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The Wages of Hubris



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What can I say? I’m just a glass-half-full kind of guy. Rainbows. Puppies and kittens. The laughter of children. Latkes and Santa in December. An advertisement for some consulting firm at the airport showing a huge photo of Tiger Woods walking in the rough, along with the words “Sometimes performance is found off the paved road.” Life is wonderful.

And I am starting to think that the ineffable Harry Reid, Grand Poobah of the Senate Democrats, will not get his 60 votes to move health-care socialism back to Nancy Pelosi and then to the White House. For months, Reid and Baucus and Dodd and all the others have been searching for a way to thread the 60-vote needle. Something. Anything. Incoherent, destructive, bankrupting, another shotgun blast at the young: It matters not a whit. If it increases dependence upon the federal government, it’s a winner.

The latest gambit was the “compromise” between the moderate Left and the hard Left to expand Medicaid upward from the bottom and Medicare downward from the top, squeezing the private-sector middle almost out of existence. Much ballyhooed a week ago, it appears that this plan will collapse of its own weight. Expand Medicare to those aged 55-64? This will control costs? And expand access while sqeezing the doctors and hospitals? Those congressional Democrats not completely intent on transforming American health care into our version of Soviet agriculture want to see what score CBO produces. My guess is that it will not prove helpful. Precisely what compromise can Reid produce now? And in three weeks? Will the odds improve as we move closer to the 2010 campaign/election season?

What is fascinating (to me anyway) is that the Left could have had health-care socialism passed on a bipartisan basis months ago, if only they had suppressed their hubris. Republicans were (and remain) perfectly willing to approve community-rating and guaranteed-access regulations for private insurers; and if those were implemented, no one would need a government option or any of the other nostrums: Coverage would be transformed into a public-utility-type service, the insurers would remain “private” in only the most superficial of senses, and the government control and wealth transfers that represent the Holy Grails of the Left would be achieved.

But . . . no. Nancy and Harry and the others simply couldn’t stomach a few compromises that would have proven meaningless in the larger context of massive adverse selection and government takeover. They had 60 votes, and they just could not resist the temptation to shove it all down our throats. Now they may get nothing except collapsing prospects for the 2010 elections. Life is wonderful.

Benjamin Zycher is a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute.



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