Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Anti-Government Fervor Among Healthcare Protestors Is Riddled With Contradictions

In an earlier blog post, I questioned the sudden concern about the perils of "big government" among healthcare reform protestors. Many of these individuals undoubtedly failed to contest (and probably supported) governmental excess that led to "senseless wars, government regulation of uteruses, police intrusion into the bedrooms of consenting same-sex adults, and the maddening state and federal governmental effort to make sure that Terry Schiavo remained in a persistent vegetative state." Today, an article distributed by the Associated Press confirms my original understanding of the protestors' opposition to big government: It is selective and contradictory.

Big Government for You, But Not for Me!
Although the Associated Press article does not analyze the irony of the protestors' positions, it nonetheless presents a factual basis for concluding that many of the activists suffer from selective opposition to big government. Consider the following passage:

Nancy Snyder says she kept quiet when abortion was legalized and prayer in schools was eliminated. Not this time.

"They did it for prayer, they did it for abortion, and they're not going to do it for our health care," the 70-year-old nurse from Philipsburg, Pa., said Wednesday as she and her husband Robert, 74, a retired coal miner, waited in a long, snaking line for Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter's town hall meeting.

Apparently, Snyder believes that it is perfectly fine for the government to dictate the reproductive choices of women and to force kids to pray in school. Expanding the availability of healthcare is outlandish. All of these situations, however, involve big government.

Big Government for Me, But Not for You
Ironically, many of the people whom the article portrays as fuming over "socialized medicine" probably have state-sponsored health plans. Accordingly, iBoldf the protestors actually applied their anti-government rhetoric to their own lives, many of them would lose health insurance coverage or would have to spend a fortune to obtain it.

One protestor is a public school teacher, who undoubtedly has a public-sponsored health plan and pension (along with his salary). In other words, the individual is living on the taxation of others. Another person has a 74-year old husband, who is likely on Medicare -- the largest government-sponsored health plan. Even if these individuals have "private" plans provided by their employers, the public still pays for roughly 1/3 of the costs of these plans through favorable tax treatment (for further discussion, see here and here).

According to recent a recent Gallup report, only 13.3 percent of Americans with health insurance purchase their policies on the open market. The remaining individuals are enrolled in either in state-sponsored plans or in employer plans that are heavily subsidized by state and federal tax policy. The notion of a free market in health insurance is a myth for the vast majority of Americans.

Big Government for Bush, But Not for Obama
It also seems like many of the protestors have conveniently repressed their memories of George Bush's expansion of government, including his role in the expensive bailouts of the financial sectors and of the auto industry. Bush and Paulson proposed the bailout and ushered it through Congress. Bush also structured a $17.4 billion bailout for the auto industry, claiming authority to do so pursuant to the financial sector legislation. Despite this very recent history, the protestors apparently blame Obama exclusively:

For many opponents the health care overhaul amounts to the final straw. After seeing Obama bail out banks and car dealers, push a major energy bill and pass a $787 billion economic stimulus package that hasn't driven down unemployment,
overhauling the $2.5 trillion U.S. health care system is a step too far.
Certainly, the fact that Bush accelerated public spending and cut taxes simultaneously should have concerned these proud stewards of the national treasury, but only Obama's spending has caused them to mobilize. The protestors are acting, to use Ron Paul's language, like "born-again fiscal conservatives." If Obama is wrong for spending more during an economic downturn, Bush was wrong for spending more while intentionally taking in less.

Final Comment: The Associated Press should be ashamed of this article's complete lack of "analysis."

PS: After I wrote this article, Republican Senator Grassley (Iowa) became an even bigger hypocrite on the issue of healthcare reform. See: Today's Shameless Hypocrite Award Winner: Senator Charles Grassley.


Erika said...

Prof Hutchinson, I buy my health insurance through the individual market. I pay about $400 a month for it, which is a lot considering I am only 43 and single. But I would be happy to shell out that money if I knew for certain coverage would actually be there when I needed it (I have huge deductible too). There are huge hidden gaps in coverage in these policies, with all sorts of hidden restrictions, at least until the time comes for the policy to be used. People who think the health insurance market is fair to consumers right now should try going it on their own.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

You are in the 13 percent. And I completely agree. People romanticize the notion of going on the "open market" looking for insurance. But policies are pre-negotiated, and you don't have much control -- if you want to pay a decent premium. Sorry you have to shell out so much!

I remember being between jobs (moving from one to another), and I loved my health plan so much (it was government-sponsored) that I wanted to stay in it. I looked up COBRA and contacted the company to see how much it would cots. This was over a decade ago - and the price was 300 bucks a month. Needless to say, I got excellent coverage at my next job for a fraction of the cost; the taxpayers and my job paid the rest. People need to be honest about the situation!

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