But Roosevelt got right back to it the day after he signed the 1935 Social Security Act, empowering the new Social Security Board to study the “related” area of health insurance.There followed three decades of progressive proposals, each shot down by lawmakers animated by fierce public dissent. The Left realized the dream of socializing the health-care sector was not attainable in one fell swoop, so an incremental strategy was adopted: Get a foot in the door with less ambitious proposals; establish the precedent of government control while avoiding debate over the principle of government control. “Incremental change,” said Medicare scholar Martha Derthick, “has less potential for generating conflict than change that involves innovation in principle.” […]More shrewdly, proponents misrepresented Medicare as an “insurance” program, with a “trust fund” into which working people paid “contributions” and beneficiaries paid “premiums” that would “entitle” them to claim “benefits.” In reality, there is no “trust fund.” Workers pay taxes — at levels that can no longer satisfy the pay-outs for current beneficiaries. This state of affairs was entirely predictable when Medicare was enacted in 1965 with the Baby Boom well underway. Back in the early days, when the program was flush, the surplus of taxes passed from the “trust fund” into the federal treasury, which redistributed the money to whatever chicanery Washington happened to be heaping money on. In return, the “trust fund” got an IOU, which would ultimately have to be satisfied by future taxes (or by borrowing from creditors who’d have to be repaid by taxpayers with interest). And the “premiums” largely turned out to be nonsense, too: The pols endeared themselves to elderly voters by arranging for Uncle Sam pick up more and more of the tab, or by using the government’s newfound market power to demand that providers accept lower payments.When Medicare was enacted in 1965, the inevitability of its many adverse consequences was crystal clear. The system was grossly underfunded. The fee-for-service structure (expertly described by Capretta) was certain to increase costs exorbitantly with no commensurate increase in quality of care (indeed, care is mediocre, or worse). But most palpably, the fact that government was at the wheel made Medicare instantly ripe for political gaming and demagoguery. The ensuing 46 years have not only made the obvious explicit; Medicare and its tens of trillions in unfunded liabilities are actually worse than even its most fearful early critics predicted it would be.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich steered the break-out of his presidential campaign into a ditch a couple of weeks ago by suggesting that the Ryan Medicare reform was “right-wing social engineering.” He was wrong, but not for the reason cited by his critics. To be more precise, Representative Ryan’s plan is a surrender to left-wing social engineering on terms the right wing naïvely believes it can accept. Ryan is the darling of a Washington breed of conservative wonk convinced that we can make the welfare state work if we just incorporate a few free-market, family-friendly tweaks […]Reformers such as Representative Ryan always ignore this inevitable trajectory of entitlement politics. They rationalize that they can make a government-sanctioned bribery system run better, or at least preempt Democrats from making it run worse. Hoping to stave off Medicare, congressional moderates in 1960 passed a bill to provide means-tested medical assistance to the elderly. It only greased the wheels for not only Medicare but Medicaid. In Massachusetts, Romneycare was another well-meaning attempt to install a compulsory statewide health-insurance system that would be less autocratic and costly than the one the Left would have imposed. It is, predictably, a disaster that tends toward ever-more-suffocating government control.
Vancouver health officials will distribute new crack pipes to the city’s non-injection drug users this fall as part of a pilot project aimed at engaging crack cocaine smokers and reducing the transmission of disease such as hepatitis C.The program, part of Vancouver’s harm reduction strategy, is expected to start in October and run for six months to a year, said Dr. Reka Gustafson, a medical health officer with Vancouver Coastal Health.The intent is to connect health care workers with crack cocaine smokers to evaluate how many of the drug users are in the city and what equipment they need to lower their risk of catching diseases such as hepatitis C, HIV and even respiratory illnesses.A kit with a clean, unused pipe, mouthpiece, filter and condoms will be handed out to the participants, Gustafson said. It’s not known at this time how many drug users will take part in the pilot, which is estimated to cost between $50,000 and $60,000.“There’s been a shift to crack cocaine smoking and we want to make sure the services we provide are the services they need … if we’re providing syringes and what we need are pipes, we’re not serving them,” Gustafson said […] “It’s just understanding and knowing the health consequences of crack cocaine smoking.”
The reason they want to get clean needles and crack pipes out on the street is because 95% of addicts don’t keep theirs clean, of course. However, once you’ve passed out a clean pipe or clean needle, **it’s only sterile for that first use**. From then on it’s dirty and stays that way. It will be used again. And again, and again, and again.But Henry, they’ll teach them all about the importance of sterile works! They have a program and everything! And the addicts will ignore them. Such education programs have been common for over forty years. I’ve been working with addicts since 1986. There is a uniquely evil kind of ignorance that tells would-be do-gooders that the addict who won’t change his behaviors despite the likelihood of death by gunshot, overdose, AIDS, organic damage, mugging, and a thousand others ways an addict manages to die, will for some reason see the light and change out of fear of contracting hepatitis. If you want to kill an addict, give him uncut heroin or a government health department social worker. They are equally deadly.So now, thanks to Vancouver Coastal Health, there will be many, many thousands more dirty pipes infected with hepatitis and other nasties out there in the addict community than there were before. Same number of addicts, just several thousand extra infected crack pipes, so the individual chance of infection is significantly raised.But, but, but.. we give them pamphlets!Arrrgh.
Nurses casually stepped over a patient as he lay dying on a hospital floor.Peter Thompson, 41, was left in a corridor for ten hours before someone noticed he had passed away.In a final act of indignity, hospital auxiliaries pulled his lifeless body across the floor in a manner his family described as like ‘dragging a dead animal’.The scenes which shame the NHS were all captured on CCTV. Staff thought Mr Thompson was merely drunk and left him to ‘sleep it off’.Yesterday a coroner condemned the death as ‘wholly preventable’.An inquest heard that the father-of-one, who had consumed a cocktail of drink and drugs, could have been saved had he received emergency treatment.The hospital’s accident and emergency department was just 200 yards away.
My latest NewsRealBlog post:
There’s only so much mileage the Left can get out of vehemently denying that President Barack Obama is a socialist. For best propagandistic results, it’s ideal to highlight people on the Right who allegedly admit the same thing (and if their remarks can be used to embarrass a hated cable news channel in the process, so much the better).
Case in point: relying upon Media Matters research, Howard Kurtz’s latest on the Daily Beast highlights recent remarks made by Fox News Channel’s Washington Managing Editor Bill Sammon during a 2009 cruise hosted by Hillsdale College (my alma mater):
“Last year, candidate Barack Obama stood on a sidewalk in Toledo, Ohio, and first let it slip to Joe the Plumber that he wanted to ‘spread the wealth around.’ At that time, I have to admit that I went on TV on Fox News and publicly engaged in what I guess was some rather mischievous speculation about whether Barack Obama really advocated socialism, a premise that privately I found rather far-fetched.”
That he did—on several occasions.
On Oct. 14, 2008, Sammon said on the air that Obama’s “spread the wealth” remark “is red meat when you’re talking to conservatives and you start talking about spread the wealth around. That is tantamount to socialism.”
On Oct. 21, he told Greta Van Susteren: “I have read Barack Obama’s books pretty carefully, and he in his own words talks about being drawn to Marxists… Now all this stuff’s coming out about whether he’s a socialist. I don’t know why anyone is surprised by it, because if you read his own words and his sort of, you know, orientation coming up as a liberal through college and a young man, it’s not a huge shock.”
Sammon, a former Washington Times reporter, also made sure his troops got out the word. On Oct. 27, he sent an email to staffers highlighting what he described as “Obama’s references to socialism, liberalism, Marxism and Marxists” in his 1995 autobiography, Dreams From My Father.
In an interview, Sammon says his reference to “mischevious speculation” was “my probably inartful way of saying, ‘Can you believe how far this thing has come?’” The socialism question indeed “struck me as a far-fetched idea” in 2008. “I considered it kind of a remarkable notion that we would even be having the conversation.” He doesn’t regret repeatedly raising it on the air because, Sammon says, “it was a main point of discussion on all the channels, in all the media”—and by 2009 he was “astonished by how the needle had moved.”
In defense of Sammon’s ethics, raising a subject on the air and speculating about it, even “mischievously,” aren’t the same as reaching or arguing for a firm conclusion about the subject. Indeed, if you watch the full clip the Oct. 14 quote comes from, Sammon’s not even arguing for the Obama-as-socialist charge—he’s just objectively analyzing 2008 rival John McCain’s strategic interest in pressing the issue.
