The whole argument over Obamacare seems to be proving a lot of cliches to be true. I don’t know that they reall are true, only that the various opinion groups are falling back on very familiar slogans and arguments. Whatever our position on the matter, I think this indicates a real barrier to getting things resolved.
Which brings up Congress. I generally regard our Representatives and Senators as Faust-like beings, people who probably had very honorable intentions when they first ran for office, but by now are so vain and corrupt that they couldn’t be trusted with lunch money, let alone the trillions which pour into the Treasury from taxpayers. I really think that’s where the problem starts. Your average Congress critter (and mine) is not going to look at a proposed bill as a means to serve his/her constituents, but as a means to insure re-election and increase personal influence and power. And then, of course, there is the money. Look sometime at what a Congressman/Senator makes, figure what it costs to own a home in D.C. plus your district/state, plus your staffing costs and so on, and then look at the net worth of most of our Congressmen. Where, exactly, does all that wealth come in? And while some places and officials are worse than others, generally the very real corruption of our elected officials is a serious and pervasive problem that never gets a serious look, because the authorities who could investigate and prosecute are themselves often at the mercy of these very officials.
So right from the start, cynical as it sounds, I worry that expecting a genuinely practical and honest solution from Congress is as naïve as trusting the nice stranger who promises he just wants your child’s help finding his lost puppy. And that brings me to Medical Insurance. Medicine and Health Care is so huge a part of our economy, that in 2011 it was worth an estimated 2.4 trillion dollars.
Now, long ago I discovered as a business manager, that the more money an employee had contact with, the greater the chance of employee theft. I learned that my cashiers almost never stole while the till had less than a hundred dollars in it, but they almost always tried to take some if there was more than a certain amount, the amount depending on how busy they were, how close they thought I was watching, how many other employees were around, and so on. As an auditor, I learned the same thing about managers, but on a larger scale. That is, a manager would not steal if his location was making small amounts of cash, but there always seemed to be a point where at least some managers would get hinky. So we developed procedures and ways to check on behavior to make sure we discouraged theft, and caught the thieves warly if they did cross that line. The problem is, such a system depends on having trustworthy watchdogs, and if someone could be tempted to steal $20 when they saw $500 in the till, it’s not hard to imagine how much temptation is out there when a company sees billions in potential profits they might be able to scam, especially since our government is not exactly competent at preventing fraud or catching the criminals. Insurance in general seems to be fertile ground for fraud and outright thievery.
So when we want to address the skyrocketing costs of health care, it seems we should start with catching the crooks stealing us blind, and put safeguards in place to protect against future behavior. We frankly cannot trust Congress to do this, but there is no obvious easy fix, and it should be noted that no major candidate at the federal level has even acknowledged that corruption and crime might be where we need to start.
We must also seriously consider whether our justice system is up to the task. A lot of the debate over the past week has focused on whether the courts and the Congress have the power to do what they are doing, but few have addressed the basic question about whether they have the moral authority to do so. Look, the Supreme Court is full of people who are great at parsing words and finding new powers in the Constitution that were never there before, and some folks think a 5-4 decision means the matter is settled. But the SCOTUS has been wrong before in its decisions, and some of its rulings have been later not only overturned but are sore points of obvious stupidity and myopia. How many rulings in the past tried to support the slavery system, how many protected segregation and racial discrimination, how many advanced federal power at the cost of individual freedoms, and how many of them depended on finding powers for the federal government which were never actually listed in the Constitution? Take the Commerce Clause and taxation powers, for example. We have reached the point where, as currently interpreted by the court there is no practical limit to federal power, but the mere existence of the Tenth Amendment proves that could not possibly have been the intent of the men who wrote and ratified the Constitution. And the words of the Declaration of Independence clearly set the rule that power resides with the people, not the government, and it requires the consent of the governed for the government to have any authority to act in any way. That the government tries to redefine what the Constitution says, and in some cases to ignore the Declaration altogether, should be alarming and hateful to all Americans.
In the end, we are called back to our senses by the warning from Benjamin Franklin who, when asked what we had created with our Constitution, said “A republic, if you can keep it”.
No matter how great or grave the issue, it is for us to decide, not some overpaid government narcissist or some self-focused unelected judge. The cost, the benefits, and the consequences fall upon us, and it is time for us all to stop allowing others to make life decisions as if they had such right.