Saturday, August 15, 2009

"Keep Your Goddamn Government Hands off My Medicare!"

Arthur Laffer, he of the "Laffer Curve", the architect of Supply Side (or "Trickle-Down") Economics, Reagan's favorite economist, and famously mentioned by Ben Stein's character in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (is there anything in life Ferris Bueller doesn't make more relevant?), had this to say about health care reform recently:

"If you like the post office and the Department of Motor Vehicles and you think they're run well, just wait till you see Medicare, Medicaid and health care done by the government."

Right, Art. Here in Indiana, the wait at the BMV for anything is less than the wait for a Big Mac and fries at McDonald's. And as for the United States Postal Service, where else are you going to find a company that will, for less than 50 cents, pick up and deliver a letter to anyplace in the United States? Not FedEx, not UPS. Nobody. Sure, e-mail is free, and if you use the library or Starbucks, or anyplace that has wi-fi free, you don't even have to pay an ISP. But a letter is sometimes preferable to an e-mail, is it not? You wouldn't write a "Dear John" e-mail. My mother can't send the endless newspaper clippings she sends me through gmail.

So, Art Laffer wants to compare the possible government managed health care plan to the two most efficient services of government extant. And the two bureaucracies with which each of us has intimate knowledge. Great comparison. I'm sold on government-run health care just from Arthur Laffer's denunciation. And I'm not even considering that it was Laffer who helped create the worst economic policy since the Hoover Administration.

It's time for the Republicans to get a new metaphor. The United States Postal Service and the various states' Bureaus of Motor Vehicles are entirely too efficient for the rhetorical effect the Right wants. I hate to help them out, but my recent experience gave me a great idea.

The Republicans need to start using Amtrak for a metaphor. If they want to compare government managed health care to the most inefficient of the federal government's programs, Amtrak is their golden opportunity. You already know of my experiences with rail travel. Amtrak is the perfect metaphor for the Right.

But they can use whatever metaphor they want; they still cannot convince the majority of Americans that government run health care is a bad idea. That's because we already have it in the guise of Medicare and Medicaid. In fact, the older people attending town hall meetings on the topic lately are using this as a talking point: "I don't want the government to take over health care because I don't want them screwing up my Medicare." While this may not be a direct quote, people are actually expressing this concern at town hall meetings. It's insane.

So Medicare obviously works, because the people who benefit from it don't want the government mucking it up. Therefore, the government can operate an efficient, well-run health care plan. And let's not forget who insures all our elected representatives, our congressmen, our senators, even our president: that's right, the United States Government.

So what's the problem?

[Note: The title for this post was suggested by, and in fact directly lifted from, an article in The Huffington Post by Bob Cesca. I'm hoping that the fair use doctrine extends to this.]

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