The "Public Option" and the Social Security Debate - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The “Public Option” and the Social Security Debate

President Obama’s proposal to create a new government-run plan has been one of the most contentious aspects of the ongoing health care debate. The plan isn’t a Trojan Horse for a government takeover of the health care system, proponents argue, but merely a “public option” that would compete on a level-playing field along side private plans. They argue that the new government plan wouldn’t have any unfair advantages or access to general tax revenue. Meanwhile, they say, individuals will be able to keep their health care if they like it. As the public becomes increasingly skeptical of their plans for overhauling the nation’s health care system, liberals have fought back by arguing that opponents are resorting to to “scare tactics” and not paying attention to what is actually in the legislation.

But this is a bit rich coming from liberals, whose strategy to kill Social Security reform in 2005 was built on attacking not what President Bush was proposing, but what they said his proposals would lead to. His proposal was portrayed as an attack on seniors, even though Bush said that the changes wouldn’t apply to anybody under the age of 55. Liberals warned that it would privatize Social Security, even though it would be completely voluntary. And they said government would be gambling Social Security on the stock market, even though participants would be limited to investing in diversified funds rather than individual stocks. The bottom line is that it was considered fair game in the media for critics to focus their attacks on what they saw as the broader effects of Bush’s proposals.

Therefore, I see no reason for critcs of the Democratic health care proposals to hold their fire. The bottom line is that President Obama has gone on the record as saying he’s in favor of a single payer health care system (video here), and has maintained that it would be the ideal system “if we were starting from scratch.” The idea of a government-run plan is to create the infastructure for the government to seize control of the health care system over time. For all the talk of a level playing field, the bottom line is that government would be running the health care exchange and setting the rules for private insurers. Under the House bill, insurers would be forced to join the exchange if they want to continue offering individual insurance policies. Even if the legislaton says that the government-plan would not have access to general tax revenue, it’s unrealistic to believe that would be the case if the plan ever ran into financial trouble (see Fannie and Freddie). And it’s also wrong to say people would be able to keep their insurance if employers will be able to dump workers onto the government-run exchange. After their behavior in the Social Security reform debate, liberals don’t have a leg to stand on when they accuse Obamacare critics of distortion and “scare tactics.”

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