The state of Florida is one of the last places where President Obama’s re-election campaign has a chance to pick off a state that traditionally leans Republican (Obama won it in 2008, but the Sunshine State usually ends up narrowly Republican in any election competitive on a national scale). With the vote of the senior citizens being so prevalent in Florida, it’s unsurprising that the campaign would focus on Medicare. And it’s also unsurprising that campaign tactics are aimed at more at scaring the elderly than solving a serious national problem.
Mary Ellen Klas of The Tampa Bay Times breaks down the competing claims by each campaign and assesses the issue itself in a reasonably well-balanced way. At its heart is this chilling statement…
No one disputes that Medicare is destined to go broke because the taxes paid by workers and employers to finance the program aren’t covering the full cost.
Since no one disputes this let’s set aside, for the moment anyway, the veracity of the various ads aimed at telling seniors that if so-and-so wins a campaign they’re going to lose their health care. This is a scare tactic that was perfected by the political Left and has unfortunately started to be adopted with some effectiveness on the other side of the aisle.
We’re now subjected to two different sets of ads claiming Grandma’s about to be left on the street. Given the seriousness of the fiscal problem facing Medicare specifically, and the country generally, the frequent political exploitation of the elderly amounts to malpractice.
In reality, the country—whether it’s done responsibly through honest campaigns or through subterfuge after politicians delay dealing with problems until they’re safely in office—has a serious philosophical choice to make. The costs of health care are soaring, and in no case is that more so than with Medicare.
There are two ways to control costs. One if directly, through price controls. The other is relying on opening up competition to drive down the costs. I believe the latter is more effective. The end result of price controls—be it with gas or housing—has been shortages.
This is why the approach of President Obama’s health care plan will only succeed if we end up with health care rationing. Not because Obama wakes up every morning wanting Grandma put out of her misery—I don’t think he does—but because the laws of how an economy works can’t be overruled by one’s man rhetoric.
Competition, on the other hand, provides incentives to produce a good product at a good cost, and over time results in lower prices. This is the effect that supporters of Medicare vouchers—including myself—are hoping to achieve in the health care market.
For reasons that escape me, vouchers have been some stigmatized as a right-wing dream. This, of course ignores the fact that Food Stamps is a voucher and the last I checked, the inspiration for this program was the late liberal senator Hubert Humphrey. The idea of giving someone a government voucher to shop in the private market certainly wasn’t inspired after watching Atlas Shrugged.
The only way for government assistance to those that genuinely need it—and the elderly’s health care is surely a prime example—to continue on, is to incorporate market forces backed up with a government guarantee.
The false debate of “the market or the government” is just that—false. It serves the political interests of a narrow band of activists in both parties who find this paradigm easier for cooking up fundraising letters and whipping their minions into a frenzy. It doesn’t serve the interests of the country.
Dan Flaherty is the author of Fulcrum, an Irish Catholic novel set in postwar Boston with a traditional Democratic mayoral campaign at its heart, and he is the editor-in-chief of TheSportsNotebook.com