Maybe the bill passed by the House on Saturday night will stay within its cost projections. Of course, you have several cost projections to choose from. The Democrats’ cost claims are all ridiculous lies, designed using accounting techniques that would land private businessmen in jail, just in time to save them from being drawn and quartered by stockholders. The Heritage Foundation’s estimate of $2.4 to $2.6 trillion over 10 years, beginning when the House bill transitions from front-loaded tax hikes to full Daffy Duck freak-out spending in 2014, is the most logical projection of its true costs I’ve seen.
Even this will likely prove to be an underestimation of the true long-term costs. No other Big Government program has ever stayed within an order of magnitude of the promises made when it was signed into law. Medicare originally cost about $3 billion, when it began in 1965, and was projected to cost about $12 billion by 1990, adjusted for inflation. The actual cost in 1990 was nearly ten times that figure, $107 billion. It was up to $440 billion by 2007. The architects of the program would have been run out of town on a rail, if these future costs had been known to the voters of 1965.
The difference between promised benefits and expected revenues for Social Security and Medicare amounts to about $107 trillion dollars, which Doug Bandow of the Cato Institute points out is double the annual Gross Domestic Product of the entire world. The most strident opponent of the New Deal would never have dreamed of predicting this level of cost overrun. Name any government program that has been around for more than five years, and the odds are good it costs at least triple what its opponents originally said it would cost.
Maybe this time, a huge government program will be able to deliver its promised benefits. Anyone who has experienced the increasingly expensive, and rapidly deteriorating, services of the Post Office or Amtrak has good reason to be skeptical. No one who has dealt with Medicare can be eager to see the entire health care system shoveled into the drooling maw of such a bureaucracy. Those who support government health care because they don’t like their insurance companies should ponder the wisdom of handing their insurance over to an even bigger, infinitely less responsive entity. Once the government takes over health care, it will not be interested in criticism of its performance. The last thing any consumer should ever be willing to surrender is the ability to take his business elsewhere.
Maybe this time, Congress will keep the promises that restrain its future activities, such as extending coverage to illegal aliens, or paying for abortions. Whatever form these promises take when they emerge from Senate reconciliation, the American people should realize they are utterly meaningless – they have no power to bind future politicians. Today’s politicians can only pass along obligations to their successors, never discipline. The next Congress will be much more likely to pay attention to angry illegal alien groups brandishing lawsuits than disgruntled taxpayers who don’t want to see the cost of national health insurance skyrocket. The same goes for abortions. Once pro-lifers have become trapped in the same inescapable government-run health system as everyone else, their concerns can be safely ignored. What will they do in protest? Threaten to withdraw from the national health care system? If they try it, they’ll be holding their next prayer vigil for the unborn in a cell block. Only a foolish people trust their lives and souls to an entity defined by its ability to punish non-compliance with force.
Maybe this time, we can roll a titanic new government program across the fruited plains, without squashing the fruit. Among the most dangerous delusions of liberals and moderates is the belief they can unleash a blizzard of taxes and spending without radically altering other aspects of their lives… the belief they can blow the better part of $3 trillion taking over an industry, but everything else will stay exactly the same. They don’t appreciate how quickly the economic depression from huge taxes and industrial takeovers will destroy the income stream fueling the program, requiring increasingly high taxes in a vicious cycle resembling the collapse of a star into a black hole. They underestimate the damage to the national psyche that will result from hooking the middle class into a welfare program it can never escape. They’ve grown to take our fantastically advanced medical science for granted, and don’t realize how much less they’ll be expected to settle for, when doctors and corporations flee from a nationalized health care industry, the way many doctors currently refuse to accept Medicare. I don’t think enough people appreciate how far we have to fall, from the A+ health care we enjoy today, to the C- that will be good enough for government work.
Maybe this time, we’ll be able to reverse course in a couple of years, when we realize government-run health care was a horrible mistake. Everyone has known Social Security and Medicare are locked on a collision course with insolvency, and will drag everything we recognize as economics and government with them when we die… and everyone knows there is no way to reform them, as every attempt has ended in political destruction. Public education is a nightmare no one can wake up from, because the Democrats and teachers’ unions are ready to club them back into a coma when their eyelids flutter open. Reducing the rate of growth in the most absurd and inefficient spending programs is an epic battle, against frenzied legions of beneficiaries who are passionately uninterested in hearing about anyone else’s tax rates or unemployment levels… but maybe we’ll be able to reform or terminate this gigantic program, after reasoned discussion by the people’s tribunes on Capitol Hill.
Maybe this time, Americans will insist their Senators kill this deranged health-care scheme before it gets signed into law… instead of taking risks on a government that has never failed to disappoint them.