A Further Perspective

The Mind Boggles

Marvel at the insanity of the process we have allowed to steer the fate of the Republic.

By 10.15.09

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Haven't you heard? Baucus got his caucus to snow Snowe, the health insurance form got reformed, and the public is plumb out of options. If that ain't cause for celebration where you are, you must be living elsewhere than our nation's capital. And for that matter you may soon be running out of your own capital too.

There are many quibbles to be had with the bill recently voted out of committee by a bunch of Senators who should meet the same fate. These are matters of substance, critiques possible only to the limited extent the contents of the legislation are known. But let us put aside for the moment our discontent with the content. It behooves us instead to take a moment to marvel at the insanity of the process we have allowed to steer the fate of the Republic.

Think about this. We have decisions made about matters desperately close to home, affecting our health and wealth, our lives and livelihoods, and by whom? A group of Senators, fairly capable people, farm the work out to aides of whom we know nothing. Who are these people and how is their capability determined, their efficiency measured, their accuracy gauged? The work produced by these ciphers in their crypts is hardly understood by the legislators, then subject to manipulation by jurists. It seems unimaginable that your life and mine may be offered as human sacrifices to the meddling of these wizards of Oz hiding behind their curtains.

Number two: it is astonishing that we undertake sweeping steps based on the most rudimentary projections of outcomes. How many months and years would a private firm have to invest in study upon study before it undertook a project affecting hundreds of millions of people and trillions of dollars? Look for example at the pharmaceutical firms. Before they can bring a drug to market, they must spend fifty to a hundred million dollars in research and testing. That is for one single solitary drug.

Has the Senate, or the Congressional Budget Office, spent a fraction of that in limning the outcome of a massive health-care overhaul? Nah, they throw a few numbers together, extrapolate from a series of questionable premises, and plop a paper down with a figure that is treated as gospel. Is anyone testing past CBO projections to assay the degree of precision they achieve? We do know that Medicare was never going to cost more than 4 billion dollars a year. And yet we trust this system to dictate the prescription of all the drugs by all the doctors for all the citizens… a system no company could rely on for a single medication.

Point three: it is utter madness to create open-ended commitments with no mechanism to impose restraint when it overreaches or simply grows too big. It has been a favored feint of Obama and the Congressional Democrats to cite as an advantage for public health insurance the fact that it does not "need" to show a profit. But the need to show a profit is what we count on to regulate the insurance companies. A profit is a barometer of systemic efficiency. These public plans go hog-wild, and if we complain about the money being lost, we are answered by higher taxes.

Who are these people? What are they doing? Are they qualified to do it? Is anybody? How do they know the results they will bring? Can they possibly know? What is their track record in previous undertakings? Is anyone keeping track? Are there consequences to them if they fail? What guarantees do we have that if they mess up someone will clean up the mess? With questions like these, it is the height of irresponsibility to trust the fate of a country to this apparatus.

The cherry-on-top came earlier this week when the insurance industry unveiled a report by Price Waterhouse predicting vastly higher insurance costs if this bill is enacted. Within minutes members of Congress were deriding the bias and distortion of this finding. The irony here is mind-boggling. The worst accountants in the world are heaping scorn on the best accountants in the world, telling them to mind their own business. They should better stay with what they know, industries which make sense, plan carefully, deliver well, track results punctiliously and discard what does not work.

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About the Author

Jay D. Homnick, commentator and humorist, is a frequent contributor to The American Spectator.