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Rush: “We’ve Done the Math” (Yes, Badly)

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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.

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About Dave Nalle

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave –

    Hey, you gave references! I’ll go to the Cato Institute first – Their estimate is wildly overblown. Anyone who reads the article with a critical eye can see that the author “estimates” and “corrects for gimmicks”…but never once describes how he does so. The author is ‘shotgunning’, tossing out a great deal of information and mixing in a few claims, and hopes that no one can see that his methods are never described. If I’d tried to give such an article to any one of my instructors at the Navy Nuclear Power School, I’d have been laughed out of the classroom.

    According to your other reference, if we keep the status quo, then in 2019 there will be 57 million uninsured Americans (whereas it’s now just under 50 million). Now let’s take that 2.5 trillion estimate…and as I recall, that’s over a ten-year period. That’s $43,859.65 per [otherwise uninsured] American. That sounds like a lot, but that’s over TEN years.

    So that’s a hair under $4400 per [otherwise uninsured] American per year. But wait – that’s not all! That $2.5T ALSO ensures full coverage for the tens of millions of OTHER Americans who are UNDERINSURED…which isn’t much better than UNinsured, as you probably know.

    So the cost per properly-insured (as opposed to uninsured or underinsured) American is significantly less, isn’t it? Yes, it is.

    Lastly, you estimated (with no apparent supporting source) that ‘only’ 12 million Americans “truly want health coverage but are being denied coverage.” Sooo, let’s low-ball the current estimates and say that 45 million Americans are presently uninsured. That means that if you are right, then thirty-three million Americans are uninsured by choice!

    And this is all IF your second reference is right.

    Lastly, 33M Americans don’t WANT health insurance? You DO realize of course that this ‘estimate’ of yours requires that millions of mothers CHOOSE to be uninsured, CHOOSE for their children to be uninsured.

    Um, no. That fails any kind of common-sense test devised by reasonable humanity.

    Gotta get back to work – just hat to stop for a moment to be the treasonous saboteur that you are sure that Democrats really are.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Hey, you gave references!

    As always.

    I’ll go to the Cato Institute first – Their estimate is wildly overblown. Anyone who reads the article with a critical eye can see that the author “estimates” and “corrects for gimmicks”…but never once describes how he does so. The author is ‘shotgunning’, tossing out a great deal of information and mixing in a few claims, and hopes that no one can see that his methods are never described. If I’d tried to give such an article to any one of my instructors at the Navy Nuclear Power School, I’d have been laughed out of the classroom.

    It’s not an article on physics, Glenn, it’s a rough analysis of a worst case scenario as he makes quite clear in the article.

    According to your other reference, if we keep the status quo, then in 2019 there will be 57 million uninsured Americans (whereas it’s now just under 50 million). Now let’s take that 2.5 trillion estimate…and as I recall, that’s over a ten-year period. That’s $43,859.65 per [otherwise uninsured] American. That sounds like a lot, but that’s over TEN years.

    I’m sorry, do you have an extra $1500 a year to throw around at tax time? I sure don’t. That would almost double the actual tax paid for the average wage earner.

    So that’s a hair under $4400 per [otherwise uninsured] American per year. But wait – that’s not all! That $2.5T ALSO ensures full coverage for the tens of millions of OTHER Americans who are UNDERINSURED…which isn’t much better than UNinsured, as you probably know.

    It’s debatable that whatever plan they could cobble together for $4400 would be better than what you can currently by yourself for $4400 today, which is a very stripped down “underinsured” plan in most states.


    Lastly, you estimated (with no apparent supporting source) that ‘only’ 12 million Americans “truly want health coverage but are being denied coverage.” Sooo, let’s low-ball the current estimates and say that 45 million Americans are presently uninsured. That means that if you are right, then thirty-three million Americans are uninsured by choice!

    Jesus, Glenn. Read the fucking article. I didn’t make that statement, it’s clearly referenced to Limbaugh in the second paragraph.

    Lastly, 33M Americans don’t WANT health insurance? You DO realize of course that this ‘estimate’ of yours requires that millions of mothers CHOOSE to be uninsured, CHOOSE for their children to be uninsured.

