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Health care reform is no longer just a moral imperative, it's a fiscal imperative.
President Barack Obama

He is right, of course. The health care debate has shifted beneath our feet.

Why? The Party is Over.

One day, we will look back wistfully on this moment and recall our privileged status regarding health care in America. How good was it? Almost anyone with a job, or was married to someone with a job, or lived with parents with a job, enjoyed nearly unlimited access to a truly miraculous system of health care. Although we have NOT spent a lot of time appreciating the wonder of the current system, the vast majority of us have been privy to the best-trained physicians, the most advanced medical technologies, and the most comprehensive network of doctors and facilities ever assembled in the annals of medical history.

Those days are necessarily coming to a close.

Why? Not merely because the "Radicals have taken over." True, Barack Obama and his brain trust seem intent on finally fulfilling the ancient New Deal promise of national health care, which has always portended a leveling effect on the quality of care--but that fact is merely incidental to this story. This inevitable change is not driven primarily by the "social justice" side of the political ledger--or, as the President characterizes it, "the moral imperative."

For decades, we have been very close to totally deaf to the sad refrain of "forty million uninsured" fellow citizens. Why so unresponsive? Partly because the claim is something of a distorted and transparent political manipulation, but mainly because the vast majority of us were thriving under the status quo. We are not a blindly utilitarian society, but when the great bulk of the citizenry are prospering under a given regime, they are loath to sacrifice their advantage for a disadvantaged minority. In that regard, nothing has changed. Collective compassion will not be the impetus for the massive change in the offing.

What then? Unsustainable costs necessitate our coming transformation. Ironically, we are victims of our own success. The wonders of medical research and development and production have outdistanced our financial resources. Most of us do NOT assume we are inherently deserving of the very best and most-advanced products in our consumer culture. We make choices commensurate with our ability to pay. Most of us do NOT feel entitled to drive top-of-the-line automobiles regardless of our ability to afford one. Most of us understand that we must settle for the computer, television, or stereo that fits within our budget.

But not in regard to health care. If we are sick, by God, we figure we ought to have access to as many PET scans, CAT scans, and MRIs as we can fit into an afternoon visit to the Medical Plaza. That sounds fine, doctor, but let's bring in the specialist for a consultation. Private Room or Semi-Private? Do you even have to ask?

Conservatives bristle when Liberals enumerate health care as one of the recently found bedrock undeniable human rights. In the abstract, if we are compassionate conservatives, we prefer to characterize universal access to medical care as a positive good that falls within the scope of community interest--but not an inalienable right endowed by the Creator. We delude ourselves. We should acknowledge the acute sense of entitlement among the American middle class (regardless of party or ideology) concerning medical care. While we robustly debate the level of care society owes the "poor folks," we have no doubts that we deserve the platinum treatment. We work hard; therefore, we warrant the very best medical care available.

Part of our disconnect rests in our sense that health care appears free to us. Of course, rationally, we understand perfectly well that nothing in this life is free. As Milton Friedman loved to remind us, "there is no free lunch." Somebody always picks up the bill. For most of us, as intimated above, it is our employers--and then gets passed back on to us indirectly and discretely. But the truth is, and here is the rub, the rising costs are fast-approaching a prohibitively burdensome strata. How much longer can companies continue to shoulder this cost of living as part of our compensation packages? Not forever.

But this also begins to obscure a more important point. It is not just that our employers can no longer afford our health care, because, as we say, the money for health insurance comes in the form of compensation and is part of the overall cost of doing business and is passed back into society and absorbed by all us indirectly. Conceivably, we are getting paid less (and, hopefully, taxed less) because our employers are compensating us with benefits rather than salary. In itself, shifting the burden from the private sector to a one-payer system (national health care) will do nothing to solve the problem.

To repeat, the fundamental problem rests in the UNSUSTAINABLE rising costs. As a society, we CANNOT afford to pay for health care through government agency anymore than we can afford our current system of health care as an employee benefit.

The obvious solution is cost control, which means rationing care, which means the Golden Age of carte blanche health care is concluding.

How we get there remains undetermined, but the ultimate destination is certain.

The Party is Over, and the time has arrived to pay the piper. We are not going to like it, but we better get ready for it nevertheless.
Category: The Party is Over
Posted by: A Waco Farmer
The Party is Over.

As I have written, the End of the Party means releasing unreasonable expectations and assumptions about the nature and meaning of life. The End of the Party means a return to reality. The End of the Party is an opportunity to purge our lives of pernicious distractions and reconnect with ancient human truths. Again, this is essentially positive--although it will have its inconveniences. Up until a few days ago, I believed most of us were in the process of coming to grips with these resurgent facts of life.

An Important Aside: the End of the Party, however, should not be confused with the "End of the World." The End of the World is a much scarier scenario, although, unfortunately, altogether possible.

A Note on Terms: to be clear, the "End of the World" speaks to the reality that we are flirting with a titanic economic collapse. A complete financial meltdown so mammoth that the government and culture of the United States would cease to exist in a form recognizable to our generation.

What to do? We the people must change our ways, and, more importantly, we must demand that the government change the way it does business to avert the eventual economic cataclysm is this country.

Perversely, massive federal borrowing to avert a bank collapse seems logical to me. We know exactly what happens when the banks fail (the Panics of 1819, 1837, 1857, 1873, 1893, 1907, and 1929). Who knows what chaos such a financial calamity might wreak on our modern society? We cannot take that chance. Seven-hundred billion or three trillion dollars, restoring the financial sector in this country is a matter of national security; it is the proper role of government.

Having said that, the banking crisis and the recession are two different problems; they are connected but distinct. The difference? Most of us have lived through many recessions; few of us have lived through a bank panic. Fix the banks and heal the credit sector and the recession fixes itself naturally. However, there is a much bigger systemic liability: we are approaching a moment in which our collective ability to generate revenue can no longer support our extravagant national lifestyle.

What next? What must be done in Washington? Our government must work out a sustainable plan for the USA going forward. Understand our basic problem: we cannot be all things to all people. We can no longer believe that the key to economic success is spending every dime available and then some. We must face the unhappy reality that the Keynesian Interlude is finally over.

Although I dutifully voted for John McCain and divided government, for a brief moment during the transition, I allowed myself to believe in Barack Obama as the agent of necessary change. Why?

1. I am a person of hope.

2. As a nation, our other options were so dismal.

Barack Obama was uniquely qualified to bear bad news to an admiring nation. Only Nixon could go to China. Only Barack could explain our new reality to a nation in need of tough love.

Why was I hopeful that he would rise above partisanship and ideology to be a great American president? Because it was so necessary; our posterity depended on him doing just that. In my heart of hearts, no matter how illogical or un-biblical, I continue to trust in Providence as it concerns American government. I was optimistic about Barack Obama for the same reason I was optimistic about the "surge" in Iraq. Not because it was logical or likely--but because failure would be lethal. It just had to work.

Our economy today faces a crossroads that dwarfs Iraq in terms of importance. It is not an exaggeration to assert that our very survival as an independent nation is at stake. Would Barack Obama rise to the occasion? If he failed to grasp the urgency of the moment, we would be in dire straits.

The Bad News: the events of last week demonstrate clearly that he does NOT get it. Instead of folding our bad hand and leading us to a new epoch of real sustainability, the President has decided to double-down. If our pattern of spending, taxing, and borrowing regardless of sound economic principles and plain old good sense got us in to this mess, then more of the same will surely get us out.

What Now? I still support and respect this duly elected President of the United States. But it is now time to face facts. I am now painfully aware of how much I disagree with his governing philosophy. This President's political ideology is destructive, and we need to defeat his proposals.