This essay from The Wall Street Journal explains the wide intuition among Americans that national health care is not a good idea. This notion is one that President Obama, despite his speeches and special deals and arm-twisting, has not been able to change.
The author of the editorial piece is Arthur C. Brooks. He is president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank that has been around since the 1940s. It is also the place which offered intellectual refuge to Ayaan Hirsi Ali when she sought sanctuary in the U.S. She remains one of the scholars at AEI.
Following the essay you will find some information on Dr. Brooks. He’s an interesting fellow in his own right.
Why Government Health Care Keeps Falling in the Polls
The health-care debate is part of a larger moral struggle over the free-enterprise system
That subtitle, about the moral struggle over the free-enterprise system, captures this issue of nationalized health care perfectly for conservatives. The term ‘moral’ here does not mean religious. Rather, this encompasses public virtue and what is to become of this vital part of our national character in an increasingly socialist state.
In a post on the unseemly haste of Obama and his Congress, J. Thomas Hunter points to the necessity for temperance, which he calls “provident care in the management of resources”. If one were forced to name the largest failing of the current politicians is just that: improvidence and mismanagement of resources.
Dr. Brooks is concerned to show why Americans find what is on offer by Congress so unpalatable. First, let’s look at what people think. Brooks uses Gallup to demonstrate his point:
Regardless of how President Barack Obama’s health-care agenda plays out in Congress, it has not been a success in public opinion. Opposition to ObamaCare has risen all year.
According to the Gallup polling organization, the percentage of Americans who believe the cost of health care for their families will “get worse” under the proposed reforms rose to 49% from 42% in just the past month. The percentage saying it would “get better” stayed at 22%.
Gallup polls all adults. I prefer Rasmussen, which limits its polling to likely voters. Thus its findings aren’t skewed by the non-voters who are largely liberal in their views and grievances (this difference in the polling populations causes many liberals to accuse Rasmussen of being conservative).
At any rate, Rasmussen reports:
57% of voters nationwide believe the present ObamaCare plan will raise the cost of health care, and 53% believe the quality of care will get worse. That’s part of the reason that just 45% support the plan. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 51% are opposed to it.
Those numbers include 23% who Strongly Favor the plan and 40% who are Strongly Opposed.
Then Rasmussen concludes:
Perhaps the most stunning aspect of the numbers is how stable they have been through months of debate, town hall protests, presidential speeches, congressional wrangling, and more. [my emphases throughout – D]
With the exception of bounces following nationally televised presidential pitches for the plan, support has stayed between 41% and 46% since July. In all cases, the intensity has been with the opposition as the number who Strongly Oppose the bill has remained nearly double the number who Strongly Support it.
In other words, the protests were reflecting a reality that was always there in spite of the attempts at pushback by the politicians…That intense negativity is important to keep in mind.
Dr. Brooks continues:
Many are searching for explanations. One popular notion is that demagogues in the media are stirring up falsehoods against what they say is a long-overdue solution to the country’s health-care crisis.
Americans deserve more credit. They haven’t been brainwashed, and they aren’t upset merely over the budget-busting details. Rather, public resistance stems from the sense that the proposed reforms do violence to three core values of America’s free enterprise culture.
These keystones are quite simple, really:
- individual choice,
- personal accountability, and
- rewards for ambition.
Brooks has captured the essence of the issue in those three characteristics. I am emphasizing them because they are simple and utterly essential to many Americans. No amount of talk can blunt their force or deter those who hold them as central to their lives.
He details each of them as they apply to this mendacious health care bill:
– – – – – – – – –
First, Americans recoil at policies that strip choices from citizens and pass them to bureaucrats. ObamaCare systematically does so. The current proposals in Congress would effectively limit choice across the entire spectrum of health care:
a. what kind(s) of health insurance citizens can buy,
b. what kind of doctors they can see,
c. what kind of procedures their doctors will perform,
d. what kind of drugs they can take, and
e. what treatment options they may have.
In other words, they propose to limit us to what they think is best, as though we were children. As you well know, the further the decision is from the person or problem to which it is being applied, the worse the outcome in all cases. If you’ve ever tried to work your way through the labyrinth of Bureaucratic Bad Ideas while holding on to their red tape, you know how futile the journey, how wasteful it is of human endeavor, how frustrating your efforts.
Second, Americans believe we should be responsible for the consequences of our actions. Many citizens bitterly view the auto and Wall Street bailouts as gifts to people who took imprudent risks, imperiled the entire economic system, and now appear to be walking away from the mess.
