Freedom Watch

Health Care Amtrak-Style

By From the October 2009 issue

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Nowhere in the debate regarding health care has anyone asked if the government is able and qualified to run such a system. Before we ask government officials to manage universal health care, let’s check them out.

How successful has the federal government been in managing agencies, programs and businesses?

Let’s look at Medicare. The president and Congress propose to extend Medicare to cover the 47 million people who lack health care coverage. Did anyone remind Congress that Medicare is broke? It’s rampant with fraud and abuse. Medicare and Medicaid fraud cost taxpayers an estimated $60 billion per year.

Medicare is legally required to pay full retail prices for drugs that could be obtained for far less in a competitive-bidding system.

Health insurance companies are required by state regulators to maintain a reserve for future liabilities. Every working stiff in this country is required to pay premium taxes into Medicare, which has no reserve. The federal government has been running the largest Ponzi scheme ever created, and it is on the hook for $36 trillion in unfunded liabilities.

On Aug. 4, 1977, Jimmy Carter declared war on energy dependence and created the U.S. Department of Energy. Today, 31 years later, the Department of Energy’s budget is $26 billion. It employs 16,000 people and 100,000 contract employees. We are no closer to energy independence than we were in 1977.

The U.S. Postal Service lost $7 billion last year and is talking about closing hundreds of offices.

The Federal Reserve was created by the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 to maintain a stable financial system. The Federal Reserve gets failing marks for its direct complicity in the economic meltdown and subsequent recession. The Federal Reserve has failed us.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were created by Congress as government-sponsored enterprises to provide low-interest funding for the mortgage industry. These government-run mortgage banks were created to provide competition and cheap loans to those who could not afford normal market rates.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac own more than $5 trillion in mortgage paper. On Sept. 7, 2008, they were declared insolvent and were taken over by the Federal Housing Finance Agency and bailed out with more than $400 billion—another government-run mess.

Amtrak was created by an act of Congress in October 1970 to run the nation’s railroad system. Amtrak was supposed to reverse more than two decades of continuous operating deficits. With a congressional mandate to become profitable, it was given $40 million in initial funding, along with $100 million in loan guarantees. After 38 years, Amtrak has never made a profit and receives a federal subsidy, with no prospect in sight of breaking even.

The war on drugs was started by President Richard Nixon in 1969. The United States has been spending $69 billion a year worldwide for the past 40 years, for a total of $2.5 trillion, on drug prohibition—with little to show for it. Today, there are more drugs on our streets at cheaper prices than ever before. It is easier for young people to obtain illegal drugs than a six-pack of beer. Why? Because sellers of illegal drugs don’t ask kids for IDs.

The list of government failures is long and telling. I can’t wait for Government Motors’ new car. Are you waiting anxiously? Are you holding your breath? That car will be on recall for many years.

And you, Mr. President, want the government to run health care?

Mr. President, our government can’t even run a railroad. How the hell do you think the government will ever manage a universal health care system?

Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

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About the Author

Barry Goldwater, Jr. is a former Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives.