A Little Can Affect A Lot

I am always amused at the way some arguments are presented in political debates when one side is trying to sell their program.  The current controversy over health care costs is only the most recent example of this propensity.  One of the major arguments of those favoring a government takeover of health care insurance and health care delivery is that the costs will continue to escalate and do so exponentially until the entire economy is overwhelmed with nothing but health costs.  By definition liberals are all for change.  Change is their mantra and has been my entire life.  They have never met a situation or circumstance that they didn’t want to change.   The moss back conservatives like to take their time with change and not tinker too much and make changes in an incremental way slowly testing the waters.  The liberals like to leap right in without knowing the depth of the water but assuring everyone they know what is best because they are the elites and know better than the rest of us.  When it comes to medical costs the liberals argue that the costs will continue to increase without drastic changes and that the increases will always outpace inflation and earnings.  

Of course that argument is severely flawed.  The old adage about diminishing returns comes into play at some point and likewise the economy functions on the supply and demand concept but demand is calibrated by costs.  If someone built the most magnificient and fuel efficient car in the world and it had ever feature known to man and everyone wanted to have one it would not sell if the price was $100,000.   That price would control the demand.   If the price was projected to increase with each passing year that would not induce additional sales.  People will only pay so much for any product or service.  Forget the super rich and the totally impoverished because they won’t and never have set the bar for pricing of products and services.  It is that great sweep of the middle that drives the economic bus.   Right now I pay about $7000 a year for medical insurance for the wife and me.  I gulp with every payment but I can eke it out and I pay and frankly would pay even more if that were required for coverage.  But there is a limit.  If my  medical insurance was $17,000 a year, I wouldn’t pay.   Sure I would worry about a health issue but the bottom line is I wouldn’t pay, period.  The same analogy is true for the nation as a whole.  “We” are willing to pay only so much for health coverage.   Our betters might try to persuade us that it is in our best interest to pay more through premiums or taxes but there is a limit.  

That is probably the biggest flaw with the current proposals coming out of the House and those being discussed in the Senate–costs.  The politicians misjudge our willingness to pay.  They believe they can set the costs and then we will all fall in line like lemmings.   I trust the collective wisdom of the people.  They know that it doesn’t matter if the cost is called a tax, fee or premium, a cost is a cost.  Those costs will come out of our pockets one way or the other.  The hospitals and doctors aren’t going to close their doors if none of us had coverage.  In fact that might be the best way to go.  No insurance and start all over.  The  hospitals and doctors have to make a living.  Even though that heart surgery might normally costs $50,000 dollars under today’s insurance coverage scheme, if there were no insurance company to pay for it and you offered them $15,000 for the surgery and everyone else was in the same boat, I think you would find that many of them might accept your offer.   I offer this as a point of departure for discussion.  The costs of insurance and health care will not overwhelm the economy because we won’t pay for it at some level.  There is a limit to what each of you would pay whatever that limit is.   The costs will come to a level the people are willing to pay or else all the health care professionals will be out of work.

We can work on the little things that make such a big difference when multiplied by over 300 million people.  Mostly we need economic incentives for consumers and providers to improve care and costs.  People will respond to that much more willingly and efficiently than  they will to the lash of higher taxes.   Slight improvements can have big consequences.

During the Amercian Revolution one of the biggest problems facing the American army under Washington was something as mundane as gunpowder.  Both the quantity and quality were lacking.  A Frenchman, named Lavoisier was a famed chemist of the age and was put in charge of the munitions of France by the King in the mid 1770’s.   He had learned a lot about the subject from James Priestly (a close friend of Ben Franklin).  Lavoisier within a couple of years had greatly improved the quality of the French gunpowder.  Franklin arranged to purchase this improved gunpowder for the American war.  France was our arms dealer and sold and shipped over a 1000 tons of it to the  Colonies.  Washington was elated.  Our cannons had not been able to compete with the British, they simply couldn’t shoot as far as their cannons and the same was true with our musket, we were out-ranged.  The gunpowder made a difference, our fighting forces were more effective.  Likewise later the rifled barrel of the cannon made an enormous difference in cannons and thus battles.  During the War Between the States the Yankees had the Parrot cannon which was a much better weapon than the smooth bore cannons in the South.  Their artillery could hit a target from farther away and not be hit with counter battery fire.  Small changes, big effects.  We can and should make the necessary small changes to our medical care to have big effects down the road.   The current proposals are much more about ideology than economics or health care.  The left wants Government, Inc. to run health care so they can have one more goodie to distribute to the little people in exchange for votes and perpetual power.

The crossbow was an innovation that finally ended the era of the armored knight.  For several centuries the armored knight ruled the battle fields of Europe, but the metal tipped bolt from the crossbow could penetrate even that armor.  The knight became a target rather than a weapon on the battle field and the knights became  historical pagentary rather than an actual fighting weapon.  http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com


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