subjects including Iran, Energy Legislation, and Health Care Reform. The questions on
Iran were predictable. "Why haven't you been tougher in your remarks? Are you sounding
tougher now because the Republicans accused you of being soft and timid?" These and other
questions were generated for the corporate media by the regressives and their echo machine.
Very effectively, Obama reminded them that while they operate on a 24 hour news cycle;
he is President, and has to take a longer more measured view and response. There were
no questions on energy reform (why not?). However, there were numerous questions on
health care reform and those questions weren't just surprising, they were shocking.
It seems that the major health insurance companies have sent a letter to the Senate
claiming that if the President gets his way, and establishes a public option for health care
services, it will dismantle the private health insurance industry. The President was then
asked his reaction to such a claim.
This is an extraordinary moment. This is creative disequilibrium (trying to hold
two contradictory thoughts at the same time) at its best. The regressives claim that a
public option amounts to socialism if not communism. They claim that a government
sponsored health insurance plan (Medicare anyone?) is un-American. They try to frighten
Americans with claims that the government will drive off their doctor, ration their care,
deny them life saving technology and, their greatest sin, will destroy the free market for
health care driving all the private insurers out of business. At the very same time, as the
regressives in Congress make the socialism argument, along come the health insurance
companies who claim that a public option would be unfair competition. A public option
would wipe them out. A public option would drive many of them out of business. So,
which is it? Is a public option wrong because it would socialize medicine or is it wrong
because it would be unfair competition? Does a public option violate the free market
ethos of these modern day Adam Smiths, or is it too competitive and too attractive to
many Americans who don't have insurance or who want a better deal?
This is extraordinary. For years we have been told that the free market is all
any economy needs. We are told that a free market will destroy inefficient companies
and reward those who are innovative and efficient. When the President unveiled new
rules to regulate the financial markets, the squealing could be heard from New York
to Paris to Bonn and back. New regulations will stifle creativity. New regulations will
hurt innovation. New regulations won't let the free market work it's magic. Tighter
regulation will reward those who play it safe and punish risk takers.
When Adam Smith wrote about capitalism, he wrote about the"invisible hand"
of the free market which rewards some and destroys others. The ultimate disciple of
Adam Smith and the free market, Milton Friedman, felt that the market would always
correct itself without any government interference. The now disgraced Alan Greenspan,
who fought every attempt to regulate or rein in credit default swaps and other exotic
financial instruments, and who missed entirely the dot-com bubble and the housing market
meltdown, is a Ayn Rand disciple and a champion of a free market which would always
reward and punish with that famous invisible hand.
Now we find out that the free market may not be a good idea for private health
insurance companies. Now they claim they cannot compete. In their letter they say that
the public option will be able to produce services, cover more people, and be less expensive
than what they can provide. It appears that the invisible hand will slap them silly and
drive them out of business. They don't want to compete. All of a sudden, to hell with
Adam Smith and the free market, protect us.
I sat in stunned silence as the President was asked to comment. What would
he say? Would he point out the inherent hypocrisy of the letter? Would he jump on the
double standard that these regressives are offering? No regulation, except where it will
hurt a business, and then the role of government is to reduce competition? Will he point
out and deliver the obituary of Adam Smith once and for all? Will he finally say that the
true economic system in this nation is one in which the rich and powerful try to eliminate
all competition and garner the lion's share of economic benefits for themselves?
The President didn't disappoint me. He looked at the reporter and replied that
his question didn't make any sense. The public option would be one option in a market
place of options ( a free market place). Americans and American businesses could pick
from any options available in this market place. If the public option is cheaper because
the government controls administrative costs better (Medicare devotees just 3% to
administrative costs while private insurance companies spend as much as 20%), if the
public option is more attractive because they offer lower deductibles, if the public option
offers coverage that the private insurers won't offer, and therefore people pick it over
them; isn't that how the market, the free market, is supposed to work? If private insurers
can't compete, isn't the "invisible hand" supposed to destroy them and drive them out of
business? The President said that a public option would force the private insurance industry
to get leaner and more efficient or die. Isn't he speaking in the grand tradition that Smith,
Rand, Friedman, and Greenspan have championed?
If you ever needed a reason to support a public option for health insurance, the
insurance companies themselves have given it to you. They are scared they can't compete.
In order to stay in business they will have to change and innovate; and they don't think
they can, so they are turning to "free market" regressives in the Congress to protect them
from competition. The socialist-in-chief (according to Hannity/Limbaugh, et al.) is
actually proposing a free market solution to health care, while the progeny of Adam Smith
try everything they can to wreck that market and pressure the monopoly that health
insurance companies currently enjoy. Who da thunk it?
Wherever Adam Smith is buried there is a cool breeze emanating from his grave;
a breeze caused by the speed with which he is twirling as he watches his disciples mangle
and manipulate his precious system of capitalism.
The President is on board about a public option. The Congress is balking. Will
the same forces that elected Obama rise up now and put pressure on Congress to establish
a real free market of options for health care? What do you think? I welcome your
comments and rebuttals. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org