The Failed Daschle Nomination and the Obama Health Care Agenda
Recent in the news has been former Senator Tom Daschle’s withdrawal of his nomination as Secretary of Health and Human Services, along with President Obama’s additional nomination of him to a newly-concocted post of “White House Health Czar” (isn’t it interesting how increasingly popular the term “czar” has become in the government lexicon as of late?). The main issue that brought Daschle’s nomination down was his failure to pay more than $128,000 in taxes from 2005 to 2007 (which he ended up doing last month in the form of back taxes with nearly $12,000 in interest). Naturally this raised once again the whole matter of double standards over such matters, one for government officials (and others in positions of power or privilege), and another for everyone else. The President seemed finally to recognize that such a double standard would not serve him well, after noticing a disturbing pattern among a few of his other nominees. Incredibly, someone at the White House said, “Nobody’s perfect!” in response to all this. Imagine any normal private citizen telling that to an IRS agent, and see how far that would go! Needless to say, this trend raises doubts regarding the President’s intentions to rid government of the influence of special interests and lobbyists.
However, the whole tax non-payment issue is really a distraction, as there are many more serious concerns over the Daschle nomination that should have been raising red flags, and should provide clues as to what the Obama Administration’s real agenda is for health care. Among the most objectionable attributes of Daschle was his cozy relationship with major health care companies (part of what Ron Paul calls the “medical-industrial complex”). Daschle himself was not technically considered a lobbyist, but he made some $5 million as a “consultant” for various businesses, nearly a quarter-million dollars of which came from health care companies. Furthermore, during his time in the Senate Democratic party leadership, his wife was a paid lobbyist for various industries, the health care industry in particular among them. This clearly shows Daschle to be a true disciple of corporatism (that is, government-corporate collusion), the very thing that has plagued and undermined what was once an unrivaled, robust health care system that left no one uncared for.
Looking beyond Daschle’s cozy relationship with the medical-industrial complex, most objectionable were his policy prescriptions, which amount to nothing less than more central economic planning (see the following New York Times article, which attempts to describe Daschle’s proposals without actually revealing very much). Naturally, this would include adding new health care programs and expanding existing ones, the same ones that have added exorbitantly to the costs of health care. Among his ideas is the creation of an “independent” Federal Health Board to decide what kinds of treatments government health programs would cover, mainly in the interests of keeping costs down. Central planning of this sort can never be successful at keeping costs down, and on the contrary, can be counted upon to do exactly the opposite. Daschle, the supposed “expert” on health care policy, has been able to come up with a number of legitimate criticisms of existing programs, but his solution is simply more of the same, that is, more central planning, amounting to tinkering around with and expanding a flawed system. Many of Daschle’s stated goals sound perfectly fine and well-intentioned, but would be much better accomplished by the efficiency of a properly-functioning free market, as opposed to the arbitrary nature and stifling inefficiency of a government bureaucracy. And given his special relationship of the past four years with the medical-industrial complex, there would be no reason to believe he wouldn’t have been writing legislative proposals filled with special favors to large corporate interests, had he been confirmed (had his nomination not been withdrawn). Regardless of who Obama nominates in place of Daschle, it is likely the replacement nominee will be someone else with special ties to the medical-industrial complex, who believes in central economic planning as the answer to solving our health care problems.
A more sinister aspect of the Obama health care agenda, which remains at this point only vaguely defined, is that of creating some sort of a central electronic database for medical records. Such a database is being promoted, as part the economic “stimulus” proposal, in the name of greater efficiency and convenience. We are told how wonderful it will be to have all of our medical records “linked” together via a central database, and how much easier it will be for doctors and hospitals to communicate with one another. The red flag here is that of privacy. Such a system provided by the private sector, with completely voluntary participation and proper safeguards of privacy, would be a welcome advancement of progress. In contrast, any sort of government-provided database will be centrally controlled, and the government bureaucracy will presume to have the privilege of access to any information contained therein, not the least for controlling costs and trying to prevent fraud, both of which will be deemed necessary with an increasingly large sector of health care coming under government subsidies. Any patient or doctor who values essential privacy should be alarmed at such a prospect.
Beyond the issues discussed here is the simple matter of economics: how does President Obama intend to pay for all these new programs and the central planning that would accompany them? Obviously the answer is: more inflation. The money does not exist, so it will have to be borrowed against the future, most of it created out of thin air by the Federal Reserve. This will further destroy the purchasing power of the dollar, with costs going up even further, leading to fewer choices in health care and a continued decline in the quality of health care for those relying on government-subsidized programs.
The next nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services should be asked to explain how and why more central planning is the solution, when in fact it is at the root cause of so many of the problems plaguing health care in the U.S. Accordingly, he or she should be asked to explain how in the world a “health czar” can possibly be wise enough or smart enough to make decisions that only patients, in concert with their doctors, can reasonably make. He or she should be asked likewise about privacy issues as they relate to the creation of a central, government-maintained electronic medical records database. Finally, the nominee should be asked which article and section in the Constitution justifies the existence of the Department of Health and Human Services.