Health Care and the Postal Service

Contrary to many predictions from the political pundits, the war in Iraq is not going to be the pre-eminent issue of Campaign ’08. The Angry Left might want the war to be foremost in the presidential debates, but whoever becomes the Democratic nominee will know that placating the left — which is to say promising an immediate pullout — opens a Democratic administration to ongoing ridicule from the Republicans and to badly damaged credibility.
This is because immediate pullout is impossible. All the leading candidates of both parties have acknowledged as much, albeit the Democrats sotto voce.

So what will be the pre-eminent issue of Campaign ’08? I think the answer is health care. The Republicans already are propounding market solutions that promise lower costs to a national health care expenditure that already is growing by as much as 6 percent annually, continued personal care from a patient’s chosen physician, and portability — the ability of a patient to take his insurance policy with him from job to job.

The Democrats all promise more government involvement and increased costs paid for with higher taxes. So let us stop there. From Hillarycare to Edwardscare, the Democratic candidates want to make your health care delivery as inexpensive, personal and efficient as the U.S. Postal Service. That might sound very attractive to anyone who has not used FedEx or UPS. Perhaps there are still Americans who expect to stand in long lines for inferior service or who remain enraptured by that jingle about delivering the mail through rain, sleet and snow. But as the post office’s monopoly has been broken down, private delivery services have demonstrated the superior service resulting from market solutions.

The health care solutions offered by the Democrats are the fossilized government programs one would expect from the Old Order, and the Democratic solutions to public policy matters are very much the product of reactionaries. The free-market economist Brian Wesbury notes that we live in an era when former socialist regimes such as India and China are prospering by encouraging markets, less government regulation and lower taxes.

In our own country, with the supply-side presidency of Ronald Reagan, innovation and prosperity have been the norm since 1983. Under the Old Order’s economics (the economics of the "mixed economy"), recession and inflation stalked the land. From 1969 to 1982, the United States was in recession 30 percent of the time. Since 1983, the country has been in recession only 5 percent of the time, and those recessions were shallow.

Now along come the Democrats promising for health care what they brought down on our economy prior to the Reagan Revolution: more government regulation and enforcement. The vast stew of a health care package just presented by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton sounds good in parts. There is her promise of tax credits to assist lower-income Americans in the purchase of health insurance. There is the allowance for an insurance buying pool. There are caps on employers’ tax-deductible employer insurance. But there is much more government control, namely a federal mandate that all Americans obtain health insurance.

Who doubts that this means government bureaucracies deciding the constituent ingredients of insurance packages and their costs? Who doubts that, as with the IRS, government would patrol health care and punish alleged violators? In Medicare and Medicaid, government already imposes ceilings on what doctors might charge for various procedures. Surely with Hillarycare doctors’ costs, hospital costs and pharmaceutical costs would be monitored and enforced by government. But that is only part of the problem. The enforcement is bound to fail while snaring a countless number of citizens in government violations. Mandated health insurance means inflationary costs and price controls. From the 1970s, we should have learned that price controls are doomed to failure. The only question is how long it would take under the Democrats’ government-monitored health care for the citizenry to recognize this.