FT208: “Good liars can make anyone like them while those who don’t lie can’t.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 7th, 2014

Fundamental Truth

Having Government remake our Health Care System is not the Limited Government of our Founding Fathers

According to a Gallup poll approximately 38% of people identify themselves as conservative while only 23% identify themselves as liberal (see Liberal Self-Identification Edges Up to New High in 2013 by Jeffrey M. Jones posted 1/10/2014 on Gallup).  With most of the rest (34%) identifying themselves as moderate.  Or, in other words, 77% of the people do NOT identify themselves as liberal.  That’s over three-quarters of the population.  Which means if you were in a group of four people only one of the four would be a liberal.

And yet we have Obamacare.  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act passed on partisan lines when the Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress.  The most liberal change to our health care system (the government will charge people a fine/tax if they don’t buy health insurance).  The only time in history that government has forced people to buy something against their will.  Without having any kind of say in the matter.  Like we do with car insurance.  If you don’t want to buy car insurance all you have to do is NOT drive a car.  But with Obamacare there is no choice.  Everyone has to buy health insurance.  Period.

Having government remake our health care system is not the limited government of our Founding Fathers.  It is actually more in keeping with a royal decree issued by the king the Founding Fathers fought for their independence from.  Ye shall do this.  For the ruler has spoken.  And ye shall pay more taxes to fund this huge growth of government.  Another thing not in keeping with our Founding Fathers.  Higher taxes.  So how have we come to this when 77% of the people don’t want any of this?  Because liberals are some of the best liars in the world.  That’s how.

Discounted Reimbursements are causing Doctors and Hospitals to leave the Obamacare Network

To make Obamacare work they needed to get people to pay more for their health insurance.  So they could raise a lot of money to subsidize health insurance for those who could not afford to buy it.  Which they couldn’t do if people kept the policies they liked and wanted to keep.  Especially those lower-cost ones.  So they made the policies people liked and wanted to keep noncompliant with the Affordable Care Act.  Forcing their insurers to cancel them.  And forcing people to buy more costly policies.  This providing the subsidy money Obamacare needed.

So this was the plan.  To cause mass cancellations.  And then force those people with cancelled policies to buy more expensive policies.  But this was only part of the formula.  To keep more of those higher insurance premiums they also raised deductibles.  So not only did people pay more for their health insurance policies.  Those policies paid for less.  Forcing people to spend a lot more out-of-pocket before their insurance kicked in.

We have huge budget deficits.  And growing national debt.  A big part of that debt is from Medicare and Medicaid (and Social Security).  Getting people to pay for other people’s health insurance won’t cut these costs.  But there is something that will, though.  The same thing the government is doing with Medicare.  Pay doctors and hospitals less.  By discounting their reimbursements.  It worked pretty well with Medicare.  So they were sure it would work well with Obamacare.  Of course, health care providers overcharged private insurers to recoup what the government didn’t pay.  So this will no longer be an option under Obamacare.  Which has caused a lot of doctors and hospitals to already leave the Obamacare network.

People would rather hear a Pleasant Lie than an Unpleasant Truth

There was a lot if opposition to the Affordable Care Act.  For the people did not want national health care.  And they felt that was where Obamacare would lead to.  So President Obama told people in person.  And looked into the camera.  Making a promise to the American people.  “If you like your health care plan you can keep your health care plan.  If you like your doctor you can keep your doctor.  If you like your hospital you can keep your hospital.  Period.  No one was going to take these away from you.  All we’re going to do is give you better health insurance while saving the average family $2,500 on their annual insurance premium.”  None of which was true.

