Since I recently took Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to task for throwing around made-up figures in the health care debate, it's only fair that I point out similar ridiculousness on the other side.
In his Tuesday broadcast Rush Limbaugh declared that he had the solution to the health care crisis and that he could solve the problem of the 12 million or so Americans who truly want health coverage but are being denied coverage.
Announcing "we've done the math," Limbaugh proclaimed that it would take only about $30 billion to provide coverage for those people who have truly been failed by the system, a figure which seems somewhat small, but is at least within the realm of possibility. But then he went on to declare that all it would take is for every taxpayer to check off a box on their tax return to contribute $1 to the cause to provide that $30 billion.
It's an appealing notion and I certainly agree that kindhearted taxpayers would chip in a dollar each for those without insurance. The problem is that the math doesn't work at all. At last report about 160 million Americans file a tax return every year. If each of them gave a dollar, that total would be only $160 million dollars, not the $30 billion Rush called for. To reach the $30 billion figure each taxpayer would actually have to check off a box to pay almost $200 extra, and that's a burden which those who might sign on to pay a dollar are much less likely to agree to.
Even if they paid a dollar for every household member, that would still provide only about 1/50th of the money needed to raise $30 billion.
This highlights the fact that health care is expensive, which makes easy solutions hard to come up with at a reasonable cost. This is why, despite the repeated claims from the Democrats and President Obama that the current health care proposals will save money, every bit of evidence suggests that proposed reforms will mostly result in an enormous additional burden on taxpayers.
A new report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services which administers those programs says that despite the claims of savings the health care proposal in Congress will run at a deficit of at least $234 billion over the next decade and possibly much more.
That's actually an extremely conservative estimate. Michael Cannon at the Cato Institute has run the numbers without the accounting tricks which the proponents of the bill have used to try to cover up real costs and he comes up with a cost of $6.25 trillion over a 10-year period. That's a bill of $2 million for every taxpayer, paid out at just $200,000 a year, five times the national average income.
This raises the obvious question of where the hell that money is going to come from, because it obviously can't come from taxpayers, who could only fund a fraction of it even if they wanted to be taxed into poverty. Realistically it can only come from a couple of places, either massive expansion of our already out of control debt, or the nationalization of industries and assets on an unprecedented scale. The former is utterly unsupportable. Who would be mad enough to lend us that much more money? The latter would require a complete government take over of the health care and health insurance industry, plus confiscation of retirement savings and pension plans on a society-wide basis.
Some have argued that a total takeover of health care by the government is what the administration has been covertly working towards all along and that their strategy is to make the cost of health care reform so high that no measures short of total nationalization can address the cost.
Yes, Rush Limbaugh needs a course in remedial math. There are no easy solutions like the one he proposes for the health care issue. Those who tell you that there are cheap or easy answers or that the current proposed bill will offer an inexpensive or practical solution are either just as bad at math as Limbaugh is or they are lying to you. You need to consider why they are lying, what the real cost is going to be, and why they seem intent on ramming the plan through Congress despite the strong opposition of a majority of the public.
So ask yourself who really benefits, because it isn't going to be you.