Weird, as in Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) apparently understands neither competition nor regulation.  Cardin tried to defend his support for ObamaCare at his third town-hall forum yesterday, but as The Hill reports, he’s not making much headway.  He’s not making much sense, either:

Cardin remained nonplussed throughout the forum, even as constituents sometimes screamed at him, drowning out his explanations. The senator stayed an extra 15 minutes and took several extra questions, but appeared to win over few listeners.

Most of the 23 questions from the audience were hostile, with questioners most angered over the cost of health reform, the role of the government, whether illegal immigrants would be offered insurance and whether tort reform would be included. …

Cardin repeatedly stressed that differences over health reform can be distilled into basic differences over the role of the government and whether the private insurance industry should be allowed to operate without regulation or competition.

Er, what?  The health-insurance industry is already heavily regulated.  Federal and state governments impose mandates for eligibility, coverage, and accessibility on medical insurers, as well as financial requirements for solvency to ensure that consumers get their bills paid when needed.  Some of this regulation is necessary, and some of it creates the very problems that ObamaCare advocates highlight — such as the blocking of interstate commerce in insurance coverage, which would boost competition and drive prices down.

Even worse, Cardin hasn’t got a clue as to what competition means.  Health insurers already face competition within their own markets.  Anyone who has worked in a human-resources office knows that insurers conduct expensive marketing campaigns to woo employers into offering their plans as an option for employees.  For those who are self-employed, the market has a number of insurance providers vying for business, although allowing insurers to compete across state lines would give consumers a much broader range of choices.

Government does not provide competition; it provides regulation.  The private market provides competition.  Cardin somehow casts the entire private market as some sort of monopoly, when in truth what lack of choice exists in this market springs from already-extant government action.  When government “competes” with a private industry, it destroys it through the hiding of administrative costs and subsidies that protect waste and inefficiencies.

The basic difference isn’t between those who want competition and those who want deregulation, which by the way are not mutually-exclusive positions anyway.  It’s between those who think the Post Office and the DMV make good models for health-care delivery, and the rest of the country who have experienced the efficiency of the Post Office and the DMV.

Update: Jazz Shaw points out that the reporter uses “nonplussed” when he should have used “stoic.”  Nonplussed means perplexed or bewildered, not calm and collected.  However, it’s clear that the concepts of competition and regulation have Cardin nonplussed.

Tags: Barack Obama