Of course, had the president told the truth he would only have confirmed everyone’s fears.  Which is why he lied.  A lie so big PolitiFact named it the Lie of the Year.  And he told the lie so easily.  He was so reassuring that the people believed him.  In fact, they wanted to believe him.  For they liked this president.  And they trusted him.  Despite his economic policies having failed to produce a strong economic recovery.  For even when polls showed the people thought his policies were taking the country in the wrong direction the people still liked him.  Because he tried.  Always saying things the people wanted to hear.  A lot of feel-good things.  Affordable health care for everyone.  Leveling the playing field.  Making the rich pay their fair share.  Free birth control.  Not enforcing federal drug laws in Colorado and Washington.  With talk like that no wonder the people liked him.  And why it was so easy for him to lie to the people.  As they were willing to believe just about anything he said.

President Obama is everything our parents aren’t.  Who tell us what we need to do.  What we should do.  And what we shouldn’t do.  Regular killjoys.  Unlike the president.  And the Democrats.  Who don’t mind people having a little fun in their lives.  Unlike the Republicans.  Who are as bad as our parents.  Always telling us things we don’t want to hear.  Like truths.  Facts.  And how things are.  Reality.  While the president and the Democrats tell us how things could be.  How life can be more fun and more carefree their way.  Whereas life requires a lot of hard work and sacrifice the Republicans’ way.  Because reality can suck.  Which is why some people use intoxicants to escape it.  Or vote Democrat.  Willing to accept on faith their fictional
alternative to escape reality.  For it turns out people would rather hear a pleasant lie than an unpleasant truth.  And people will like you if you tell them pleasant lies.  While they won’t like you very much if you tell them unpleasant truths.  Which is why good liars can make anyone like them while those who don’t lie can’t.  This is why people didn’t like Mitt Romney.  He told the truth.  And why people liked President Obama.  Because he told them what they wanted to hear.  Such as things like the Lie of the Year.

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Victimization + Demonization + Emotion = Democrat Votes

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 6th, 2014

Politics 101

Politicians Lie because they will Lose Elections if they Tell the Truth

Politicians lie.  Why?  Simple.  Politicians lie when telling the truth won’t help them win an election.

When President Obama lied the Lie of the Year he lied for a reason.  People didn’t like the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).  They did not want national health care.  And they believed that Obamacare would put them onto the path to national health care.  To allay their concerns President Obama said, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.  Period.”  The statement that became the Lie of the Year.  Because a lot of people lost the health care they had and wanted to keep.  In fact, they wrote the Affordable Care Act to make sure that would happen.  As they need to herd as many of the young and healthy into Obamacare as possible to make the thing work.  People who would pay into the program while not collecting any benefits.  So they could subsidize the old and sick.

Had the president told the people that they would lose the health care plan that they liked and wanted to keep there would have been a lot more opposition to the Affordable Care Act.  With constituents pressuring their representatives to vote against it or they would vote against them in the next election.  This is why politicians lie when they do things against the will of the people.  Because they will lose elections if they tell the truth.

Having Victims is No Good unless you have someone to Blame for their Victimization

Democrats lie a lot.  Because their policies have a long history of failure.  Especially their economic policies.  And that’s because Democrats embrace Keynesian economics with a religious fervor.  Despite Keynesian economics giving us the Great Depression, the stagflation of the Seventies, the dot-com bubble recession and the Great Recession.  No, these Keynesian disasters don’t give Democrats any reason to doubt their faith.   Because at the heart of Keynesian economics is an activist government in the private sector economy.

Democrats like to fault capitalism.  Saying unfettered capitalism is unfair.  Unfeeling.  Cruel.  And just plain mean.  So they involve themselves in the private sector economy to even the playing field.  To unrig the rigged game.  To remove the unfair, unfeeling, cruel and mean elements of unfettered capitalism.  By fettering capitalism.  And the first thing they do is identify victims of capitalism.  A secretary who pays a higher tax rate than her boss.  Warren Buffet.  Minimum wage workers who can’t earn a living wage.  And, of course, people who live in fear of losing everything because they don’t have health insurance.

