Saturday, January 16, 2010

Congressman Paul Ryan on Health Care

Remarks presented at the Hillsdale College and Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship Forum on Health Care Reform and the American Character

Someone has said that before there was the New Deal, there was the "Wisconsin Deal." In Wisconsin, where I come from, the politics of Progressivism still runs strong. It was imported through the University of Wisconsin where they read their Hegel, Max Weber, and other powerful German minds. These thinkers taught the American Progressives to make a sharp distinction between "administration" and "politics." These philosophers and their American disciples wanted to remodel society on the basis not of opinions or "values" but according to ‘rational calculation.'

The best known Wisconsin Progressive in American politics was Robert LaFollette. "Fighting Bob" was a Republican, as was that other early Progressive, Theodore Roosevelt. Progressivism has always been a powerful strain in the Republican bloodstream, as we saw in the presidential election last year.

The Progressives, like the American Founders, saw self-government in a large nation-state as a challenge. Can a modern democracy be both free and well governed?

These thinkers, particularly Weber, were not blind to the problem of how untrained average citizens were supposed to preserve freedom in a society administered by bureaucratic ‘specialists without soul.' But popular resistance to their agenda made the Progressives more and more elitist.

Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson brought the Progressive movement to Washington, sowing the seeds for the paramount political problem of our time: centralized administration.

Progressivism came in on two great waves: the 1930s New Deal and the Great Society of the 1960s. President Obama often invokes Progressivism and plans to generate its third, and greatest, wave. American businesses large and small must be brought under centralized direction. Contracts, the very core of personal and social freedom, are scrapped or rewritten by the administration as decades old bankruptcy laws are cast aside in the reorganization of the auto makers. The compensation which employers pay to secure the services of executive employees is now reviewed and second-guessed by a presidential "pay czar." Marriage and family life, church and voluntary organizations are all being weakened mostly by nonrepresentative government agencies. First wave Progressives demanded the popular referendum. Third wave Progressives do everything possible to stop local and state referenda which citizens would use to end this assault on the pillars of free society.

Health Care reform is a prime example of Progressivism in action.

The delivery of health care services has grown costly, leaving many without coverage. But survey after survey shows that 75 or 80 percent of Americans or more are personally satisfied with the quality of their own health care.

The Democratic leaderships' brazen attempts to rush through a health care reform with little public debate and deliberation have disgraced the annals of government by consent. They frantically scribble thousand-page laws behind closed doors and demand midnight votes from members who are given no opportunity to read the legislation they are voting about. This farcical process flunks the Constitution's "due process of law" test.

The Framers saw every individual as having a "right of personal security" which includes being protected against acts that may harm personal health. This right is integral to the natural right to life which it is government's purpose to secure. But the personal right to protection of health does not imply that government must provide health care, any more than the right to food in order to live requires government to own the farms and raise the crops. Government's obligation is normally met by establishing conditions for free markets to thrive. Societies with economic freedom almost always have a growing abundance of goods and services at affordable cost for the largest number. When free markets seem to be failing to meet this goal - and I'd argue today's health care delivery is an example - government should not supply the need itself but look in the mirror, correct its own interventions, and unleash competition and choice.

Washington DC is no place to run health care services for the nation. Thus the Framers left public health decentralized. But if there were any doubt, the history of Medicare and Medicaid is the proof. Real cost control has become a national nightmare. Fraud has proliferated despite every effort to stop it. Program costs are always underestimated. In 1966 the cost of Medicare to the taxpayers was about $3 billion. The House Ways and Means Committee estimated that Medicare would cost taxpayers only about $12 billion by 1990 (adjusted for inflation). The actual cost? Nearly nine times as high - $107 billion. By 2006 Medicare reached $401 billion while Medicaid added another $309 billion for a total of $710 billion.

This is very long, continued here...

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