01 May 2009

Ready For a Serious, Two-Way Conversation

During a town hall meeting in Missouri celebrating his 100th day as president, Mr. Obama said:

“Those of you who are watching certain news channels on which I'm not very popular -- and you see folks waving tea bags around—Let me just remind them that I am happy to have a serious conversation about how we are going to cut our health care costs down over the long term, how we're going to stabilize Social Security.”
On April 15th, I had no idea that my attendance at the Dallas Tea Party would have such beneficial effects for me. Mr. Obama may want to clear his schedule, though, because having a serious conversation requires that he listen as well as talk. And by talk, I mean spout talking points which are read from a teleprompter.

Health care costs are not the government’s to control. Too much government intervention, let alone outright meddling, alters prices and services. Yet I would agree that the status quo is less than optimal. Here’s a market solution: let folks buy health care like they buy car insurance. If this were the case, all Americans would have the opportunity to buy from any number of companies who would be competing for policy holders. What’s more, we would have more choice, or at least a whole lot more choice than the 2-3 “levels” of coverage from a current employer. Health insurance would also be portable; Americans would not have to worry about losing insurance if they lose or leave their jobs, nor pay steeply higher COBRA payments.

The problem, of course, is that individualized, private, market-driven health insurance doesn’t fit Mr. Obama’s bill. Arguments that people would be uninsured because of this or that malady are nothing but a cover, or to use Mr. Obama’s favorite terms, a “distraction”, an “old argument”. Government granted, “universal” health care serves Mr. Obama’s statist drive. It would grow government to new, unseen heights and provide an avenue for government intervention into individual’s personal space like nothing before it. Those on the Left who think that the Patriot Act was intrusive haven’t seen anything yet. Mr. Obama wants a vehicle for larger, more intrusive government, not a conversation about health care. Move along.

Social Security, a deeply rooted weed from FDR’s administration, is unlikely to be “stabilized”. Many citizens around my age – 35-ish – and younger recognize that they will never see the dollars they paid into the Social Security scheme again. The money is simply gone; it was gone the moment that the tax was paid. So stabilizing it doesn’t quite capture the picture. A more appropriate metaphor might be “laying it to rest”, though that may seem insensitive to those getting Social Security checks at the moment. I’d like to argue that younger Americans would be willing – albeit grudgingly – to continue to pay Social Security taxes if three promises were agreed to and kept. First, those of a certain age and beyond would be allowed the Social Security benefits they were promised, perhaps with raised retirement ages and other concessions. Second, that those younger folks would have a portion of their Social Security taxes placed into individual, interest bearing accounts payable to the individual tax payer or his designee. Third, when the first group passes on that Social Security would be abolished in total and all funds in individual, private accounts be paid in full to their beneficiaries.

But this conversation will not happen, either. Abolishing Social Security is a non-starter to the statist. The individual liberty gained by controlling one’s own money, one’s own retirement dollars, takes away from the power of the state. So while Mr. Obama claims he wants to “stabilize Social Security”, he wishes to do so not for the betterment of the individual citizen but rather for the enlargement and entrenchment of the federal government.

I wonder, is that a serious enough conversation starter for the president? Have a I made my points in a direct, succinct, and rational way? Have I bloviated? Or does my attendance at the Dallas Tea Party on April 15th allow my president, our president, to dismiss my thoughts, my concerns? The sad thing is that despite Mr. Obama’s claim to want a “serious conversation”, I will most assuredly never know.

No comments: