During the Bush years it was obvious that a lot of people on the political left were very, very angry. They were angry about the war, angry about heightened security, angry about domestic surveillance, angry about torture, angry about corporate handouts, angry about cronyism, angry about no-bid contracts — they had plenty to be angry about, and in some cases their anger was even justified. But now, just a few years later we still have a war, we still have heightened security and domestic surveillance, we have even more cronyism, corporate handouts and inside deals going on, but no one on the left seems to be angry about any of it anymore. Did they suddenly come around, or was all that anger just partisan posturing?
A good example of this is the health care legislation currently being considered in Congress in its latest incarnation as the Baucus Bill — called that because no one else was willing to stand up and put their name on it. The left enthusiastically supports this legislation in the hope that it will lead to socialized medicine, despite the fact that as written it does more to subsidize the insurance companies and give them more power to mismanage health care and our lives than they could ever have in a free market. The bill was essentially written by and for health care special interests to give them a big, fat payoff to keep them from actively opposing more meaningful reform.
An impassioned leftist I know who is often rational on other subjects, recently commented in outrage:
"The main concern from the right is the welfare of medical insurers about whom I don't give a rat's ass. If they all closed their doors, I would rejoice. Control of virtually everything in this country has been given over to insurance companies – medical insurers included. How anyone could prefer to have some functionary at an insurance company or HMO making their health decisions based on the company's bottom line and perhaps earning a nice bonus come Christmas time for meeting denial quotas is a mystery to me."
Apparently he expected me to disagree because I oppose Obamacare, yet I agree wholeheartedly with most of his statement. The bureaucratization of health care in the hands of monopolistic health care and insurance companies is at the heart of the need for reform. He sees this problem clearly, which raises the question of why he is incapable of understanding that exactly the things he complains of about the current system will be institutionalized and made more comprehensive with greater government control and that the health care proposals which seem likely to pass do more to empower the insurance companies and their bean counters than they do to return choice and control to health care consumers.
The truth is that opposition to this bill from the right is not inspired by or supported by the insurance industry, despite all of the accusations. It comes primarily from grassroots consumer groups and individuals who are as concerned about monopolies and corporate greed as they are about the inefficiency and corruption of government managed programs like Medicare and Medicaid. They realize that the source of the monopolization which unbalances and ultimately destroys free markets is almost always government regulation and government's desire to interfere with certain key industries and make the way that they operate more like government itself. The health care and insurance industries have been so heavily regulated on a state and federal level that they have ceased to exist in anything resembling a free market; market forces have been replaced with government mandates and bureaucratic procedures which they have been forced to rely on instead of good business practices because so much of their revenue is dependent on government authorization or direct payment from the government.
The core problem with the health care bill which ought to be enraging the left, but which they seem incapable of seeing, is the idea of mandated insurance, which has been in every version of the bill proposed because it is actively supported by President Obama. This mandate forces as many as 40 million people who are uninsured by choice to purchase health insurance which they can barely afford from private insurance companies under terms dictated by the government. Private insurers aren't opposing this, they're quietly cheering for it in the background and their allies in Big Pharma and their bought-and-paid-for shills in the American Medical Association are right there with them. These mandates will take more than $200 billion a year out of the pockets of the middle class and working poor and hand it with a bow on it directly to a small group of insurance companies who would rather work with government for a sure profit than operate in a free market which demands efficiency and quality service.
This takes choice and control away from consumers, makes the insurance companies answerable to the government instead of their customers, and will lead to less efficiency and even lower quality care, because the demands of government which has the deep pockets of deficits and raising taxes will never be as onerous for those companies as servicing the demands of customers in a free market would be.
This is a continuation of the process which got us intothe current mess in the first place. Consumers went to their state legislators and demanded that insurance companies cover liposuction and hair implants and prohibitively expensive procedures and the legislators responded by passing laws defining what insurance companies had to cover in their states. Faced with lowered profits as a result, insurance companies either raised their rates to cover the cost or got out of the market in that state, with the result that consumers ended up paying more and having fewer choices. And the more mandates the legislators added over the years, the more expensive insurance became and the fewer companies were willing to do business in that state. As the number of companies in a state became smaller, those who remained could get away with charging more because they had a captive market and consumers couldn't go somewhere else to get cheaper coverage with fewer bells and whistles. That's how we end up with insurance in one state costing three times what it does in a neighboring state where there is more competition.
Competition always brings prices down. Excessive regulation always leads to a reduction in competition and the creation of monopolies. Monopolies always charge as much as they can for as little service as they can, because their customers have no other options. In this specific situation the only alternative for many people has been to go without insurance and take their chances. The problem with the current health care plan is that it will take even that unattractive option away from people and use the coercive power of government to force them to pay for insurance they can't really afford at a price which is much higher than it would be in a free market.
Some argue that a "public option" plan from the government will create the equivalent of competition, but in reality there's no difference between an insurance company working hand in hand with the government and a plan actually run by the government. The public plan will be tailored to keep the monopolies in business and the monopolies will adapt to be just like the public plan, so once again choice and control will be taken away from the consumer.
This is the government putting its stamp of approval on the monopolistic insurance industry the same way that the British crown gave an exclusive license to the British East India Company to sell tea in the American colonies, subsidizing the debts of the Company on the backs of American consumers. Then as now, this unholy marriage of government and business adds up to tyranny.
Yet those on the left who rail against Starbucks and their "corporate coffee" and the corrupt bargains between Halliburton and the military or between the Bush administration and Big Oil, seem unable to see that this health care bill is doing exactly the same thing. It is a two trillion dollar bailout of one of the most corrupt and abusive industries in America, authorized by politicians who have for years been their partners in creating monopolies and exploiting and abusing the American people.
I won't even bother to explain (this time) how free trade and the lifting of regulation would reduce prices and improve service. My friends on the left certainly don't want to hear that. But if any of them are still reading this, maybe they'll stop and ask themselves why they support a bill which gives more money and more power and the direct support of government to the very same companies whose practices they have been calling an outrage for years and whose practices created the health care crisis. How on earth does that make any sense? How can you support health care reform which reforms nothing and actually repeats and expands on the mistakes of the past? Why aren't you angry now? Why aren't you marching in the streets?