What exactly do Galston and Frum mean when they say they intend to “call out” those who use labels like “racist” and “socialist” in public debate? I think I can answer that question, since a series of attacks engineered by Frum on my then-unpublished book, Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism, appears to have been a dress rehearsal of sorts for the operation of No Labels.
On July 27, 2010, I announced the forthcoming publication of my book at National Review Online’s blog, the Corner. The announcement made it clear that my book was the result of more than two years of empirical and historical research into Barack Obama’s political past, and would marshal “a wide array of never-before-seen evidence to establish that the president of the United States is indeed a socialist.” Frum, however, didn’t wait to consider my evidence or argument, or even bother to read my book. Instead, he invited a self-described Democratic activist who writes under the pseudonym “Eugene Victor Debs” to attack the very idea of my book — before either had read it.
I would probably not have responded to an anonymous attack on an unpublished book were it not for the fact that I knew and respected Frum, who warned me in advance that Debs’s piece was coming and invited me to respond. I did reply to Debs, after which, to my surprise, the attacks kept coming, both from Debs and from Frum himself . In my responses to Frum and Debs, I finally began to speak more frankly about my dismay and puzzlement at their persistent attacks on a raft of new evidence that I had not yet even had a chance to present to the public. Oddly, since the actual publication of Radical-in-Chief, there has been not a word about the book from either Frum or Debs.
All Galston and Frum have done is to make explicit — and reinforce — the mainstream press’s existing determination to ignore and silence critics of Obama’s radicalism. Once No Labels gets going, public resentment at these silencing techniques is bound to increase. Contrary to Galston and Frum, the way to reduce polarization is not to suppress disagreement but to invite reasoned debate on the issues that actually divide us. Since a substantial portion of the public views the president as a covert radical, let the topic be debated in the widest and most respectable forums. If the president’s accusers offer mere bluster, or his defenders are living in denial, we shall see it all then. A true public debate on this issue in the pages of the mainstream press would rivet the public’s attention and immediately raise the level of discussion. By further suppressing this debate, on the other hand, Galston and Frum promote distrust and enmity between Left and Right.
None of this is particularly mysterious — or at least it ought not to be to those who have learned from the classical liberal approach to democratic debate recommended by John Stuart Mill in On Liberty. Mill discourages the creation of implicit or explicit rules banning any substantive claim in public debate, calling on us instead to judge a given argument according to the quality of its reasoning and the degree to which it fairly represents and successfully parries opposing points of view […]
It is not the job of those who cherish liberty of thought and discussion to ban claims of Obama’s socialism or of Tea Party racism, but to subject all of these assertions to the scrutiny of serious debate. While many or most accusations of Tea Party racism are baseless, legitimate complaints are possible and cannot be ruled out in advance. If Tea Party critics have serious evidence of racism, let them present it. If their evidence is tissue-paper thin (as most of it has been), that weakness can be (and has been) exposed.
UPDATE: My NewsReal colleague Mark Meed has more sharp analysis of this “No Labels” nonsense, including Frum’s selective reading of surveys to reach his preferred picture of what the American people want.
National Review’s Stanley Kurtz is debating FrumForum contributor “Eugene Debs” on whether or not Barack Obama reasonably fits the definition of “socialist.” Kurtz lays it out nicely here, to which Debs responds with a “point” that can only be described as infantile. In a nutshell: Obama can’t be a socialist because various high-ranking Obama appointees aren’t socialists and/or don’t come from socialist circles.
Of course, there are all sorts of practical reasons his particular examples don’t matter all that much. Robert Gates, for instance, was already Defense Secretary before Obama took over, and he deals with military policy rather than economic anyway. There’s the little matter of looking at the rest of Obama’s czars and appointments. As one of FrumForum’s brighter commenters points out, presidents have a publicized confirmation process to deal with, too. Overall, Debs’ is essentially saying that in order to qualify as a socialist, one’s appointment-making process has to be virtually all ideology and no practical or strategic considerations.
Speaking of socialism, how does a guy who names himself after one of America’s leading self-proclaimed socialists expect to be taken seriously defending leftists from charges of socialism, again?
Oh, that’s right: because David Frum takes him seriously. Somehow, in free-market Frum’s mission to forge a rational, responsible “conservatism that can win again,” a Democratic activist who takes the moniker of a socialist icon managed to get a platform on Frum’s website.
Huh. I wonder how that happened…