Of course having victims is no good unless you have someone to blame for their victimization.  Such as the 1% who are extremely wealthy but don’t pay their ‘fair share’ of taxes.  Even though they pay over a third of all federal income taxes while totaling only 1% of the population.  Greedy business owners who’d rather pocket millions while depriving their workers from earning a living wage.  Even though most business owners are not millionaires and probably could earn more by working for someone else.  And evil corporations who force people to work against their will or lose their health insurance and other benefits.  Even though people tend to work where they receive the best pay and benefit package their skill and experience can get.  And will leave one job in a heartbeat for a job with a better pay and benefit package elsewhere.

The Affordable Care Act is an Economic Model that cannot deliver on its Promise

Once they have their victims and their villains all they need to do is pull on the heartstrings.  To generate sympathy for the victims.  While getting these same people angry at the villains.  Which they do by avoiding facts.  Instead, they tune in to people’s emotions.   Victims are sad.  And we should do something to help them from their victimization.  Villains are bad.  And we should do something to punish them.  So they demonize these villains.  Getting the people to believe that punishing them, say, with higher taxes will somehow improve their lives.  Which it won’t.  In fact, they could take all the wealth away from the 1% and imprison them but it won’t make a difference in the lives of the 99%.  For if the 1% are no longer creating wealth they would be unable to pay over a third of all federal income taxes anymore.  Requiring higher taxes on the 99%.  Or a drastic cutting of government benefits.

If people understood sound economic principles (and not the Keynesian nonsense our power-hungry politicians favor) they would not be so emotionally manipulated.  In fact, if people had a solid understanding of history they would never vote for anyone attacking capitalism.  As unfettered capitalism is the only economic system that allows people without privilege to be as successful as anyone else in the country.  Whereas the most anti-capitalistic countries have had the greatest poverty and human rights abuses.  Such as the former Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, the former Eastern Bloc countries, North Korea, Cambodia, Cuba, etc.  So for emotional manipulation to work they need a not so educated public. Which is why the Democrats control public education and our universities.  And champion pre-K.  To get control of our kids as soon as possible.  To dumb them down.  And program them into good Democrat voters.

This is the formula the Democrats use to win elections.  Victimization + Demonization + Emotion = Democrat Votes.  For they can’t win by telling the truth.  Or having informed voters.  So they use their control of our educational system to make more emotionally pliable voters.  Ones that are easier to lie to.  And that they can sway with fiery rhetoric.  Which is why we have Obamacare today.  Because the Affordable Care Act is an economic model that cannot deliver on its promise.  To provide a higher quality health care to more people while costing less.  Which is impossible.  Just as it is impossible to draw a square circle.  It’s either a square.  Or a circle.  It cannot be both.  Ditto for the promise of Obamacare.  Which is why to get people to believe that it was possible to give them more for less required telling a lie so big that it was voted the Lie of the Year.

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Bush didn’t Lie but President Obama Did

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 31st, 2013

 Politics 101

Bill Clinton said in a 2005 Interview that the 1981 Israeli Bombing of an Iraqi Nuke Plant was a Good Thing

“Bush lied people died.”  You heard that a lot all during President Bush’s presidency.  The left was shouting it from the mountain top.  “Bush lied people died!”  Saying that the dumbest man ever to occupy the White House fooled the most brilliant people in the world—liberal Democrats—into voting for the invasion of Iraq.  Because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Saddam Hussein used WMDs on March 16, 1988.  It was the closing days of the Iran-Iraq War.  In the Kurdish town of Halabja in Northern Iraq.  Hussein was no friend of the Kurds.  And the Kurds had no love for Hussein.  Which is why Kurdish guerillas fought with the Iranians against Saddam Hussein.  And after the Iranians took this Kurdish town in northern Iraq Hussein had no problem with committing an act of genocide in Halabja.  Which he did on March 16, 1988.  The largest chemical attack against a civilian population in history.

