The so-called Health Care Summit has provided another opportunity for President Obama to rally his troops for a massive charge at the metaphorical mountain of health care reform. Unfortunately, the other side of that mountain peak is a steep cliff, and those troops who follow may find that the descent is not so pleasant. The rationale for the rush: because the democratic leadership thinks a window of opportunity is closing. Unless they can get this Trojan Horse inside the walls, the gates may be shut in November when the people speak their will. And of course, there is nothing like a big entitlement program to perpetuate an expansive role for government in the lives of its citizens, which is the core of their political agenda.
Unfortunately, the economic sustainability of our country is not getting adequate attention from those supporters. The President has argued that his bill (though we don't yet know exactly what it will contain) will lower health care costs. But without methods to increase competition and induce market-based controls into the spending of health-care dollars, how will that be true? If your version of reform is based on government subsidies to make health care more "affordable" (which, of course, is at the heart of this plan), then that means more government spending, financed by taxing and redistribution. Or more accurately, since this bill defers many of the tax consequences for political reasons and it underestimates the true costs of providing these benefits, it will mean borrowing and redistribution, followed by future taxing. And that can lead to something even more destabilizing for our economic future.
Mark Steyn has an interesting piece in National Review Online that suggests we are heading down the same path as some of our European neighbors, particularly Greece, which is now in the throes of economic turmoil. As much as we may benefit from building on the cultural, culinary, and artistic heritage that has come to us from Europe, emulating their economic policies is not in our best interest. Emulating their family and child-bearing practices may not work so well, either.
Steyn points out that Greece is now in social uproar due to the combination of large entitlements and limited productivity. Financing entitlements based on taxing the next generation (as we have also done, and are doing even more rapidly with deficit spending and rapidly depleting surpluses from social security) can work if the birth rate is adequate. But in Greece, the birthrate is an astonishingly low 1.3 (vs. 2.1 in the U.S.) (Alas, that Big Fat Greek Wedding thing we have heard so much about is apparently not bringing little Greeks into the world, and that is a loss for all of us.)
The consequence for a society based on large entitlements is dire: there are simply not enough grandchildren to finance grandma and grandpa's benefits. This creates a situation where those getting benefits (or those who think they are about to get the benefits, and expect they will croak before the system crashes), keep sticking it to the younger generation for as long as they can. It reflects a selfish world-view in which the future is damned as long as I get my satisfaction. Frankly, I think this moral dimension of health care reform deserves attention. Many on the left tap into religious principles rooted in loving and caring for our neighbors as a basis to support massive expansion of govenrment entitlements. It is nice to be able to do things for others. But without a sustainable basis to finance them, how is it moral to bankrupt the next generation? (And as an aside, if one wants to root this in satisfying a religious obligation, shouldn't we be fulfilling this obligation on a personal level, rather than through a forced exaction by the state? I have never understood that mindset.)
Check out the article and see if you agree with the parallels. If you agree with Steyn, then stand up and be counted on behalf of our children and grandchildren. There may still be time to correct this problem.