    Again, derived from Limbaugh’s statement, not anything I said.

    Gotta get back to work – just hat to stop for a moment to be the treasonous saboteur that you are sure that Democrats really are.

    Thankfully most of them are as incompetent at it as you are.

    Dave

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave –

    I’m sorry, do you have an extra $1500 a year to throw around at tax time

    If it means I spend $5000-10000 LESS in health care premiums if underinsured, or possibly tens of thousands more if uninsured? ABSOLUTELY!

    You pointed out how you’d paid out about 300K over the past 20 years in insurance premiums – but ONE case of cancer can easily cost far more than that!

    I didn’t make that statement, it’s clearly referenced to Limbaugh in the second paragraph.

    You used it, and in a way that strongly implies you support it…so yeah, you OWN it.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    BTW – when I said you supported his statement, while you beat up Limbaugh for his faulty math on dollars, you made NO SUCH CAVEAT about his claim on the numbers of willingly/unwillingly uninsured. That’s the implication to which I refer.

    And as far as ‘incompetency’…you’re the BC politics blog editor, right? Don’t you have some kind of policy against personal insults? Or are you going to try to claim that it was ‘merely an observation’ and not an insult?

    Hm?

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Glenn, I can’t criticize Rush’s math if I don’t state what the basis for it is. You’re reading an endorsement into the article which just isn’t there.

    And no, I have no personal policy against lambasting people for being partisan tools.

    Dave

  • Cannonshop

    Does anyone really believe anything Rush says on his show without fact=checking it first? (I mean, seriously…)

    The guy used to be fun to listen to, but at this point, he’s right on Al Franken’s level in terms of credibility as a source.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Does anyone really believe anything Rush says on his show without fact=checking it first?

    The majority of listeners and audiences to these sorts of opinion-driven programs do not, will not and never have entertained the concept of fact-checking.

    That’s why the frivolous nature of these sorts of characters, whether they inhabit the left or right of the political spectrum, is so harmful to public discourse.

    Our easy dismissal of these characters as distractions or as harmless polemicists with no real public impact is done at our peril should we ever attempt to encounter real discussion as a civilized society. America has given the jesters full sway of the media.

  • Jordan Richardson

    I do find it telling, however, that Dave thinks he’s taking a shot at the “other side” by picking apart something a bloated radio personality said. Interesting contrast.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “That’s why the frivolous nature of these sorts of characters, whether they inhabit the left or right of the political spectrum, is so harmful to public discourse.”

    That’s right, Jordan. Never underestimate the stupidity of the American public and its lasting effects on the quality of public discourse. If America has been such a laggard in all matters pertaining to human progress, it’s only because its people have been kept dumb, barefoot and pregnant. And thus far, it worked like a charm.

  • smiley

    here’s some loose figuring and a question:

    $14,266.3 billion = gdp

    16% = health expenditures

    government program expenditures = 46% of each health dollar
    private (insurance) = 42%
    out of pocket = 12%

    => private health insurance companies handle about 6.7% of gdp

    = $956 billion

    rate of profit at 30% (not a historic high for the industry, btw) = $287 billion profit

    employers’ contribution to insurance companies’ profits assuming a simple 1 to 1 employee/employer matching program = $143 billion or about 1% of gdp

    …couldn’t employers use that money more productively than insurance company BoD’s?

  • Baronius

    Smiley, I’d love to see the data that supports a 30% profit margin for health insurance. At that rate, no one would invest in any other industry. A quick look around online and I see something like a 6% average profit.

    Dave, those Cato numbers include the payments that anyone makes toward health insurance, even payments that they’re making under the current rules. I like the way you’re thinking though. Every bill involving perennial spending should have an annual cost estimate at current prices, when fully implemented. No games.

