Facts, not Fiction, in Health Care Coverage [updated 8-25-09]

Winthrop Quigley is in a class by himself as a writer. He does a superb job of breaking down complex topics. Everyone should read all of his column on health care coverage (linked).

ABQJOURNAL BIZ: For sake of argument, stick to the facts
By Winthrop Quigley
Of the Journal
         If the nation is to have any hope of a reasonable debate about health policy, people on both ends of the political spectrum would do well to renounce some cherished myths about health care not only in the United States but in the rest of the world.
       Policies based on reality really should work better.
       There is a case to be made that commercial insurance has no place in health care. There is a case to be made that government has no place in health care. …

[updated 8-25-09]

Not a Bad Return
By Winthrop Quigley
Monday, 24 August 2009 15:02

Some of the predictable sniping occurred at Martin Heinrich’s town hall on the health care bills Saturday. A noisy but minority cohort insisted on describing as socialism proposals to cover more low-income people with public funds and to establish a government-operated competitor for insurance companies.

Socialism as a theory says that the only input to production of any value is labor and therefore the only return from production should be to labor. As a practice, socialism generally means central planning and state ownership of factors of production.

I am not a big fan of the federal bail-out of GM and Chrysler. I have written in the Journal that I doubt the government-run insurance company that President Obama favors will make any meaningful difference to health care in America. I do not believe that any business is too big to fail.

But I am a big fan of calling things by their proper name. The people screaming about socialism at Heinrich’s town hall were upset about the car company bailouts, the need of the government to recapitalize Fannie Mae, investments in Citigroup, loans and warrants in the finance sector. What they are upset about is not socialism but state capitalism — state investment in the private sector.

There is a bunch of that around. The state of New Mexico invested in Eclipse Aviation. China’s sovereign wealth funds have positions in natural resource companies. The United States owns stock in Citigroup.

Like any owner, sovereign owners have a say in how things are done, but they are no more interested in running the companies they invest in than is the average worker who owns shares of IBM through his 401K plan.
But here’s the fun part: It turns out Uncle Sam has been a very saavy investor. We the taxpayers own 34 percent of Citigroup, and based on its recent stock price so far we’ve made $11 billion. (Citi is the only bank in which the U.S. government has an ownership stake.) We earned 23 percent on the TARP money we gave Goldman Sachs. In fact, it looks as if the government will make money on most of the deals it did during the financial turmoil of the past year or so.

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