On June 7, 1981, Israel carried out a surprise bombing of an Iraqi nuclear reactor under construction.  For they feared a Saddam Hussein with nuclear weapons.  During the Persian Gulf War the Americans bombed what was left of that nuclear reactor.  For they, too, feared a Saddam Hussein with nuclear weapons.  Though publicly condemned by pretty much everyone at the time of the bombing most were probably happy the Israelis did that unpleasant task for them.  Even Bill Clinton said in a 2005 interview that the bombing was a good thing.

Saddam Hussein violated the Terms of the Gulf War Cease Fire by not Documenting the Destruction of his WMDs

The Congress saw the same intelligence the Bush administration saw in the run-up to the Iraq War.  It was so convincing that Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Harry Reid voted to give George W. Bush the authority to invade Iraq.  Who all feared a Saddam Hussein with WMDs.  For as bad as 9/11 was it could have been worse if the terrorists had WMDs.  Hussein had WMDs.  And he had no moral compunction against using them.  As proven by Halabja.  Making him a very dangerous man in a world where terrorists who hate America are in the market for WMDs.

So there was a very strong case against Saddam Hussein.  Especially when you throw in his violation of the terms of the Gulf War cease fire agreement.  In particular the documentation of his destruction of his WMDs that he agreed to do.  Which was a tantamount admission of having them.  WMDs.  But he didn’t document the destruction of his WMD stockpiles.  Because he did not destroy them.  Which meant one thing.  He still had weapons of mass destruction.  Which is probably why Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Harry Reid voted to give George W. Bush the authority to invade Iraq.  For they were terrified…of being on the wrong side of history when those WMDs they knew he had were found.

Well, we found no WMDs in Iraq.  Probably because Hussein shipped them off to Syria for safekeeping.  Assuming he would remain in power after the Iraq War.  Just as he remained in power after the Gulf War.  After the invasion nonsense was done he could go to Syria and take his WMDs back.  And perhaps get them into the hands of a terrorist for use against an American city.  To retaliate for the big headache George W. Bush gave him.  Of course his subsequent capture and execution put a wrench into all future plans he may have had.

Liberals play Fast and Loose with the Truth as Telling the Truth rarely helps the Liberal Agenda

President Obama made some promises about Obamacare during the Affordable Care Act debate.  Because the people were against it.  They didn’t want anything near quasi national health care.  So he kept saying that Obamacare wasn’t a government takeover of our health care system.  And that it would actually make the private health insurance industry better.  It would cover more.  While costing less.  And the best thing about the Affordable Care Act was this (see Obama’s pledge that ‘no one will take away’ your health plan by Glenn Kessler posted 10/30/2013 on The Washington Post).

“That means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”

The Fact Checker on The Washington Post gave this statement Four Pinocchios.  Their highest level of dishonesty.   Or ‘whoppers’.  As About The Fact Checker calls Four Pinocchios.  Basically saying the president lied about Obamacare to get the Affordable Care Act passed into law.  And lied again to win reelection.  For the election results may have been different if he had told the truth.  If he had said that some will lose their doctors and some will lose their health-care plan.  If he had said that premiums and deductibles would rise.  If he had would the people who had insurance and doctors they liked vote for him?  No.  Probably not. 

So President Obama and the Democrats told lies that deceived a great many people to get what he couldn’t get by telling the truth.  Obamacare.  One of the most divisive pieces of legislation ever passed in Congress.  Passed on purely partisan lines.  No Republicans voted for the Affordable Care Act.  Unlike the legislation that gave George W. Bush the authority to invade Iraq.  Which had bipartisan support.  With both Republicans and Democrats voting for it.  Yet the left said, “Bush lied people died.”  But when it comes to President Obama’s flagrant lies about the Affordable Care Act all you hear are crickets from the left.  Because for them the truth is whatever they say it is.  And a lie is whatever they say it is.  For the only way to pass their liberal agenda is to play fast and loose with the truth.  As telling the truth rarely helps the liberal agenda.

