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No Time to Waste — or Think

You can invariably tell when government officials are trying to do something unpopular and expensive — they rush ahead before everyone can figure out the problems and the costs involved. That was the modus operandi on the stimulus plan and on the budget. And now it’s the chosen approach on healthcare. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the president’s directive that this must happen this year is born of necessity. The more we learn and think about this, the less sense it makes:

Their health overhaul will run up a 13-figure price tag at a time when spending and deficits are already at epic levels and hook up the middle class to an intravenous drip of government health subsidies for generations to come. These are not realities that Democrats want the American people to mull over for very long.

This is especially true for the majority of Americans who are generally satisfied with their coverage and doctors but worried about cost.

[. . .]

This shell game found its apotheosis yesterday in “The Economic Case for Health Care Reform,” from the White House Council of Economic Advisors, which argues that slowing the growth rate of U.S. health costs by 1.5 percentage points would increase real GDP by more than 2% in 2020 and nearly 8% in 2030. But it presents no plan for actually slowing the growth rate of U.S. health costs. Christina Romer’s study is a political argument disguised as an economic one in favor of a “reform” that doesn’t even exist yet. And in any case, if we’re talking about the state of the economy decades hence, why does health care absolutely have to pass this year?

Yes, Obama is desperate for an achievement as unemployment soars and his foreign policy flounders. But what is he actually going to pass that won’t greatly annoy the majority of Americans with employer-provided insurance? What is he going to pass that won’t break the bank with billions and billions in  new spending? After all, they have to pass something specific, not just the concept of healthcare. They have the votes to ram through most anything the president wants, but it’s far from clear that speed will achieve a workable, popular plan. The Obama administration has been long on grand gestures and short on crafting intricate and viable policy solutions (GM? Guantanamo? Stimulus Plan anyone? Not a one of them is designed with a realistic possibility for success.) Let’s see what they come up with — in a mad rush.



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