Critical Condition

Unreality Reigns Supreme

Will he make a public option a necessary condition, or won’t he? Will Harry and Louise, oops, Nancy deliver the votes or not? Will the blue dogs roll over to get their tummies scratched, and if so, by whom precisely? Can the Washington Post editorial board find enough flowery prose in its thesaurus to entice the fair Olympia to eat the forbidden fruit of the tree of government knowledge? When this 58th effort by The One fails to move the public, how many hours will it be before we are confronted with the sob stories, with the screaming rhetoric about the evil profiteers, about the moral equivalent of war, and the usual slobbering by the press?

Most of the ongoing halftime “analysis” by the journalists is beside the point. The private health insurance sector is about to be destroyed — apparently with the acquiesence of those pro-market, pro-free enterprise, pro-capitalism Republicans — with regulations mandating that pre-existing conditions not be used to deny coverage, that insurance premiums not reflect risks, and on and on. Everyone inside the Beltway — please tell me that I am wrong — seems to agree on these measures, at least in principle. But if everyone is entitled to coverage at “affordable” prices regardless of health status, then there has to be an individual mandate — a requirement that every individual have insurance — with teeth. (If there is not, then the relatively healthy will drop out of the system, premiums will have to rise to pay for the unhealthy, more will drop out, etc.) And if there is a mandate, government must decide what coverage qualifies; accordingly, there would have to be subsidies for those with low or moderate incomes. That means tax increases, government cost controls, rationing and all the rest. Ad nauseam.

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