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It Ain’t 1996 – Obama’s path to Reelection isn’t Quite the same Road Clinton Traveled

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 24th, 2011

Obama Doesn’t have the Healthcare and Economic Edge Clinton Had

Clinton was lucky.  Hillarycare (Clinton’s attempt to ‘nationalize’ healthcare) was a disaster.  It crashed and burned.  So it was off the table come reelection time.  And he had a smoking hot economy.  He had both a real estate bubble and a dot-com bubble.  Now, strictly speaking, bubbles aren’t good things.  Because they burst.  And recessions follow the bursting.  But until they burst, you got a smoking hot economy with low unemployment numbers.  Just the kind of things that gets presidents reelected.  REDSTATE has a list of other things, but let’s focus on items 3 & 4 in their list (see Why 2012 Is Not 1996 by Dan McLaughlin posted 1/24/2011 on REDSTATE).

3: Obamacare passed; Hillarycare didn’t: As unpopular as the Clinton Administration’s health care plan was, it wasn’t a major issue in the 1996 campaign because it had failed and, with Republicans controlling both Houses of Congress, it wasn’t coming back…Not so Obamacare, which remains very much a live issue.

4: The Economy: The unemployment rate is the most obvious of numerous economic indicators showing the U.S. economy in bad shape in 2011: unemployment, as low as 4.3% when voters elected the Democrats to control Congress in November 2006, was 6.5% when Obama was elected and 8.5% when he was inaugurated, and he expended much political capital arguing that his “stimulus” package would fix this with federal spending on “shovel-ready” projects; instead it peaked at 10.6% in January 2010, and remains above 9% a year later. These are very high numbers historically; since 1960, the unemployment rate has been above 6% on election day five times, and the only time the party in power wasn’t booted was 1984, when the 7.2% rate was the lowest it had been since before President Reagan took office and had plunged more than three points in two years. By contrast, the unemployment rate in 1996 was 5.4%, down from 7.4% when Bill Clinton was elected. If Obama can’t make the argument that Presidents Reagan and Clinton made – that they were not only making major headway on unemployment but in better shape than they were when elected (in Reagan’s case, the slight drop in unemployment was accompanied by an enormous drop in interest rates and inflation and a stock market boom) – he’ll face an electorate that is much more suspicious of entrusting him with the economy for four more years.

Historically speaking, history will favor who is not Obama in 2012 on these two issues.  And they’re about the biggest issues you can have.  A recession that just keeps on keeping on.  And a massive explosion in new spending.  Which can’t possibly help anything economic.

Old People and Jobs:  One Unpleasant Tradeoff

And there you have the ultimate showdown.  Obamacare versus the economy.  More spending and even more taxes.  Or less spending, less taxes and more jobs.  On one side you have emotional tugs of the heartstring (we have to help those poor uninsured people).  The other you have reality (we can’t raise taxes or borrow anymore without ending up like Greece).   

Obama may go Clinton.  And Clinton scored some big points with Welfare reform.  Obama has a chance to reform Medicare.  It is, after all, a part of Obamacare.  Gutting Medicare.  But Medicare is not welfare.  Those old people are a powerful voting bloc.  Will anyone, especially a Democrat, throw himself onto that ‘third rail’ (see Health care and the contest of credibility by Michael Gerson posted 1/25/2011 on The Washington Post)?

With Jack Lew and Gene Sperling in charge of its economic policy, the administration’s Clintonian direction is clear. It will seek higher revenue, cuts in defense, spending caps and more aggressive health-care price controls. When measuring deficit reduction, the last is the most important. It is the combination of cost inflation, an aging population and expansive health entitlements that push America toward the fate of Greece. Unless this problem is addressed, no tax increase or cut in discretionary spending will cause federal outlays to flatten at a sustainable percentage of the economy.

