Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Bloggacuda Returns: Sarah Palin and the Problem With "Common Sense"

The Bloggacuda is back with a new (ghostwritten?) op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that laments the prospect of healthcare reform proposed by "the Democrats." Palin's "new" essay offers more distortions and more hypocrisy.

Palin and the Problem of "Common Sense"
Palin describes the Democrats' proposals as resting on the notion that "increased government involvement" can fix the healthcare system. She then contests this view, arguing that:

Common sense tells us that the government's attempts to solve large problems more often create new ones. Common sense also tells us that a top-down, one-size-fits-all plan will not improve the workings of a nationwide health-care system that accounts for one-sixth of our economy. And common sense tells us to be skeptical when President Obama promises that the Democrats' proposals "will provide more stability and security to every American."
Adolph Reed, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, once said during a lecture that "the problem with common sense is that people use it as an excuse not to read." Apparently, Palin falls into this category. If Palin had actually read the various proposals, she would not have seen a "one-size-fits-all plan." But Palin and other conservatives have consistently resorted to deception when discussing Democrat-sponsored proposals for healthcare reform.

Palin Seemingly Unaware of Insurance Company Bureaucrats
Palin also cannot resist mentioning her infamous death panel distortion, proudly stating that the argument resonated with many Americans. True -- but many of the same people fell for the bogus claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. That lie cost thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars.

Palin argues that Obama wants to create a nongovernmental bureaucracy to make decisions regarding life and death Medicare treatments. Apparently, the Bloggacuda lives in a parallel universe where insurance company bureaucrats do not already determine the treatments that companies will cover for plan participants. Instead, in Palin's world, doctors and patients make these decisions exclusively. Insurance companies simply pay the bill.

Palin's argument rests on a stunningly inaccurate understanding of the nation's healthcare system. Private bureaucrats already determine what treatments to cover, and doctors who desire reimbursement (i.e., all doctors) comply with those guidelines.

Also, Palin seems to criticize the nongovernmental nature of a proposed Medicare advisory panel, but this objection conflicts with her "more government is bad" narrative. In any event, the advisory group would only "advise" the federal government; any actual changes in Medicare coverage would require the approval of Congress.

Palin Blames Democrats for Expensive Policies That Bush Created
Palin also accuses Democrats of creating the very "waste and inefficiency" and "unwarranted subsidies" that Obama has pledged to cut from Medicare. Palin's argument, however, proves that the "common sense" crowd does not read.

When Obama proposed cutting wasteful subsidies to Medicare providers, he was referring to President Bush's implementation of the privately administered Medicare Advantage program, which costs 13% more than the traditional governmental plan. A Republican -- not a Democrat -- introduced the Medicare subsidies that Obama has promised to cut.

Here's an even more stunning fact: Senator John McCain -- the leader of the McCain/Palin ticket -- also proposed reversing Bush and cutting these subsidies in order to reign in the expense of the program. During the presidential campaign, this proposal had wide bipartisan support. Palin's flawed analysis suggests that she did not pay attention to or did not understand the very issues she faced as a candidate for Vice President.

Palin's Shameful Cherry-Picking of Congressional Budget Office Reports
Palin continues to engage in blatant cherry-picking of data to support her claims. She cites a CBO study that shows the House proposal would add over $200 billion to the deficit over 10 years (but it would also insure 47 million more people). But as the Liberal Values Blog thoroughly details, Palin ignores a CBO study which concludes that tort reform -- something she has embraced as an essential component of healthcare reform -- will not reduce medical costs.

Palin's Contradictory Embrace of "Big Guv'ment"
Finally, while Palin's op-ed decries "big guv'ment," the Bloggacuda wants to expand the reach of the national government. Palin advocates tort reform, which, as I have previously argued, would add a new layer of federal control over the judicial systems in 50 states, constrain jury decisions, and limit the ability of private litigants to seek justice as they deem appropriate.

Palin also favors "giving all individuals the same tax benefits received by those who get coverage through their employers," but the favorable treatment of employer health plans already represents the largest tax expenditure. Palin's proposal would cause an even greater revenue loss and increase the deficit.

Palin also supports replacing Medicare with vouchers, a plan proposed by the conservative Cato Institute. Without the government or other centralized entity to negotiate cheaper costs, the price of health insurance for seniors would likely soar, causing them to exert their political power and demand annual voucher increases. The spending implications are tremendous. On the other hand, a refusal to support higher vouchers would sound a lot like the "rationing" of care, disguised as individual decisionmaking.

Palin's op-ed offers a more thoughtful approach than her previous commentary, but it does not provide any viable solutions to the problems that plague the nation's medical services markets.


Anonymous said...

the problem with common sense is that people use it as an excuse not to read

LOL! Perfect. Especially in this context. More later, if I can manage, but, just quickly, thanks, Darren, for deconstructing Palin's latest mental contortions and inserting reality there. Phew, that's no easy task.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Elizabeth: You're welcome. It took a lot of time to pull this together. Everytime I looked at the article, I found another distortion or other problem.

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