Robert Samuelson contends that the president and his team are spinning a fantasy world:
They’ve left the impression that somehow magical technological breakthroughs will produce clean energy that is also cheap. Perhaps that will happen; it hasn’t yet. They’ve talked so often about the need to control wasteful health spending that they’ve implied they’ve actually found a way of doing so. Perhaps they will, but they haven’t yet.
What they are really doing, Samuelson says, is increasing the cost of energy (via a cap-and-trade tax) and of healthcare (via nationalized care funded by some yet-undetermined tax) . That is likely to produce less economic activity and less healthcare (which will in essence be rationed to control cost).
The alternatives – for example, increasing domestic energy production and fostering personal healthcare coverage through competition — are not even considered. The innate bias against private competition and in favor of large, complex government-directed programs leaves these options out of the discussion.
The result is a return to a style of government that was popularized decades ago: large federal bureaucracies, volumes of regulations and ever higher taxes to pay for all of it. It isn’t very “modern,” as we have come to think of the 21st century. If the trend in everything from entertainment to media is decentralized, personalized, and competitive then the Obama government seems rather old-fashioned. When one thinks of creating, monitoring, and enforcing healthcare policy for 300 million Americans and regulating control carbon-output for thousands of businesses you come to appreciate how large and complex the government must be. Do we really think any government can pull this off?
“Clean energy” and “universal coverage” sound swell in theory. But when you stop to consider the type of energy and healthcare policies the Obama team envisions it becomes painfully obvious that it will all be very expensive and won’t possibly account for the needs and desires of a country as large and diverse as ours. Perhaps it is time to put away “childish” things ( e.g. green energy that doesn’t cost anything and expanded coverage that saves money) and think hard about the costs, limitations, complexities and trade-offs which these policies entail. And then we can get down to crafting plans that have a reasonable chance of success.