Higher revenue means higher taxes.  This is why Obamacare ‘reduces’ the deficit.  It has more new taxes than new spending in it.  But it’s a poor way to reduce the deficit.  If you have a problem because you’ve spent too much on your credit cards, what’s the easiest way to fix that problem?  Increase your revenue (i.e., your salary)?  Or cut your spending?  Of the two, you have far more power over spending cuts than you do on increasing your revenue.  So the smart money always goes on spending cuts to cut any deficit.  If you’re spending too much you just stop spending so much.  Pretty simple and straight forward.

But the 800 pound gorilla in the room is spending on old people (Medicare and Social Security).  We’re spending a fortune on increasing the life of the old so they can keep on collecting social security.  You’d have to be an idiot to not see the problem with that in an ‘entitlement-based’ government.

“The fact is,” says Yuval Levin of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, “Medicare is going to crush the government, and if Republicans leave it unreformed then the debt picture is very, very ugly. They might never – literally never – show the budget reaching balance. Not in the 10-year window and not if they take their graphs out a hundred years. Obama could probably show balance just past the budget window in the middle of the next decade because of the massive Medicare cuts he proposes, even if in practice they will never actually happen.”

Incidentally, those “massive Medicare cuts” he proposed was how he got CBO to favorably score Obamacare.  Without those cuts Obamacare would never have gotten any traction because of the massive cost.  Even with the massive tax increases.

So you see the grim picture? 

The Democratic approach to Medicare cuts would give doctors and providers less and less money while expecting them to cover the same services. “In reality,” says Levin, “providers won’t just provide the same care for less money – some will stop taking Medicare patients, some will go out of business, and some will reduce the level of care or amenities. That’s what we see in every system that takes this approach to cost control: waiting lines, dirty, unsafe hospitals with horrible food and amenities.”

And this is nationalized healthcare.  Healthcare for everyone.  All at an equally horrible standard.  Unless you’re in the government, of course.  Or are affluent enough to fly somewhere where there still is quality healthcare.

Pity the Poor Democrat son of a bitch Running in 2016

Obamacare benefits don’t really kick in until after the 2012 elections.  So when rationing kicks in and the ‘death panels’ start thinning the herd, it will be after the 2012 elections.  This may help.  The quality of our healthcare (Medicare and Obamacare) won’t really really suck until later.  However, taxes, regulations and mandates (and waivers) are kicking in before the benefits.  So the economy will still be in the toilet.  There might still be some tricks in the election bag to pull off reelection.  Who knows?  But one thing for sure.  Pity the poor Democrat son of a bitch running in 2016.  Because he or she will have to answer for the unprecedented mess their predecessor gave us.  Perpetual recession.  And horrible healthcare.

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LESSONS LEARNED #21: “The reason why health insurance is so expensive is because it is not insurance.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 8th, 2010

THE LONGER YOU live, the more you see and hear.  Here’s a smattering of our collective experiences.

YOU CAN LEARN a lot working in a small business.  I did.  I did about everything you could in a small business.  Including keeping the books.  And getting fired.  Over money.  It’s always about money, isn’t it?  And broken promises.  But I digress.

The business owner had a couple of kids.  As did some other ‘key’ employees.  I didn’t.  I was a young, single man.  Rarely went to the doctor.  So the ‘Cadillac’ health care plan we had meant little to me.  But it was important to them.  So important that it was a serious financial burden to the company.  The owner scrimped and saved elsewhere to maintain it.  Including my salary.

I helped to bring us through a difficult time.  I did my part.  Now it was time for the owner to do his part.  But he forgot those promises.  (Important life lesson?  Get things in writing.)  We had words.  I considered my options all the while dealing with one of the ‘key’ employee’s wife.  Who was always calling to bitch about the medical plan.  She didn’t like her co pays, that the non-generic drugs cost more, being billed for something that SHE thought should have been covered, etc.  I talked to her (it seemed like) at least once a week.  So and so who worked at such and such didn’t have to pay for this or that or the other thing.  And, perhaps, in some fairyland, they didn’t.  Our plan was good.  Above average.  She just didn’t want to pay for anything.  In fact, she wanted the business to pay for the things the plan didn’t cover.  She wanted it all.  But didn’t want to pay a dime for any of it.

