Art Laffer (why is he, of all people, on my TV?) asks what it will be like when the government runs Medicare and Medicaid.
This is supposed to be snarky, and it would in fact be funny if Art Laffer, the patron saint of supply-side economics, thought that the government did not run Medicare and Medicaid. But if you follow the link, it goes to a Media Matters clip with the headline “Economist Laffer on CNN:'[J]ust wait till you see Medicare, Medicaid … done by the government.'” That’s some very selective editing; if you watch the clip you’ll see that Laffer had just finished up talking about the government’s unfunded liabilities for Medicare and Medicaid when he says, “…just wait till you see Medicare, Medicaid, and health care done by the government.”
Then Krugman goes on to say — and he really says this — the following:
But I’d raise a further question: he warns that when the government takes over these, um, government programs, they’ll be like the Post Office and the DMV. Why, exactly, are these public functions unquestioned bywords for “something bad”?
Maybe I’m living a sheltered life here in central New Jersey, but I don’t find the Post Office a terrible experience – no worse than Fedex or UPS. (Full disclosure: I worked as a temp mailman when in college.) And nobody likes going to the DMV, but the one on Rt. 1 I go to always seems fairly well managed.
Can he really be that detached from reality? The only things that don’t work well in my life are government-run things like the Post Office and the DMV. For the sake of brevity, let me take just my most recent experiences with each.
Last year, the mailman broke my mailbox. While delivering the mail he slammed it shut or somehow jammed the lock. I called the Post Office during their very limited hours, and they promised to look into it. Nothing happened. About a week later, still no mail, so I called again on a Saturday. This time they told me my only option was to pay them $25 to fix the mailbox. When I asked whether they could waive the fee in light of the fact that they broke the box, the person on the phone literally hung up on me. Enraged, I went down to the office to confront them. I was given the runaround, and told that the maintenance guy had left earlier (I’m guessing he was the same guy who hung up on me.) After a week or two of this kind of treatment, I go into the other Arlington post office during work hours, with the idea of doing an end run on the counter guys at my own office. Sure enough, they give me the name and number of a supervisor for my office. I call the number, and she promises to help, but I have to come in during office hours to sign a work release. A week or so passes before I can get there during office hours, meanwhile about a month has gone by since I was last able to access my mail without accosting the postman on his rounds. I go, sign the work release, and pay the $25 because I’m feeling defeated. They tell me that they’ll do the job as quick as possible and give me my new keys. Fast forward about another month. I still have no new lock and no access to mail. I storm down to the office again, and wait through another huge line. I finally get to the maintenance guy and tell him what I’m following up on. He looks at me as though I’m an idiot. “Yeah, we’ve had that done for weeks,” he tells me condescendingly. “Why haven’t you come in for your new keys?” he asks, as though I must be crazy not to have figured out such a small problem as setting up a new mailbox lock. “We’ve been calling you a lot,” he glibly lies, apparently not knowing or caring that cell phones list all missed calls. Remember, this is only my most recent experience with the Post Office. They have all been about this bad.
As for the DMV: Last month, I attempted to get swap my Massachusetts driver’s license for a Virginia one. I arrived at the DMV 10 minutes after it opened to find a line hundreds of people long. I waited in this line for over an hour and a half — outside the building. This line didn’t even get you to the counter. It got you to the people who asked you what you wanted, took your number, and told you if you had the proper applications material for that particular process. In my case, I didn’t, even though I’d followed the website’s instructions perfectly. So I waited in line for an hour and a half just to be told I couldn’t wait in the real line. I can only imagine how long that would have taken.
Krugman wraps up:
And in general: is dealing with these government agencies any worse than, say, dealing with the cable company?
To be fair, I did also recently have a terrible experience with Comcast. Apparently the rate they quoted me was only an expiring promotional rate, and they had started charging me much higher rates in addition to random fees every month. I called them and they didn’t fix the problem. I also wasn’t 100 percent happy with their customer service (although never in a million years would they have hung up on me as the Post Office did). So guess what… I cancelled my cable.
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