No Bickering or Thinking: Just Do It

Understanding Obama's new health care agenda


Those who claim that President Barack Obama's speech on health care this week wasn't a glorious success are fooling themselves. A Washington takeover of health care never sounded so enticing or fun.

Just ignore the specifics, because when the president says he welcomes substantive new ideas, he means that if you have the nerve to offer any ideas—as Whole Foods' CEO, John Mackey, did in The Wall Street Journal last month—his allies will attempt to destroy your business and reputation.

And when the president says he welcomes bipartisanship, what he means is that he hasn't met with a single Republican on the issue since April—despite numerous requests and two separate House bills chock-full of ideas.

When this president says he is a deal-making centrist and will stand up to his own party, he means he will rebuff progressives on a complete straw man, such as a "single-payer" plan (a plan he supported at one time), which has been a non-starter in any iteration of health care reform this year. I only wish there were a stronger word for "courage."

When the president says everyone must chip in and sacrifice, he means more than 95 percent of small businesses won't have to chip in and sacrifice. That's good. But consider his plan a small-business generator, because larger businesses are sure to be small in no time (and many small businesses have a new incentive to stay that way).

President Obama says government will mandate that every American purchase insurance (despite his campaign promise not to do so) rather than allow us to indulge in "irresponsible behavior"—or, in other words, "choice."

Insurance companies, on the other hand, will be mandated to provide coverage, with no extra charge, to everyone, no matter how irresponsibly they behave. Also, feel free to ask for checkups and "preventive" care, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, on demand, no matter how needless your visit may be, no questions asked, no extra cost.

That should bend the cost curve in the right direction.

When the president says there is no possibility that a government-run public option could crowd out private markets, as such options have in nearly every other arena they operate in, he, as the tactful Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina might say, is trading in hogwash.

The president says that the public option is small potatoes because it would cover only 5 percent of Americans, pay for itself, and run like a private nonprofit. If such an option can change the dynamics of competition in health insurance, why not open a new private nonprofit organization that pays for itself?

Silly question, I suppose. As we all know, if any organization has demonstrated an uncanny ability to control costs, drive innovation and foster competition, it's been government.

The best part? Like that exotic mortgage taxpayers are paying for you, all this wonderment can be yours, according to the president, for absolutely nothing! Better yet, it would not add a single dime to the deficit in the next 10 years. Ignore the Congressional Budget Office's $900 billion estimate (and The Lewin Group's $1 trillion estimate).

Nope, we can pay for this by extracting $1 trillion in savings from insurance companies and Medicare (start cutting down on gratuitous use of paper clips, pronto). And if you even allude to the prospect of cuts (meaning government rationing for seniors), you are trafficking in a ghastly fabrication that might hasten your being "called out" by the president. No one wants that.

You may wonder how President Obama logically can sell a public option while claiming that reform would be paid for by waste found in another "public" option. You also may be wondering how mandates, price controls, regulations, and added costs would save us any money and preserve level of care. Don't. Just bask in the radiance of barren rhetoric.

Because when the president tells us that this is "the season for action" and that we no longer can waste time debating, he means that legislation won't be initiated until 2013, that this is all about politics and his very own entrenched ideology—not yours.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his Web site at www.DavidHarsanyi.com.