She thought it was an outrage that she had to pay her bills.  But she took the health care.  Just wanted others to pay for it.  Even if cuts had to be made elsewhere.  Even if others didn’t get promised raises or bonuses.  As long as the cuts didn’t affect her. 

My experience is only a microcosm, but it applies to the big picture.  Our health care system is the best in the world.  But the way we go about paying for our health care is threatening to destroy that great system.  We’re voting ourselves the treasury.  We want more and more things but forget that old saying.  There’s no such thing as a free lunch.  Costs are costs.  And someone has to pay them.  If we don’t, others have to.  Until they choose not to.  And then what are we going to do?  Run to government?

Well, yeah.  There has to be someone we can take more money from.  Make those young and healthy people buy insurance so more people contribute into the big insurance pot and bring down the cost per person.  If they pay more, I wouldn’t have to pay as much.  Or my fair share.

Don’t like that?  Why, then let’s just nationalize it.  Wait a tic, nationalize care sucks.  So let’s not nationalize it.  Let’s do that other thing.  It’s just like nationalizing but we get to keep the things we have now.  Single payer.  Yeah, that’s it.  Let’s go with a single-payer system.  We keep the care we have and tax the rich to pay for it.

Or let’s be like Canada.

I DROVE INTO Quebec once from upstate New York.  At Canadian customs, the guy asked if I had any cigarettes. 

“No,” I said.

“Really?” he asked.

“No,” I said.  “I don’t.”

“Come on.  You must have some cigarettes.”

“No.  I don’t have any cigarettes.  I don’t smoke.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Well, I don’t.”

He stared at me, smiling.  Waiting for me to break, I guess.  I didn’t.  I was confused.  Customs never interrogated me like that before.  He kept staring.  And smiling.  I looked backed.  Befuddled.

“Okay,” he finally said.  “You can go.”

And I did.  Found out later what that was all about.  Obscene cigarette taxes.  In an effort to stop people from smoking cigarettes.  But it opened a huge black market.  Drug dealers switched from smuggling in drugs to smuggling in cigarettes.  It was as profitable.  And less punishable.  If caught.

CANADA HAS A large tourism industry.  And high taxes.  They tax everything.  Making it costly to be in Canada.  They have a Value Added Tax (VAT).  It’s called the Goods and Services Tax (GST).  That means they tax most goods and services you pay for from the first level of being to its final delivered form.  They tax the thing you buy. And they tax the things that made that thing you buy.  At every level, when someone adds value, they add another GST.  Taxes upon taxes.  They can collect a lot of money.  But they also raise prices.  Which makes everything more expensive.  So Canadians can’t afford to buy as much as they once did.  Less demand contracts supply.  Lays people off.  They spend less.  Pay less in taxes.  Collect unemployment benefits.  Government collects less and spends more.  Deficit spending.  They raise taxes to offset the deficit spending.  And the cycle repeats.

There’s been talk about establishing a VAT in the United States.  Because of out of control government spending.  Those who support it say it will help the economy.  They lie.  Taxes don’t help economies.  At least, they haven’t yet.

In order not to hurt their tourism industry the Canadians (for a time, at least) let tourists get a refund on the provincial and GST taxes paid while in Canada.  Canadians have no choice.  But tourists do.  They could choose not to go Canada.  So they allowed the refund because they knew that higher taxes don’t stimulate consumer spending.  And they wanted stimulated consumers to come to Canada to spend.

SOME CANADIANS DO have a choice, though.  Those who live near the US-Canadian border.  I’ve worked with Canadians who traveled to America to work.  They love their country.  Believe America could learn a lot from her.  But they buy their gasoline in the States.  And everything else they can to escape their own high taxes.