Ah yes, indeed. Look at CitGroup’s bankruptcy, which this news report says isn’t worth worrying about since they will be stronger once they’ve been through the Chapter 11 proceedings. And the 2.3bn dollars of taxpayer losses from the bail-out? Piffle. You can afford it.
Yes, I know the smart money men can use equivocation to tell you why something that is essentially immoral isn’t “all that bad”. Cynics and sophisticates who make such arguments are naked moral midgets and it is this kind of moral cosmos from which our current financial system derives. Despite what they say, Dr. Brooks is right: Americans believe we should be responsible for the consequences of our actions. And that includes the folks at Cit Group – who are canning their CEO shortly. Obviously they believe someone should be responsible for the mess.
Dr. Brooks notes:
Similarly, Americans are cold to a health-care system that effectively rewards individuals for waiting to get insurance until they get sick-subsidizing their coverage by taxing those who responsibly carry insurance in good times and bad.
On its face, the reformers’ promise to provide health insurance to nearly all, regardless of pre-existing conditions, is appealing. But as most instinctively realize, if people don’t have to worry about carrying insurance until they need it, many won’t buy it. Already, the Census Bureau tells us that 21% of the uninsured are in households earning at least $75,000. Although there are certainly plausible reasons for this in some cases, this phenomenon will worsen under ObamaCare.
To get around this, Obama and his Congressional minions have devised various penalties to be levied and collected by the IRS. It’s not for nothing that many people in this country call the IRS our American KGB. They are whimsical and imperious and random in their assessments of fines. Once in their clutches, you can lose more than your shirt.
However, the fines this program plans to levy on the rich who don’t buy insurance is still cheaper for them than paying for insurance premiums. It is not a calculus designed to change anyone’s behavior. Many people making more than $75,000.00 a year have Health Savings Plans which allow them to deposit pre-tax dollars to provide for medical care. With the Obama program, these accounts will be terminated.
On the other end of the spectrum our son, who is working part-time and doesn’t have health care, pays for an inexpensive high-deductible individual plan. Since he is young and healthy, the costs are minimal.
This essentially protects him two ways: when he goes for doctor visits, the physician accepts the deduction all insurance companies make on the full price fee. Thus he gets discounted rates for doctor care and lab work. The same applies to his hospital bills, should he ever have need of hospital care. He would be responsible for the first thousand dollars and then twenty percent of the remaining costs. His plan costs him about $400.00 a year and it’s not dependent on an employer.
The Baron has a similar plan though it’s more expensive because he’s not twenty anymore. Since he became self-employed, he’s had an individual plan that costs $175. a month. Now that he is unemployed, we have continued that policy. So far, so good. This way, he is assured of not being bankrupted by medical costs should they arise.
There’s not much help for prescriptions. Big Pharma has a sweet deal all sewed up ahead of time with Obama and they’ll make out like bandits with their part of the arrangement for our new “nationalized care”. Taxpayers will continue to pay part of the costs of medicine for European and Canadian citizens as we have in the past, and the exorbitant costs of medicines won’t decrease. That’s why our costs are so much higher. And if you want to apply for reduced fees due to reduced income, the paperwork for getting accepted into their lower cost “charity” cases is daunting. I doubt that will change.
Which brings us to Dr. Brooks’ final American characteristic:
Third, ObamaCare discourages personal ambition. The proposed reforms will institute a set of government mandates, price controls and other strictures that will make highly trained specialists, drug researchers and medical device makers less valued now and in the future. Americans understand that when you take away the incentive to make money while saving lots of lives, the cures, therapies and medical innovations of tomorrow may never be discovered.
Yet we are told this is all for the best. In his commencement speech at Arizona State University earlier this year, Mr. Obama told the graduates not to “fall back on the formulas of success that have been peddled so frequently in recent years”: “You’re taught to chase after all the usual brass rings . . . let me suggest that such an approach won’t get you where you want to go.”
Crass materialism is indeed a tyranny that can lead to personal misery. But most Americans believe it’s up to individuals, not a nannying government, to decide what constitutes too much income and too much ambition.
This is probably the most disturbing aspect of this administration. It is a moral scold without having the necessary understanding of economics, enterprise or even a moral compass to tell you how to get where they think you should go.
The ignorance of the current crowd is not only surprising, it is worrying. Our First Lady gives speeches touting “public service” and yet she accepted a $300,000.00 position at a Chicago hospital, a position created especially for her and one that was eliminated when she left to assume her duties in Washington. These people are stellar hypocrites.
