The president’s weekend editorial in the New York Times, written to shore up support for his collapsing health-care takeover plan, offers an opportunity to begin the vital task of taking back control of our language from the Left. Too much of our public debate is held in the Red Queen’s court, where words mean exactly what the Left wants them to mean.
The president opens his editorial with this piece of boilerplate rhetoric:
Our nation is now engaged in a great debate about the future of health care in America. And over the past few weeks, much of the media attention has been focused on the loudest voices. What we haven’t heard are the voices of the millions upon millions of Americans who quietly struggle every day with a system that often works better for the health-insurance companies than it does for them.
No one from the Left has any standing to complain about the media focusing on the “loudest voices,” Mr. President. More importantly, no one from the government has any right to whine about “the system.” Well-meaning liberals did not recently stumble upon a terrible, unjust health-care system, created by evil insurance companies during the eight years of the Bush Terror. Nothing has shaped American health care more than the statist wage and price controls of the World War II era, which created the system of medical services paid through “insurance” provided as a benefit of employment. Health care is not a free-market maiden, trembling as it awaits the first caress of benevolent socialist government. They have been married for a long time, and their relationship will not be improved by an expensive second honeymoon.
The President follows his opening paragraph with yet another attempt to justify radical change by relaying a couple of heart-tugging anecdotes. After repeating the tired lie about 46 million Americans lacking health insurance, he claims his reforms will provide “more stability and security to every American.” (Apparently the system is improving dramatically on its own, because the bogus number tossed around by Democrats used to be 47 million) Government involvement in private industry never brings more stability. Big Government is inherently unstable, prone to wild mood swings based on elections, and the actions of influential power brokers and pressure groups. Stability requires predictability, and nothing is less predictable than an activist government with deep pockets, run by a party that seeks to divide Americans into warring factions for its political advantage. The idea that anecdotal evidence from a handful of people should justify seizing huge chunks of the American economy, re-defining entire industries with minimal debate allowed on the fast-track legislation, is the very opposite of “stability.”
It’s also important to understand that nothing the government does, other than securing the borders against foreign enemies and prosecuting domestic criminals, benefits “every American.” Obama’s agenda is explicitly designed to penalize groups of Americans, whose assets will be seized through taxation, to pay for the benefits Obama plans to shower on his favored constituencies. As the President memorably explained to Joe the Plumber, Big Government’s agenda is redistribution, which benefits some at the expense of others.
Obama claims his plan would bring four main improvements to American health care:
First, if you don’t have health insurance, you will have a choice of high-quality, affordable coverage for yourself and your family — coverage that will stay with you whether you move, change your job or lose your job.
Big Government does not bring more “choice” to anything. Government involvement inevitably reduces choices, as bureaucrats design the limited menu of options they think should be available, and foreclose attempts to act outside their system. The “public option” in the Obama plan uses titanic amounts of government money – extracted from taxpayers on a progressive scale, which forces the people least likely to be interested in the public option to pay most of its cost – to create a heavily subsidized federal insurance “company.” The government will offer plans that would be impossible for legitimate private insurance companies to compete with, since they don’t have bottomless pits of taxpayer cash to cover their losses.
Obama’s proposed legislation includes clauses specifically designed to force private insurance companies out of business, and funnel more of the population into the public plan. Anyone who tries to offer “choices” outside of Obama’s blueprint will be prosecuted with the full intensity of the law. You’ll have “choice,” all right – one choice, and you’re making it right now, if you don’t do everything in your power to oppose Obama’s agenda.
Obama claims the second virtue of his plan is cost control. See if you can get through this paragraph without laughing out loud:
Second, reform will finally bring skyrocketing health care costs under control, which will mean real savings for families, businesses and our government. We’ll cut hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and inefficiency in federal health programs like Medicare and Medicaid and in unwarranted subsidies to insurance companies that do nothing to improve care and everything to improve their profits.
Yes, nothing cuts waste and inefficiency like handing control over to a bloated federal government that thinks it has access to unlimited taxpayer funding and deficit spending. I suppose it’s more “efficient” to pour all those unwarranted subsidies into one huge “public plan,” instead of spreading them out among dozens of evil insurance companies. Everything this President says is tailored for an audience of people who were born yesterday, and never had contact with a single government agency. He also seems to think no one reading the New York Times has any experience with Medicare, an underfunded program heading for total collapse, which many doctors already refuse to participate in:
Third, by making Medicare more efficient, we’ll be able to ensure that more tax dollars go directly to caring for seniors instead of enriching insurance companies. This will not only help provide today’s seniors with the benefits they’ve been promised; it will also ensure the long-term health of Medicare for tomorrow’s seniors. And our reforms will also reduce the amount our seniors pay for their prescription drugs.