WHEN MY DAD was in the hospital for quintuple bypass surgery, a few of his nurses were Canadian.  They said a lot of Canadian doctors and nurses crossed the border into the United States for better paying jobs.  My dad had no complaints.  They were good nurses.  He was grateful for their care.  That’s what high paying jobs do.  Attract high quality talent.

I SAW A fund drive once while in Canada.  There was a sign on the lawn with a colored-in bar showing where they were in achieving their goal.  A hospital was raising money to buy something.  An MRI machine.  For there was none in this medium-sized Canadian city.

I WAS AT a small community hospital (in an American city) walking the grounds with the facilities manager.  He had to close a small road intersection on campus that doubled as the helipad.  The university hospital’s medical helicopter was making a test flight to this small hospital.  I asked him if they flew in many patients here.  He said no.  But they flew critical patients at this hospital to the university hospital (about 30 miles away) where they had a better chance for survival.

I ONCE WENT on a skiing vacation throughout New England and Quebec.  I skied Jay Peak, Mont Tremblant, Mont-Sainte-Anne, Sunday River, Stowe and Killington.  I remember a helicopter flying overhead at one.  (It’s been awhile, but I think it was in Canada).  There was a sanctioned FIS ski event there.  Part of the requirements for a high-speed ski event is a readily available rescue helicopter to immediately air-lift a seriously injured skier off the hill.

NATASHA RICHARDS HAD a freak accident while taking a ski lesson at Mont Tremblant in Quebec.  She fell.  Like we all have while skiing.  She got up.  Like most of us do.  Laughed it off.  She felt fine.  But there was now a silent killer at work.  She declined immediate medical attention.  After awhile, she started to feel ill.  She would subsequently die from an epidural hematoma due to a blunt impact to the head.  A shame it was only blunt.  Had it knocked her unconscious, she may have survived.  That would have demanded immediate medical attention.

She died because her initial injury was not painful enough.  She therefore had little cause for concern.  As many of us no doubt would have if we were in her place.  Critical time was lost.  Time that she couldn’t get back.  There’s no one to blame.  It was a freak accident.  What made the headlines, though, was an interesting fact.  The province of Quebec did not have a single medical helicopter (probably wouldn’t have made a difference for Richardson).  The province had determined that the cost of a helicopter system was greater than the perceived benefit.

SO THERE’S A smattering of health insurance, tax and health care anecdotes.  A small smattering, but nevertheless a smattering you can draw some conclusions from.  First and foremost, people are cheap bastards.  And they have an entitlement mentality.  Put the two together and you’ve got an ever-expanding, under-funded, welfare state.  And that can only lead to one place.  Bankruptcy.

You can’t keep raising taxes on people to solve problems.  They’re just not going to whistle a happy tune and keep paying.  They will make efforts to evade those taxes.  Or they’ll simply cut back on their spending.  And when they do, they will create other problems in the process.  Those unintended consequences that have bedeviled government planners since the dawn of government planning.

The Canadian health care system is not the utopia some claim it to be.  It’s big.  And costly.  Bureaucrats conduct cost-benefit analysis.  It’s cold and impersonal.  What is the cost per unit life saved by having a medical helicopter system?  Does the mean wait-time justify adding another MRI in a geographic region?  Or would the resultant excess capacity from a second MRI be too wasteful?  And what is the acceptable mean wait-time for a procedure?  Would a 2% cost savings from a reduction in staff be acceptable if the corresponding rise in mortality rates is kept at or below 1%?  It’s all very analytical and rational.  But when it’s your loved one in a critical condition, you’re rarely analytical and rational.  And you’ll do just about anything.  Even go to the United Stated and pay out of pocket for medical care.

Of course, if the United States adopts a Canadian system, the Canadian system should improve.  Without those better paying jobs a short drive from the border, those doctors and nurses would probably stay in Canada and work within the Canadian system.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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