Yesterday I commented on Robert Shiller’s recent op-ed in the Journal. He argued that our stimulus and bailout plans need to be larger to rescue our “animal spirits,” whatever that means. And though given 1200 words of space, he didn’t bother addressing the crucial question–How do we pay for any of this?
The other op-ed worth highlighting is Paul Krugman’s on health care. Readers may recall a recent post in which I chastised Krugman for using the financial crisis as an excuse to expand government. States shouldn’t be cutting budgets in our time of need! Better to have the Federal government take responsibility for expenditures that state and local governments can no longer pay for.
Well Paul is pressing this argument, this time for health care:
The whole world is in recession. But the United States is the only wealthy country in which the economic catastrophe will also be a health care catastrophe — in which millions of people will lose their health insurance along with their jobs, and therefore lose access to essential care.
We don’t have universal health care, you see.
Why has the Obama administration been silent, at least so far, about one of President Obama’s key promises during last year’s campaign — the promise of guaranteed health care for all Americans?
First, some people are arguing that a major expansion of health care access would just be too expensive right now, given the vast sums we’re about to spend trying to rescue the economy.
What does Paul have to say to us dopes who think we’re already spending too much on health care?
But research sponsored by the Commonwealth Fund shows that achieving universal coverage with a plan similar to Mr. Obama’s campaign proposals would add “only” about $104 billion to federal spending in 2010 — not a small sum, of course, but not large compared with, say, the tax cuts in the Obama stimulus plan.
We’re supposed to believe that universal health care is going to cost so little? Even Krugman distances himself from this…
It’s true that the cost of universal health care will be a continuing expense, reaching far into the future. But that has always been true, and Mr. Obama has always claimed that his health care plan was affordable. The temporary expenses of his stimulus plan shouldn’t change that calculation.
Where does one even start with this comment? The first sentence is key. He acknowledges that universal health care is going to be a “continuing expense reaching far into the future.” This is strongest rebuttal against universal health care because it’s not political, it’s mathematical.
Take a look at the debt clock to the right. The $57 trillion number is the net present value of the liabilities we ALREADY HAVE for medicare and social security. Net present value just means that to keep our future health care promises, that’s how much money we owe in today’s dollars. We can’t afford that, not even if we cut ALL discretionary spending out of the federal budget (national defense, education, etc.). If we can’t afford the promises we’ve already made, where do we get the money to pay for universal health care plan?
Paul can hardly rebut this argument so he ignores it: it “has always been true” that “universal health care will be a continuing expense reaching far into the future,” he tells us. Yes, and it has also always been true that we could never afford it.
Krugman backhands this argument noting that Obama “has always claimed his health care plan was affordable.” Note the language. Krugman doesn’t have the sack to claim Obama’s health plan is “affordable.” But he’s willing to take Obama’s word for it, and so should we.
His other arguments are equally absurd. First, health care spending would be at least as effective as tax cuts when it comes to stimulating the economy. Second, that the economic crisis gives Obama an ideal opportunity to push through all elements of his agenda.
His column’s conclusion is positively Marxist:
The bottom line, then, is that this is no time to let campaign promises of guaranteed health care be quietly forgotten. It is, instead, a time to put the push for universal care front and center. Health care now!
Workers of the world unite!
Folks, fiscal conservatism should not be about Republican or Democrat, big “C” Conservative or Liberal. It’s just math. And it doesn’t lie. We can bankrupt ourselves making promises that we’ll never be able to keep anyway. Or we can cut back and try to build a decent economic future for post-Boomer generations.