As a 20 year subscriber to The Economist I was stunned this week that the editors of the weekly would throw their lot in with the Modern American Socialists in supporting the American Healthcare Indenture. Specifically, the leader “Pass the Bill” from the March 20, 2010 edition was a testament to the gradual loss of direction at the paper. I cannot think of an opinion piece published by The Economist that is less grounded in facts and logic. It is as if the editors decided to copy an article out of Nylon or Teen Beat magazine and publish it.
Foregone is any fact check of the actual number of uninsured in the U.S. Absent is any understanding that the U.S. government already underwrites 50% of the healthcare cost in the U.S. and is therefore a massive part of the problem. Gone is any assessment of the distortionary effects of the existing massive government intervention in the market. For example, before 1965 and the enactment of the Medicare and Medicaid ‘reform’ programs health spending as a percent of GDP was 5.9% in the U.S. In 2007 it was 16.2% or a 174% increase. Life expectancy in the same period increased by a mere 11%. In fact, growth in life expectancy slowed from the prior 30 years. That is some return on investment.
In other words, the “basic decency” rule The Economist invoked appears to have slowed the rate of growth in American life expectancy. As with many things government, the path to #$#% is paved with good intentions. But, please, do not let critical thinking get in our way.
As of this writing, the bill is Law. For those of us who have read the U.S. constitution, it is very likely unconstitutional. In 1854 the Democrats passed a law enabling slavery in many of the territories west of the Mississippi. It was also unconstitutional and morally reprehensible, but was upheld by a U.S. Supreme Court filled with seven Democrats and two Republicans, who dissented. It took a war to remedy that terrible law. This law, despite The Economist’s sanguine endorsement, is pretty bloody awful in itself. The mandate to enter into a commercial contract amounts to an indenture of every U.S. citizen. The economic effects carry with them the risk of runaway debt, the associated currency contagion, and the potential to take 1-3% out of the world GDP growth annually. In other words, the happy endorsement may likely result in a poorer Britain. Because the U.S. will not fight another civil war over it, we will have to live with it for a very long time.
Had the editors of The Economist, and dozens of other members of the Fourth Estate, actually made time to examine the facts about it, perhaps the U.S. and the world would have been spared the potential economic disruptions that may accompany this bill. For The Economist’s past yeoman’s effort at championing free markets, I thank you. For this thoughtless, illogical, poorly constructed opinion, please accept my embarrassment on The Economist’s behalf.
© Edward Hunter and Thanks for the Laughs, 2010