VA Secretary Eric Shinseki issued a message to all veterans Thursday defending his leadership and promising to fix delays in care that have rocked his agency and the Obama administration in recent days…

Shinseki used the message to cite accomplishments during his nearly six years of leadership.

He noted that allegations of VA employees’ misconduct have surfaced over the last several weeks, beginning with scheduling delays at the Phoenix VA and said that if found to be true “we will act.”

***

President Obama’s poor handling of the mismanagement at the Department of Veterans Affairs could plague his presidency as an all-time low point, says National Journal’s Ron Fournier.

“The fact of the matter is the political response to this thing has been both dishonest and way too weak,” he said on Wednesday’s Special Report. “I think this may be one of the lowest points of his presidency.”

Fournier said not only has the Obama administration been misleading in its response to allegations of incidents of malpractice in VA facilities across the country that led to the death of several veterans waiting for care, but also that President Obama has failed to live up to his promise to improve the department.

***

The VA is an island of socialism in American health care. It generally provides adequate care — to a limited universe of people and for only certain conditions — but has been plagued by scandal for decades. It is perhaps the worst bureaucracy in the federal government. As with all such single-payer-type systems, the cost of the notionally free health care is in the rationing, in this case the wait times that have had desperately ill vets hung out to dry for months.

Paul Waldman wrote a blog post in The Washington Post Wednesday imploring President Barack Obama to fix the VA to redeem the liberal vision of government. If six years into his presidency he has yet to fix the VA he promised to fix before he took office, that’s either an indictment of his presidency or the liberal vision of government or both.

As my National Review colleague Jonah Goldberg points out, the usual excuses don’t apply here. The existence of the VA isn’t politically controversial. No one is trying to repeal it, or “sabotage” it. It hasn’t lacked for funds. Its budget has been increasing at a rapid clip. What we’re seeing is simply unaccountable bureaucracy in action.

***

As the fallout from the Veterans Administration cooking of the books and the related deaths of over three dozen veterans continues, President Obama took to the podium on Wednesday to explain that problems at the VA are nothing new. On Wednesday, President Obama took to the podium to first express his tremendous anger – VA Secretary Eric Shinseki was “mad as hell” but President Obama was “madder than hell,” thus winning the rage sweepstakes – and then explained that the VA’s issues go back years…

Obama’s statement, however, was remarkably short on actual solutions for the VA. Throwing money at the problem hasn’t fixed it: using 2011 dollars, America spent $88.8 billion on the VA in 2007, and $125.3 billion on the VA in 2012.

And herein lies the problem for the left: the failures at the VA, including its bureaucratic incompetence, its waiting lists, and its deaths, all debunk the notion that a government-run healthcare system will work. It’s a fresh slap in the face to all those commentators who, in pushing Obamacare, endorsed the VA as a model.

***

[In 2006 Paul Krugman] explained, “pundits and policy makers don’t talk about the veterans’ system because they can’t handle the cognitive dissonance. … For the lesson of the V.H.A.’s success story — that a government agency can deliver better care at lower cost than the private sector — runs completely counter to the pro-privatization, anti-government conventional wisdom that dominates today’s Washington.”…

In a 2007 article for the American Prospect, Ezra Klein also praised the system’s outcomes. “What makes this such an explosive story is that the VHA is a truly socialized medical system,” Klein wrote. “The unquestioned leader in American health care is a government agency that employs 198,000 federal workers from five different unions, and nonetheless maintains short wait times and high consumer satisfaction.”…

The description of the system offered by liberals stands in stark contrast to the horrifying reality depicted in recent reports on how the veterans’ health care system has neglected patients and covered up wait times – at a deadly cost…

Last September, I spent time in England researching the socialized British medical system, the National Health Service, for the Examiner’s magazine edition, and encountered similar stories – of patient neglect and an unaccountable bureaucracy focused on gaming the system so they could claim to be meeting targets.

***

***

Today, we know the VA is anything but a model for health care reform, but this is not a new revelation. Obama truly did inherit a miserably defective VA system, but it was one he campaigned on changing. Now, more than five years into his presidency, that VA’s cascading failures have grown too grotesque to ignore.

We know that, not only were veterans receiving substandard care, but a system-wide initiative to hide the VA’s failures from those responsible for the administration’s oversight. That’s not merely negligence; it’s malfeasance and the cruelest form of corruption.

Given the gravity of the problem and the urgency of the need to provide medical care for veterans, even progressive lawmakers like Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) are conceding the need for an emergency infusion of what the administration once conceded was standard “private sector velocity.”

That’s good advice. Maybe those self-appointed policy wonks who have been ignoring the VA’s problems for years will have the courtesy of putting their ideological obsession with socialized medicine on the back burner for a few days in order to allow America’s veterans to get the care they need.

***

The liberal left, the “progressive” left, the socialist left, the communist left, and whatever other left, will employ the VA scandal as a case study of what happens not when government takes over and destroys healthcare but of what happens when government healthcare is not adequately funded. The problem, leftists will insist, is not government centralization, management, and planning, but the failure of cruel and miserly Republicans to fully fund what needs to be funded.

If you haven’t noticed, liberals are taking to websites and radio and TV right now to make just that point. They will continue to do so in the decades ahead as government devours more and more of the private healthcare industry. Even if radical leftists somehow achieve their utopian dream of a total federal takeover of every hospital, they will always argue that the subsequent disastrous system—replete with inefficiencies, rationing, and unnecessary death—has nothing to do with the nature of government or government management; no, they will always insist that the failures result from inadequate funding. They do that now with public schools. They will do it on steroids with healthcare.

***

In his speech on the VA, the president said that he would not stand for things that he clearly and undeniably has stood for some years now, and swore that he would not tolerate that which has has been tolerating since 2009.

He’s been described as acting like a bystander to his own presidency, but it’s more like he’s a victim of it, as though the presidency were this terrible thing that just happened to him one day that he’s now courageously dealing with…

It’s a remarkable talent he has. When he was getting beat up politically for his association with that goofy racist clergyman, he lectured us on the evils of racism, as though we’d been the ones sitting in on those hateful sermons. Every time he has some spectacular screw-up, which seems to be about once a quarter, he pronounces himself outraged, as though he had not failed us but had been failed himself.

So Barack Obama has sworn that he will not tolerate the incompetence of the Obama administration. I’d like to think that that means he is going to resign, but I don’t think that’s what he meant.

***

Whatever the disagreements about the long wars of the past decades, Democrats and Republicans agree that we must fully honor the debt we have incurred to the tiny fraction of the population that does the fighting for the rest of us. Yes, the budget for the VA has risen sharply since 2002. But the number of returning veterans has risen even faster. Many live with grievous wounds from which they would have succumbed in previous conflicts. Many others struggle with the multiple effects of repeated deployments. Aging Vietnam-era patients require more care, and new responsibilities such as coping with Agent Orange add to the VA’s burden…

The Congressional Budget Office’s latest budget projections showed that between 2013 and 2024, discretionary spending—defense and nondefense—is scheduled to fall from 7.2% of GDP to 5.1%, the lowest share since at least 1962. With only five cents out of each dollar of national income, we are supposed to defend the country, care for veterans, address the needs of children and the poor—and invest in the research, education and infrastructure on which America’s future depends. It can’t be done…

Ten years from now, the funds available for the military and domestic programs will buy less than they do today. Meanwhile, costs in both categories are likely to rise faster than the rate of inflation. “Doing more with less” is a catchy slogan, but it only diverts attention from the real problem: the contradiction between our needs and the resources we commit to meet them.

***

Via Greg Hengler.

***

***

***