In my use of the word "liberals" I should stress that I am refering to some sort of core liberal: a person who is not just likely to vote for Greens or Democrats because he thinks they are nicer, somehow, but a person who follows at least a handful of issues with some attention and comes out pretty regularly on the liberal side. Often I will use the term progressive for this. It is seldom a pure situation. Nearly everyone has an issue or two where we break ranks with our fellows, and a few more which we care less about than others in our political corner.
Progressives have for years advocated for some sort of universal health care, health insurance, socialised medicine, single payer plan of various designs. This has nearly always been portrayed in social and moral language - that they are ashamed or embarrassed to live in a country that does not have this, or that it is unfair that anyone be unable to get needed care. In my multipart series on liberal values I will be touching on this, and the weaknesses of those arguments (there are some strengths), but for now I have a different observation.
The argument has suddenly shifted to exclamations that we must have one of these national systems for economic reasons. That only some such system will save us money, which will in turn stimulate the economy which is in CRISIS. I don't believe them. They cannot have switched ground so quickly and completely. They still want this for the same reasons they wanted it five, ten, and thirty years ago. They are using the language of saving money in hopes of throwing a fast one past us. I dislike that on principle.
No doubt there are some progressives who were quickly convinced of this - some folks of any belief are easily persuaded by leaders. But I think most aren't. I think most are being sly. For a good cause, they think. In order to speak the language of conservatives and finally convince them on other grounds, perhaps. Good PR and all that.
But separating these two streams of persuasion allows us to look at both more clearly. And the second one is merely insane. Creating more jobs by creating nationalised health care is like saying "We can't pay the rent, so let's order out for Chinese." It's bizarre. There is a stretch at making a connection by tying it in to cost savings on medicine and procedures because of government contract and economy of scale. Or that old favorite, preventive care, which works great when you have a time machine, and have full benefit of retrospection, but in real time always costs more. Cutting out the waste will somehow make the whole economy more efficient, so there will be more left over - somewhere - for someone to hire someone else.
Yet this is the government. Even if they could legitimately find some places to streamline things and save some money, everyone knows that this is a government program. It is not going to ultimately cost less. It might do some other things that progressives like, such as guaranteeing care to people between jobs or getting dental care for lower-middle-class kids, but it is emphatically not going to save money, no way, no how. You know it. I know it. Obama knows it. If they could save money this way, they would have already done so with the VA and Medicare systems, because that would be a primo sales pitch.
All these great proposals where we could save money, if we just let the government do its thing are purely hypothetical. If everything goes according to plan, it will work. Dude. Not gonna happen.
What other similar countries spend and what they get for it is interesting and partially relevant, but never even a close match. We have a different legal climate that drives up costs. (It does some very good things as well, but it does drive up costs.) We have all the expensive equipment much more available here. It's much easier for a doctor to resist ordering an expensive test that is mostly precautionary when it is 50 miles away than when it is on the next floor above.