Health Care, Profit, And The State Of The Process

A fundamental component of “progressivism” is a suspicion and scorn of work for profit and a credulous faith in government agency that is supposedly not for profit. Actually, government workers work for pay, but their efficiency and productivity is not linked to that of the overall operation. It is only one example of what is always the case in public versus private efforts. But, the health care debate that is now before us is very instructive. I don’t mean to indict all Democrats by their spokespeople, but they repeatedly vilify the profit of insurance companies and talk about cost as the reason that government intervention is critical; even a “public option.”

Now first of all, I have to wonder on what planet and with what tribe of human beings have people been living, where they might even fantasize that a government operation would be more productive and efficient than a private one that cannot long operate at a deficit. There’s no evidence for it among earthly human beings; especially given that private companies also require the development and application of expertise in their particular field, which a government agency does not.

And, the reason for that is precisely that a private company must pursue a profit, as a government also does not. For a private company, customers voluntarily surrender revenue. Government revenues are coercively taken in taxes. That’s a definitive and crucial difference in the motivation for and realization of productivity and efficiency. If a private employee is a detriment to a company’s ends, his job is at risk. If government employees aren’t effective enough, the agency requires more tax revenue. It isn’t even simply a question of good conscience. It’s a matter of accountability. We are most creative, productive and efficient when we have to be. It’s human nature. One wonders how many times a government operation must be an over-priced and bankruptcy-bound boondoggle that relentlessly soaks up more tax money. There appears to be no limit. But, the liberal dogma persists, undeterred. And, why isn’t profit evil in every industry, demanding government control? Give them time, I guess.

Democrats treat profit-seekers like an usher in church who won’t take the offering without getting a cut himself. That’s consistent with how progressives often seem to see government as their church and the law as their prayer book. But, work is not a church of volunteers. Work is a necessity and a responsibility. Otherwise, there’d be a lot more golfing, or whatever is one’s chosen pastime.

Tim Kaine was the recent Democrat governor of Virginia who was considered a “moderate.” (ugh – especially on the rights, television culture considers “moderation” a virtue, as though clear ideals are the province of fiends) But, Kaine is now the Chairman of The Democratic National Committee. He appeared on a Sunday talk show and sounded like Howard Dean in defending the liberal position. Following the “profit is evil” line, he repeated the charge that insurance company actions are abusive, even “predatory.”

I have to wonder when this is ignorance and when it’s purely political theater. Even a very popular talk show host on the supposedly “conservative” FOX News Network often plows this ground. He says the insurance companies require oversight from the federal government. Even if it were true that they are abusive, which it isn’t, what gives the government both the moral superiority and the expertise and motivation to do better, and where has he seen it? This talk show host has said similar things about oil companies “gouging” consumers. But businesses aren’t abusive of their customers, because they are customers! Even though liberals may be unaware of it, at least this talk show host doesn’t claim to be a conservative. I’m a conservative. He isn’t.

Mega-corporations like oil companies and some insurance companies that sell to a very broad market, make what look like huge profits. They’d better. It takes huge money just to turn the lights on and operate every day. And, they can only charge what markets will pay. The market for petroleum products is an international market. In our country alone, surely you’ve noticed that competing gas stations on a busy corner are only a penny apart in price, if different at all. Obviously, competition is keen. “Gouging” is when you have a captive and desperate market. You can’t “gouge” millions of customers. And Gasoline is a global market. Companies can’t arbitrarily set prices. I suppose I can understand if a newsperson never thought about that. A gasoline peddler knows it all too well. Unfortunately for him, the newsperson has a public platform.

And do you know what marginal profits in the health insurance industry are? About 3.2%. Smaller businesses are in narrower vertical markets. I worked in one, even for a while for an international manufacturer. But anywhere in such a market, a 3.2% profit margin, except as a very short-term aberration, spells out-of-business; probably, close the doors yesterday.

And, mega-corporations don’t pay CEOs large salaries for the heck of it. They have to squeeze maximum productivity and efficiency out of a colossal organization. For that, you don’t hire just anyone, let alone a government agent. Isn’t it ironic that we are told at once by the same people, that companies make abusive profits from their customers while paying employees too much money for no good reason?

Of course, The House Of Representatives narrowly passed their version of health care reform on Saturday night. But, compromises on taxation and the “public option” will have to be made in The Senate to close off a filibuster. Can they possibly make a trigger look not so inevitable to win those who resist the public option?

Also, to secure the needed votes of pro-life Democrats, Nancy Pelosi had to consent to an amendment proscribing any federal money for abortions, and a few pro-life Democratic Senators are trying to prepare a similar provision for a Senate bill. These Senators are also enough to kill the bill in The Senate. But, liberals in The House have already gathered a group to threaten the bill if the anti-abortion language is not stripped from a House-Senate reconciliation bill. Some people are going to be promised the moon.

But it seems to me that all of this abortion talk overlooks a real likelihood that would make it irrelevant. Of course in his speech to Congress some weeks ago, Barack Obama was very direct in saying that funds would not be provided for abortions or for non-citizens (“You lie!,” remember?) Liberals claimed that there was no mention of either in the bills at the time, nor is there in those since. But, there doesn’t need to be. I said at the time that there is no mention of abortion in The Constitution, either. But thanks to inventive judges, Presto!: there is now a “constitutional right” to abortion.

It actually is in The Constitution that a service of the federal government may not be offered to some and not others. In the case of either abortion services or non-citizens, a judge would not have to be extraordinarily inventive to rule that denying such service would be “unconstitutional.” Obama would know that. And how oblivious would these pro-life Democrats have to be, not to know that? From her radical “pro-choice” perspective, Pelosi could convince the pro-choice protesters to humor the pro-lifers, expecting the courts to foil them.

Two words come to mind: Anthony Kennedy. There shouldn’t be a problem finding a lower federal court judge to rule any proscribing language unconstitutional. And, it would be appealed up to The Supreme Court, where Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts would reverse the ruling and Stevens, Ginsberg, Breyer and Sotomayor would uphold it. All eyes would be on Kennedy.

As he isn’t generally reliable on principle, that would make me uncomfortable. But, the whole health care debate itself makes me uncomfortable. In addition to the public option trigger, there has also been talk of an opt-out option for states. It isn’t at all what they intend, but I think states, most notably Texas, should inform the federal government that we will opt out of services, taxes, mandates, restrictions and all of it. Don’t like it? What issue is the fierce Obama going to make of it? Maybe like nuke-testing North Korea, he’d send us a stern letter. Shudder.


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