Will We Trade Real Liberty for Fake Security?

The promise of great benefits from government, in exchange for restricted economic liberty, is as old as politics and never seems to lose it’s appeal, no matter how many times it is turns out to be a fraudulent sales pitch.

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The President, Members of Congress, and the political-media establishment have been furiously selling, and are now very close to enacting, dramatically expanded government intervention in health insurance and medical services.  If they succeed, government commissions will decide what your insurance policy will and won’t cover.  New coverage mandates will increase the cost.  If you don’t want to buy it, you’ll be hit with a federal fine.  If they succeed in their long term goal the only insurance available will be government insurance.

What do the President and his gang promise you in exchange for curtailing your liberty?

Security.

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The political promise – contradicted by thousands of pages of dense legalese – is that health care will no longer be a financial challenge and you’ll always receive whatever medical services you need.

This isn’t the first time such a promise was part of a sales pitch for increased government power and reduced liberty.

In 1965 President Johnson held an emotional media event at the home of former President Harry Truman to celebrate enactment of Medicare.  He and Truman repeated the hype that had persuaded The People that the promise of government security was worth the loss of liberty, that submitting to this compulsory, government program was a small price to pay for government guaranteed health care security.

Truman was first to speak:

This is an important hour for the Nation, for those of our citizens who have completed their tour of duty and have moved to the sidelines…These people are entitled, among other benefits, to the best medical protection available.

Then Johnson took over:

There are more than 18 million Americans over the age of 65…Most of them are threatened by illness and medical expenses that they cannot afford.  And through this new law, every citizen will be able, in his productive years when he is earning, to insure himself against the ravages of illness in his old age.

No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine. No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that they have so carefully put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years.LBJ-statue-and-quote

Fast forward to 2009 and note the attitude of the political-media establishment toward Medicare and the promises Johnson made.  We’re told that too much is spent on “the last year of life.”  President Obama insists Medicare pays for billions in wasted treatments and openly attacks Medicare Advantage, the choice of a third of seniors. When the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a financial analysis of the the gargantuan Senate health care bill, the  headline was that it would cover millions who are now uninsured while – incredibly – reducing the government’s deficit.  How is this possible? By cutting the amounts Medicare pays for medical services and treatments.

The government will simply reduce the amount it pays physicians and hospitals for various services and procedures.  Medicare already pays about 15% less than private insurance companies.  The Senate bill’s deficit reduction promise requires an additional 21% reduction in those payments.

More reductions in Medicare will be recommended in the future by a new commission.  Commission recommendations will automatically become law unless Congress passes legislation to block them.

Obviously, President Johnson’s Medicare promises will be broken by today’s political establishment, led by Barack Obama, to divert funds to the latest political priority, a total government take-over of health care, and a reallocation of medical resources away from retirees.

Back to the 1965 Medicare ceremony at Harry Truman’s home.  President Johnson said:

During your working years, the people of America–you–will contribute through the social security program a small amount each payday for Medicare insurance protection. For example, the average worker in 1966 will contribute about $1.50 per month. The employer will contribute a similar amount…And through this new law, Mr. President, every citizen will be able, in his productive years when he is earning, to insure himself against the ravages of illness in his old age.

Adjusted for inflation $1.50 would be about $10.00 today.  So today, the Johnson promise, adjusted for inflation, would be a combined employer-employee cost of $20 per month for the “average worker.”  But, at today’s average salary of  about $44,000,  the  cost is $106 per month, more than five times what Johnson promised.

Both Medicare and Social Security were sold as savings or insurance programs enabling each of us to financially prepare for our own retirement.  Both were cynically calculated to ensnare the nation in financial traps from which there could be no escape without great pain.  But in fact, both are crude income transfer schemes that simply seize money from the young and transfer it to the old.  Because of the government promise of security, most people have not financially prepared for medical expenses in their senior years, and are dependent on Social Security as a major portion, if not the entirety of their retirement income.

Until recently we thought there was no political will to diminish Medicare because it would leave millions of seniors with less health care than they’ve paid for their entire lives.  But Obama and the Democrats in Congress proved us wrong.  They’re quite willing cut medical services to seniors AND force younger folks to keep paying full price for less in future benefits just to fund the 2009-10 version of the eternal, political  promise of…

Security

…in exchange for liberty.

In their great wisdom the nation’s founders conceived a brilliant Constitution, limiting government’s scope to a few essential functions.  Those functions did not include involuntary retirement or health care programs, or the power to intervene and dictate the terms of private insurance policies. But over the past century politicians and the Supreme Court have chipped away at Constitutional limits on government power.

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