Government cannot make anything “more affordable.” This idea comes from the delusion that prices are arbitrarily assigned by greedy fat-cat executives, who ignore the laws of economics to charge the highest price they think they can squeeze from their victims. It doesn’t work that way, and it also doesn’t work when government tries to ignore the laws of economics, to set prices according to a political agenda. The history of price controls and government subsidies is an unbroken tale of misery and failure. Applying price controls to a complex product, such as medicine, is like trying to clutch a fist full of water. The only predictable result will be the dumb amazement of the politicians, when they find themselves trapped in the Jurassic Park of inevitable statist failure, with the laws of supply and demand coming at them like hungry velociraptors.
We might have avoided this whole costly debate if the President understood the meaning of the word “insurance.” He clearly doesn’t, as demonstrated by the last virtue he claims for his proposals:
Lastly, reform will provide every American with some basic consumer protections that will finally hold insurance companies accountable. A 2007 national survey actually shows that insurance companies discriminated against more than 12 million Americans in the previous three years because they had a pre-existing illness or condition. The companies either refused to cover the person, refused to cover a specific illness or condition or charged a higher premium.
We will put an end to these practices. Our reform will prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage because of your medical history. Nor will they be allowed to drop your coverage if you get sick. They will not be able to water down your coverage when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or in a lifetime. And we will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses. No one in America should go broke because they get sick.
“Insurance” is sold according to actuarial tables. The insurance company sells inexpensive policies to a large number of customers, most of whom will never file a major claim. The customers voluntarily participate in this transaction, paying a small premium to gain protection against the possibility of catastrophic future expenses. The company makes money, because the amount paid out in claims is less than the income from premiums. A customer who anticipates no catastrophic expenses might choose to buy minimal coverage, or decline to purchase insurance at all. Using the force of law to compel universal coverage for the same price, regardless of existing conditions and risk factors, is not “insurance,” and the captive providers are not “insurance companies.” Orwellian distortions of terms like “insurance” and “premiums” cloud the health-care debate, and make meaningful discussion difficult.
This seems to be a feature of Obama’s agenda, rather than a bug, based on the panicked, authoritarian way he pushes it. For example, later in his editorial, he says “Despite what we’ve seen on television, I believe that serious debate is taking place at kitchen tables all across America..” What have we been seeing on television that suggests serious debate has not been taking place at kitchen tables? This is just another backhanded slap at the grass-roots inferno of resistance that has erupted against the Obaama agenda, implying those angry town-hall protesters are actors in some sort of scripted television production, designed to intimidate your family into nursing its corn flakes and pre-existing illnesses around the kitchen table in bitter silence.
The President writes in praise of “vigorous debate,” which is the same phrase he used to describe the Iranian government dispatching thugs to murder demonstrators. The rest of his editorial is a stern warning to keep that debate from getting too vigorous, coupled with an alphabet soup of professional associations and lobbies that feel the debate is already over. Obama could have expressed his love of vigorous debate by allowing ample time for it to occur, instead of trying to ram his bill through Congress in July. He’s still trying to sow panic at the end of his supposedly calm and reasoned editorial:
In the coming weeks, the cynics and the naysayers will continue to exploit fear and concerns for political gain. But for all the scare tactics out there, what’s truly scary — truly risky — is the prospect of doing nothing. If we maintain the status quo, we will continue to see 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance every day. Premiums will continue to skyrocket. Our deficit will continue to grow. And insurance companies will continue to profit by discriminating against sick people.
Americans should vigorously resist the Left’s attempt to equate resistance to government spending with “doing nothing.” They should never be allowed to get away with pulling that card out of their boots. Wow, the only choices are total government control of the medical industry, or “doing nothing?” Is that the kind of “choice” he boasts about giving Americans with his health-care plan – the false choice between blind obedience and paralyzed decay? I love the way he tosses in the line about the deficit continuing to grow. Another couple trillion dollars in spending, on a half-written socialized medicine bill, should be just the thing to rein in those rascally deficits!
Allowing the Left to control the language of public debate gives their harebrained schemes a dangerous head start. Examples about beyond Obama’s editorial in the New York Times. Government does not “invest” in anything – investment is a conscious decision to risk your own money, in pursuit of reward. Government is not a “partner” in anything – partnership involves equals working together for a common goal. No one willingly chooses a gigantic, emotionally unstable “partner” who puts chains on your wrists, and a gun in your back. Government cannot “guarantee” anything, because the political winds of the future can blow today’s promises down the memory hole. The benefits a group secures through government pressure will only last until a larger, louder, hungrier group comes along.
My advice to conservatives, and the politicians who would represent them, is to deconstruct the language of the Left at every opportunity. Take back the language… then take back Congress, the White House, and the country.