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Archive for July 28th, 2011

A couple of years ago, Paul Krugman assured us that government-run healthcare was a good idea, writing that “In Britain, the government itself runs the hospitals and employs the doctors. We’ve all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false.”

Well, if the stories are false, the British press must love to tell negative lies about their own nation, as I’ve pointed out in a series of often-horrifying blog posts here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

And now there’s a new revelation that further demolishes Krugman’s assertion. But more troubling, it also provides a glimpse at America’s future with Obamacare. Here are some cheerful excerpts from a story in the UK-based Independent.

Hip replacements, cataract surgery and tonsil removal are among operations now being rationed in a bid to save the NHS money. Two-thirds of health trusts in England are rationing treatments for “non-urgent” conditions as part of the drive to reduce costs in the NHS by £20bn over the next four years. One in three primary-care trusts (PCTs) has expanded the list of procedures it will restrict funding to in the past 12 months. …According to responses from the 111 trusts to freedom-of-information requests, 64 per cent of them have now introduced rationing policies for non-urgent treatments and those of limited clinical value. Of those PCTs that have not introduced restrictions, a third are working with GPs to reduce referrals or have put in place peer-review systems to assess referrals. In the last year, 35 per cent of PCTs have added procedures to lists of treatments they no longer fund because they deem them to be non-urgent or of limited clinical value. ..Bill Walters, 75, from Berkshire, recently had to wait 30 weeks for a hip operation instead of the standard 18.

I’ve never pretended the American healthcare system is perfect, largely because of massive government intervention and control. And even a laissez-faire system doubtlessly would generate some horror stories.

But I feel very comfortable in stating that the United Kingdom is a good example of why more government is never the answer for problems created by government involvement in the first place.

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In an ideal world, GOPers would hold firm and not pass any debt limit until Democrats agreed to enact something like the Ryan plan/Cut-Cap-Balance.

But I’ve never thought that was a realistic strategy. When we got to the drop-dead point, Obama would have Geithner or Bernanke give an inflammatory speech designed to panic financial markets – at which point the White House would prevail because enough Republicans would panic (remember TARP?) and surrender.

This is why, even though there are several things I would have done differently, I think it’s reasonable to cut some slack for Speaker Boehner and House Republicans. They are trying to win a debt-limit fight when they can’t use the nuclear option and the other side controls both the Senate and the White House.

Moreover, the media is in the tank for the White House and is willing to regurgitate palpably false narratives (i.e., failure to raise the debt limit equals default). As such, from the beginning of this battle, I’ve assumed Republicans will lose.

And this also explains why I haven’t criticized the new “Budget Control Act” proposed by Speaker Boehner. Yes, it’s grossly inadequate. Yes, it’s a bit gimmicky. And, yes, it basically kicks the can down the road. But is anybody under any illusion that something good can get past Harry Reid’s Senate and the Obama White House?

But there is one aspect of the Boehner plan that is causing me considerable angst. The plan would create a new super-committee of six Senators and six Representatives, and this bi-partisan group (equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans) would be responsible for proposing $1.8 trillion of additional “deficit reduction.” Congress would be obliged to vote on the package, and approval of that package would enable a further increase in the debt limit.

This sets off alarm bells. I hope I’m wrong, but here’s the scenario I envision:

1. The joint committee proposes a terrible package of fake spending cuts and real tax increases (just like the Gang of Six).

2. Since only one Republican vote will be needed to approve the package (and because Senate Republicans are genetically incapable of saying no to awful deals), this package will be approved.

3. Harry Reid, recognizing a good deal (from his perspective) will immediately push the package through the Senate.

4. Republicans control the House, so theoretically the bad package can be stopped, but here’s where the trap exists. Failure to approve the awful tax-hike package will be portrayed as being critical in order to raise the debt limit and save America from default.

5. GOPers will capitulate, giving the Democrats more money to waste and dispiriting the Tea Party in an election year.

You can see why I’m a very dour person.

Speaking of the debt limit, here are two recent interviews on the topic. In the first clip, I talk with Neil Cavuto about debt-limit demagoguery.

And in this interview for Bloomberg Asia, I explain the debt limit fight in the context of the American political system.

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