A Bay Area Assemblyman got an earful last week as he pushed a largely symbolic bill that would have made it legal for California public employees to be members of the Communist Party. Rob Bonta of Oakland contritely withdrew the measure, which had passed out of committee, after leaders from the state’s large Vietnamese community gave him an earful.
I know of no public employee who had been fired for such membership, or for virtually any reason for that matter. Nevertheless, conservatives took the bait and one mentioned the threat from North Korean and Chinese communists. But it’s not like they are flooding the Department of General Services with job applications. It was typical Sacramento, as Democrats introduce meaningless legislation designed to burnish their progressive credentials.
As I argued in my Orange County Register column, California has many problems — none of which are the doing of avowed communists in state government. Instead of worrying about this nonsense, Republicans should be gearing up to fight a frightening Bonta-coauthored bill that makes no direct reference to communism, but apparently was inspired by the same kind of thinking despite its benign name, “The Healthy California Act.”
The legislation would toss out our existing, quasi-private health care marketplace and replace it with a mandatory, universal single-payer system. Everyone would get “free” health care — even people residing in the state illegally. It would create a new state bureaucracy run by a nine-member panel appointed by legislators and which includes union members. Legislators proudly declared that the bill would make health care in California a “right.”
This is crazy stuff, but it easily passed out of the Senate health committee. And support for Senate Bill 562 or something like it is becoming a line in the sand for Democrats. At the Democratic Party convention last weekend, the big news was the hundreds of activists who lobbied the party to embrace a single-payer plan. Even the foul-mouthed outgoing chairman of the party John Burton told the demonstrators to shut the f*** up or go outside. Burton is a San Francisco lefty, showing just how far to the Left the state party keeps going.
OK, it’s not going to become law anytime soon. Elements of the hastily drafted bill would need to go before voters, and it’s unlikely that even Californians would toss aside their health care and dive into the deep unknown. Coloradans rejected a similar single-payer ballot measure at the polls last November by 79 percent to 21 percent. Gov. Jerry Brown has expressed skepticism about the idea. But this is indeed the next “big” thing here.
The most telling part of the debate came early in the week when the Senate Appropriations Committee released a staff report analyzing the costs of the bill in anticipation of a committee vote. Even in this land of free money, the report’s conclusions were stunning — and enough to send the bill to the “suspense” file for further financial review.
According to the appropriations committee report, this legislation would have annual costs of about $400 billion. For perspective, the total state general-fund budget — already an exercise in waste and excess — is $124 billion. One piece of legislation would more than triple the budget. It’s astounding. The bill’s advocates argue they would grab existing state, local, and federal medical expenditures, but even that — if the feds approve of the diversion from Medicare, and that’s doubtful — would only shave $200 billion off the price tag.
The appropriations committee then assumes that California’s new health bureaucracy would eliminate $100 billion to $150 billion in current, private health care spending. That optimistic scenario would still leave a $50 billion to $100 billion short fall. The analysis admits that its estimates “are subject to enormous uncertainty.” Every government program ends up costing multiple times what its designers initially predicted. All this would be paid for by a 15 percent payroll tax — provided there are any businesses foolish enough to remain here after its passage. Not that the bill’s backers seem dissuaded by financial realities.
A previous health committee analysis made these obvious points: “There is likely to be increased utilization of health services over fee-for-service Medi-Cal” and “this bill strongly limits the state’s ability to control costs.” Well, yeah. The cost estimates can’t possibly factor in the degree of demand that would overwhelm the system. Or the magnet that California would increasingly become for everyone from everywhere. If you’re in our state, you’d have — as a human right, mind you — access to every health care procedure you demand (but queue up in line for that operation, which you’ll be sure to receive sometime in the next century).
Some of the bill’s advocates actually argue that putting a bureaucracy in charge of the health market will increase efficiency because it gets rid of the administrative duplication of multiple health plans and agencies. As the Mercury News explained, the bill’s primary author, Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, “insisted S.B. 562 would ‘clamp down’ on health care costs in several ways, including eliminating the need for insurance companies and their administrative costs and profits.”
If that’s so, then the Soviet economy should have been the model for the world because it eliminated those darn profits! Obviously, our current government-dominated health care system is no model of free-market economics, but the answer is to make it less bureaucratic and more competitive. These same fans of single-payer will no doubt yell and scream about the evils of monopolies (which only exist when government grants them but I digress), yet think a health care monopoly is wonderful.
Why waste our breath? A simple Facebook meme says it all: It shows a photo of a bountiful grocery market created by “evil capitalists exploiting people’s hunger” juxtaposed with a photo of food riots in Venezuela courtesy of “noble socialists making food a human right.” I suppose as we die waiting for medical care in this utopian California single-payer health system, we can at least feel happy knowing that we aren’t the victims of medical profiteers. Or at least those of us who haven’t moved elsewhere.
That this bill has gotten as far as it has is a reminder that the biggest threat to our lives comes not from members of a party devoted to overthrowing our government, but from members of a party who already control our government.