What's Wrong with Obama's Health Care Speech

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He said,

On the right, there are those who argue that we should end the employer-based system and leave individuals to buy health insurance on their own.

If he wanted to be balanced, he could say that on the left, there are those who argue that we should end the employer-based system and leave individuals to get health insurance from government. Instead, I thought he made single payer sound less threatening.


He said,

I believe a broad consensus exists for the aspects of the plan I just outlined: consumer protections for those with insurance, an exchange that allows individuals and small businesses to purchase affordable coverage, and a requirement that people who can afford insurance get insurance.

This is probably correct, although I personally would not sign on to that consensus. The "consumer protections" have been tried in various states, with bad results. They raise the cost of insurance and lower the number of companies providing insurance. The consensus amounts to the Massachusetts plan, under which costs shot up.

He said,

Reducing the waste and inefficiency in Medicare and Medicaid will pay for most of this plan.

And if we don't pass this plan, does he intend to keep the waste and inefficiency, out of spite?

He said,

some of the same folks who are spreading these tall tales have fought against Medicare in the past, and just this year supported a budget that would have essentially turned Medicare into a privatized voucher program. That will never happen on my watch.

In that case, Medicare spending will never be brought under control under his watch. And if Medicare spending is not brought under control, then he certainly will not be the last President to have to address health care reform.

Basically, it was a "Win one for the Gipper" (in this case, Ted Kennedy) speech. Intellectually, it amounted to a vacuous claim that health reform will be a free lunch, because we'll get rid of all the waste, fraud, and abuse.

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Arnold Kling

Arnold Kling earned his Ph.D in economics at MIT. He was an economist on the staff of the Federal Reserve Board. From 1986-1994 he worked at Freddie Mac. He started Homefair.com in 1994 and sold it in 1999. His fourth book, From Poverty to Prosperity, co-authored with Nick Schulz, is due out in April of 2009. He blogs regularly at Econlog.
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