Lincoln * Institute

Ralph R. Reiland

Ralph R. Reiland

The B. Kenneth Simon Professor of Free Enterprise at Robert Morris University

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Reflections

Barack Obama: Rush to Failure

by Ralph R. Reiland
 

"No more talk," said President Barack Obama in his weekly address on July 4th. "No more talk. No more delay."

He was referring to health care reform and telling us that we should stop the talk, stop the debate and questions, and just rush into law his particular ideas on how to fix a system that he simplistically describes as "broken."

In fact, the five-year survival rate among patients with prostate cancer in the U.S. health care system is 92 percent, versus 57 percent in Europe where health care is more centrally controlled by the government.

Should there be "no more talk" about whether our death rates will go up if we move to a more European system where the government decides which "cost effective" treatments its citizens will be allowed to receive?

We've been down this road before with politicians in a hurry who expect nothing but acquiescence from the rest of us. A security "crisis" is declared and we're told to put aside our doubts, to stop the talk, and rush into war with Iraq, even if it's the wrong country and there's no real post-invasion planning. Or an economic "crisis" is declared and we're told that the answer is a rushed passage of a pork-laden stimulus bill that nobody reads --- $787 billion in red ink, no discussion or debate required. Let our kids and grandchildren and great-grandchildren pick up the tab.

In an uncommon moment of candor, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel described the process: "Never let a serious crisis go to waste. What I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things you couldn't do before."

What they "couldn't do before" was deliver nearly a trillion in pork via one vote for the pet projects of their fellow politicians. There wasn't much in the stimulus package in tax rebates for the people who earned the money or for the business sector that creates the vast majority of the nation's jobs. Instead, mayors got money to tear up the asphalt in their town squares and put down new pavers.

We can see the result. Last January, with unemployment at 7.6 percent, incoming administration officials warned that the unemployment rate could peak at 9 percent in 2010 if a stimulus wasn't enacted. Pass their stimulus, they said, and the peak would be 8 percent. And so they rushed through the stimulus package and the unemployment rate is now at a 26-year high of 9.5 percent, and probably heading higher.

Last month, U.S. employers cut a larger-than-expected 467,000 jobs. For business owners thinking about expansion or hiring new workers, new pavers in the town squares don't count for much when they're facing the prospect of escalating costs from the Obama administration by way of higher energy prices, more unionism, new health care mandates and higher income taxes.

On health care, President Obama told the doctors at the American Medical Association meeting last month in Chicago that U.S. health care spending is "almost 50 percent more per person than the next most costly nation" and yet "we aren't any healthier."

He didn't mention that the five-year survival rate for patients with breast cancer in the U.S. is 84 percent, versus 73 percent in Europe. That fact doesn't fit with what he's selling, i.e., the idea that we're not healthy and we'll get better care by spending less money.

President Obama also didn't mention the 2004 study by the University College London and Columbia University in New York that showed that patients who had major surgery in Britain were four times more likely to die than those in America. The poor results in Britain's government-run system were blamed on a shortage of specialists, long waiting lists at hospitals and an inadequate supply of intensive care beds.

Starting in the late 1990s, explained a July 7th editorial in The Wall Street Journal, "Of NICE and Men," British officials established the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, or NICE, in order to ensure that "best practices" were being implemented throughout the nation's health care system.

What that's meant in practice is increased rationing and poorer medical care.

The "inevitable result" of the Obama plan, argued the Journal, "will be some version of a NICE board that will tell millions of Americans that they are too young, or too old, or too sick to be worth paying to care for." Are we still permitted to talk about that?

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Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University, the owner of Amel's Restaurant in Pittsburgh, and a columnist with the PIttsburgh Tribune-Review.