So what do Americans think government’s role should be? Brooks found this survey:
An April 2009 survey conducted by the polling firm Ayers, McHenry & Associates for the conservative nonprofit group Resurgent Republic asked respondents which of the following statements about the role of government came closer to their view: (a) “Government policies should promote fairness by narrowing the gap between rich and poor, spreading the wealth, and making sure that economic outcomes are more equal”; or (b) “Government policies should promote opportunity by fostering job growth, encouraging entrepreneurs, and allowing people to keep more of what they earn.” Sixty-three percent chose the second option; just 31% chose the first.
This is consistent with nonpartisan surveys showing that most Americans think our increasingly redistributionist government is overstepping its bounds. For example, a September 2009 Gallup Poll found that 57% believe the government is “doing too much”-the highest percentage in more than a decade. Just 38% said it “should do more.”
It’s good to know the socialists are still in the minority. It’s disheartening to know that this current President would be counted in section (a). Despite the many historical examples proving that redistribution is an abysmal failure, these folks are determined they will succeed. Over our dead bodies if necessary.
I said I’d give you more information about Dr. Brooks.
He took over the leadership of the American Enterprise Institute last year. There were many people under consideration for the job. The fact that he was chosen above all the others speaks to his extraordinary ability both to to lead and to listen.
He’s also an accomplished musician, having been part of more than a thousand performances as a French horn player.
Dr. Brooks writes books, too. Entertaining ones:
First there is this listing at Amazon:
Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism
The first personally written review is better than Amazon’s product description. Here’s the opening paragraph:
The book uses data from many sources to prove that the one overwhelming predictor of generosity is religion. Political affiliation is almost irrelevant – the statistics for religious liberals and religious conservatives are identical.
Religious people are statistically more likely to give than secularists (91% to 66%), and give more of their money (3.5 times more than secularists), are more likely to volunteer their time (67% to 44%), and volunteer more of their time (almost twice as much). The fact that the conservative population is more charitable than the liberal population is due to the fact that religious people tend to be politically conservative.
The second book is also on Amazon (and on sale):
Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters for America–and How We Can Get More of It
A reader’s review:
Brooks sets out to discover who is happy, and why. The information is likely to surprise you.
For one thing, “Religious people of all faiths are much, much happier than secularists” (p 44). The difference is huge. “Of those who believed there is no way to find out if God exists, a paltry 12% claimed to be very happy people” (p 46). Hmmm…no wonder Dawkins and Hitchens’ books drip with unhappiness and malice.
And here’s one those famous atheists will really gag on: “Religious individuals today are actually better educated and less ignorant of the world around them than secularists” (p 51).
Married people are happier than those who are single, too. Researchers studied people who seemed alike “but one is married and the other is not, the married person will be 18 percentage points more likely than the unmarried person to say he or she is very happy” (61). This will come a as a blow to the feminists.
Among the nations, North Korea is at the bottom of the happiness scale, with Cuba a close second (p 91). What, atheist communism hasn’t brought happiness? Shocker.
On the other hand, mere wealth doesn’t help much, once a country has achieved a decent level of health and nutrition. At least the wealth of Japan is not helping. And Mexicans are much happier, on average, than the French.
And here is one I would not have guessed: “For most Americans, job satisfaction is nearly equivalent to life satisfaction. Among those who say they are very happy in their lives, 95% are also satisfied with their jobs” (p 159).
This is a interesting and fun.
That reviewer is right. Looking at the varieties of experience is fun. And now you now why Charles Johnson is such a misanthrope. His mutating political views don’t matter.
The more I explored about Arthur C. Brooks, the more I found to like. To bring things to a full and natural close, here’s a video. It’s the third part of a six part series on giving, called “What Your Liberal Professor Didn’t Tell You About Charity”. Obviously, it is drawn on Dr. Brooks’ book on charitable giving. The series was sponsored by the Heritage Foundation and carried by C Span at the time of filming before a live audience:
I watched two other parts in the series. It’s important to bear in mind that Dr. Brooks is talking about religion, not politics. These actions, views, etc., hold across the political divide. The crucial factor is religion or spiritual practice not liberal or conservative political views.
His study of America may not translate to other countries. Much of Europe is secular now. Perhaps similar findings would emerge in South America? It would be a provocative comparison if you could find another country whose population has a robust religious identity.