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Larry Elder / March 11, 2010

Republican Collectivism

The most disturbing part of the ObamaCare debate is not about where Republicans and Democrats disagree, but where they agree.

Take this issue of those with pre-existing illnesses. Many Republicans actually support government action to prevent insurance companies from refusing to insure them. Ignoring the benefits of cost-lowering free market competition and the role of charity, many Republicans believe it acceptable to force an insurance company – in business to insure against unknown risks – to “insure” someone currently experiencing a known risk.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., supports legislation to “eliminate pre-existing conditions” as a reason for a carrier to deny coverage. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., says government needs “to take care of things like pre-existing conditions so that that doesn’t stop (people) from getting insurance.” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, supports prohibiting “insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions or charging higher premiums to people who are sick.”

But this should not surprise anyone who observes the allegedly “fiscally conservative,” “pro-free market,” “limited government” party in action. From the acceptance of the New Deal to government bailouts of private industry, Republicans – sooner or later – go along.

Here are just a few recent examples. Republican President George W. Bush, for a time, worked with a Republican House and Senate. Bush promised and delivered a prescription benefits bill for seniors. It expanded Medicare, the popular under-funded entitlement program passed – with Republican support, by the way – in 1965. We like seniors. Seniors vote. So if they struggle with their drugs bills, why, by all means make someone else help pay them.

On the 10th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law by his father, Bush bragged about the law’s importance and effectiveness. That such an assault on private employers engenders praise says much about the GOP’s acceptance of federal government’s command and control.

Like Hamlet, Bush agonized over whether to support federal funds for embryonic stem cell research. He never said, “Why are we asking government to spend taxpayer money on research that is – or should be – done by the private sector or nonprofits?”

No Child Left Behind ties federal dollars to local schools’ performance. Where is the outrage about taxpayers in one state paying for education in another? What gives educrats in Washington, D.C., the skills, wisdom and competence to run schools in all 50 states? More importantly, what clause in the Constitution permits this? Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan campaigned to shut down the Department of Education. Reagan failed. Today any candidate making such promises gets a one-way ticket to Shutter Island.

The entire ObamaCare debate starts off in the wrong place – with Republicans agreeing that “reform” is necessary, health care “costs too much” and that government must “make health care more affordable.” But it is because of government – laws, regulations and policies – that users pay more for services and drugs than they otherwise would.

Licensing requirements restrict potential caregivers. A non-doctor field medic in Iraq or Afghanistan could not come home, hang up a shingle, and render basic care without facing prosecution. Despite our aging population, trade associations, along with laws and regulations, restrict the number of doctors. Insurance companies enjoy protected markets because laws restrict carriers from competing across state lines. The Food and Drug Administration increases the cost of drugs while delaying or keeping possibly beneficial drugs off the market.

Republicans ran for the exits when Bush attempted a partial privatization of Social Security. And they should encourage a full-throated deregulation/privatization of the health care industry. After airline deregulation, fares declined. After telephone deregulation, telecommunications companies started providing a numbing array of services – along with better quality, lower prices and constant innovation.

Because government pays for nearly half of medical costs, we have a nation of government-provided-health-care dependents. Understandably, they want what they currently have or expect to have in the near future. But Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are steadily gnawing away at the country’s foundation. The bill is coming due.

In 1900, government at all levels – federal, state and local – took about 7 percent of America’s income. Today it’s almost 40 percent. And that doesn’t include an estimated 10 percent cost in federal unfunded mandates imposed on states and private business. President Barack Obama and Democrats want to add more than 30 million people – those without health insurance – to the takers, with little or no concern about the effect on the givers.

Are Republicans sounding the alarm about government’s present intrusion in health care and its counterproductive effect on quality, affordability and accessibility? Government, they should argue and persuade, grows at the expense of the productive. This eventually weakens the country by sapping the incentive of risk takers. This makes it harder – not easier – to help those we claim to care about.

A collectivist, whether an active or passive one, is still a collectivist. Having an “R” after the name provides no defense.

COPYRIGHT 2010 LAURENCE A. ELDER
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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