  • Cannonshop

    9 Never underestimate the stupidity and gullibility of large groups of humans. Not just Americans…HUMANS.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    You want to have some fun with math, think about this. The CBO estimates a 10-year cost for the health care bill of about $650 billion, resulting in a 10-13% increase in premiums for those with private insurance and ultimately insuring about 20 million of those currently uninsured. That means a total cost, including increased costs to those with insurance of about $1.2 trillion dollars in 10 years.

    If you took that $1.2 trillion and just gave it out as vouchers to all of the 20 million who the current bill will actually insure, it would buy each of them each $6000 per year to spend on purchasing an insurance policy, which is quite sufficient to buy a decent policy, all of that without ANY of the draconian rules in the 2200 page bill currently being considered.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    The farce.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/heloise Heloise

    Mr. Snerdly probably did the research. He’s black and we know blacks don’t get math. Rush is merely the titular head of talk radio.

  • Arch Conservative

    I’ve never understood the fascination of those who tend to hold sociopolitical views imiliar to my own with this idiot.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Roger, anything which dies in the health care bill is good, so long as it doesn’t pass. Then we can go back and do REAL health care reform with comprehensive single payer and all the draconian bullshit taken out.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    My concern, Dave, it’s not draconian at all. It’s been so watered-down, it’s not worth the paper it’s written on. It’s more of an illusion that something has been done than anything else.

    Just like everything else Obama seems to have touched – here you see it, here you don’t. A real magician.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Then what’s the point? But while some aspects (the positive ones, perhaps) are being watered down, it seems like the negative aspects are being left intact. So we end up with no reform and more bad law that screws up peoples lives. Yay!

    Dave

  • Baronius

    Well, it’s worth noting that Dave and Roger probably disagree on what the good points are.

    I’ve got to believe that somewhere in this process, a “Gang of 14″ kind of thing will emerge. A group of senators who will vow to vote down everything unless the bill gets sent back to committee, or something. Even the Democratic leadership has got to recognize their failure to build a coalition in support of a particular set of reforms. And I don’t think that the president has the kind of pull to force them to continue down this path.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Apparently he does not. He’s no LBJ.

  • Baronius

    I read an article on The American Thinker (a bit of a fringe site) recently that questioned President Obama’s emotional intelligence. It argued that Obama was an intellectual in the mold of Wilson, Hoover, and Carter, all of whom lacked the ability to empathize or persuade.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    That sounds right. He’s cold fish.

    I’m surprised, though, you regard empathy and lack of passion as a virtue.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    should be “passion.”

  • Baronius

    Roger, is that a reference to the Sotomayor hearings? Empathy is important to a politician’s success. Intelligence is more important – actually, common sense is more important, and common sense avoids the pitfalls of pure intellectualism and blind emotionalism. But in a judge, I want a sound intellect above all.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Well, I’m glad you’ve got it so neatly compartmentalized. I don’t think I could.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    What I should rather say, a human being ought to be multifaceted, though he may have to wear a great many hats, depending on what the occasion calls for.

  • Baronius

    Hey, if a judge is a well-rounded, fully actualized human being, great for him. I also hope that accountants have happy marriages, but I don’t require that from an accountant. I want an accountant who knows bookkeeping and tax law.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Still, rather one-sided view of humanity. Let the bricklayer be who he is as long as he’s a good bricklayer.

    Kind of defining the value of people by their professions or rather the use to which we can put them.

  • Dan

    Rush’s math works fine. 30 billion would be 2500 per person for 12 million people per year. That would be pretty basic coverage except for a lot of those people would be in family plans, so it’s probably about right.

    The part about checking off a box on the income tax form was simply and obviously the use of hyperbole to make the point that the trillion dollar swindle Democrats have in mind is suicidally stupid.

    I don’t know how anyone actually listening to the broadcast could take it any different. Unless they didn’t listen, and still haven’t learned that Rush haters will shamelessly say anything with no regard for intent or truth.

  • Baronius

    Roger, you’re trying to read something into my comments that isn’t there. Judge the man, as a bricklayer, by his brick work. Judge the man, as a man, by his actions. Or better yet, don’t judge him at all.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I just thought the accountant analogy less than fair. Sure, you do need different qualities from a judge than from a “natural-born” leader. No argument there.