19 December 2009


Surprise. Paul Krugman wants the Health Care Reform bill passed, bastardized though it is.

I've highlighted some of Kruman's tendentious leanings a little bit, but why not a few more (I am not going to evaluate the merits of his thesis).

A few points. Krugman writes: "not long ago the Bush administration and its allies in Congress successfully blocked even a modest expansion of health care for children." The plain reading of this sentence is that Bush and his cronies actively stopped more children from being able to receive healthcare. That isn't what happened. No one has ever been precluded by the government from getting health insurance or going to a doctor or hospital. The administration worked against expanding federal funding of state programs aimed at providing subsidized insurance to qualifying indigent children. Now this was a stretch for the administration that couldn't seem to find a problem spending every dollar in sight and a few billion more, but that's not the argument. One can be in favor of health care (health insurance) reform and want no federal dollars spent on providing or subsidizing anyone's health insurance costs or state programs. This is no either/or and his ogre-ization of those mean old Republicans is spiteful and silly.

Next paragraph: "Bear in mind also the lessons of history: social insurance programs tend to start out highly imperfect and incomplete, but get better and more comprehensive as the years go by. Thus Social Security originally had huge gaps in coverage — and a majority of African-Americans, in particular, fell through those gaps. But it was improved over time, and it’s now the bedrock of retirement stability for the vast majority of Americans." Counting Social Security as an example of an "improved" social insurance program is pretty damn funny, especially from an economist. This underfunded, poorly-managed, overly-expanded, heavy-handed, paternalistic social insurance program is pretty much a case study in how not to run these programs. One minor example: the amount of transfers recipients get is pegged to inflation, but thanks to the bleeding heart of Richard Nixon, if CPI goes down (deflation) benefits remain unchanged, transfer recipients "get a raise." Bad fiscal policy, but politically expedient so it's just a dandy idea because really, it's just other people's money. So now we're in a recession and CPI is down about 5% from last year. We know that recipients will gain about $700 of purchasing power (on average) because their transfer payments won't be reduced. Well that's just not good enough for the Obama administration. He wants to give $250 to every social security recipient because it's not fair that there is no cost of living adjustment increase--where, it has been shown, there should be a COLA down. $13billion in debt to the productive people of this country. More than $13 billion in future taxes to those poor stiffs not yet working or born. This is Krugman's "more perfect" model, the one we should hope health care insurance reform mimics. No thanks.

Another point: he writes, "we need to take on the way the Senate works. The filibuster, and the need for 60 votes to end debate, aren’t in the Constitution." I don't like the filibuster. I know the logic behind it and I think it has helped in preventing bad things from getting passed but it has also been used to prevent some good things from getting done. The underlined bits are purely a matter of opinion and that which I'm happy has been blocked is probably the exact opposite of how Mr. Krugman and others feel. So long as we have an entrenched two-party system, that's how it's going to be. Now as far as it not being in the constitution, Article I, Section 5, Clause two states "Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings". So it is in the constitution. Each new congress every two years votes on it rules, its proceedings, and every two years for pretty much the history of the republic, the senate has chosen to allow the filibuster. A great tool when your for it, a terrible idea when your against it. And who is "we" kemo sabe? "We need to take on the way the Senate works."? The New York Times editorial board? Princeton econ professors? People who agree with you?

Don't like the filibuster? Then work to repeal the 17th amendment, expand representation in the House to a more realistic ratio than it is currently pegged at (435 representatives for 300+ million people?) and support 3rd party candidates: Libertarians, Greens, Constitution, &c. The failures of republicanism can be laid at the feet of the entrenchment of our party system. Doing anything possible to escape this stranglehold is change I could believe in.

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