Hon, Did You Get Enough Batteries?

Did you ever get one of those toys on Christmas morning that was so cool you just could not wait to play with it? And play you did. If your parents were smart, they bought a truckload of batteries well before that glorious day, but you used them all up by 3:15 and the stores were closed. Another funny thing. Did you ever notice that the first set of batteries always lasts the longest? As a toy gets a little worn and banged up, it requires more energy. And more. And more. And more.

Merry Christmas, America. It looks like you are going to get a cool toy this year.

As I write on this wintry Illinois morning, Congress is about to enact the largest expansion of government since the Great Society. I thought Democrats would save themselves and us by being unable to agree or by (egad!) noticing that the American people like this whole thing less by the hour. I thought Republicans…well, frankly I can’t figure out what they are thinking. Libertarians, those few who hold office, are either writhing on the sidewalk in agony or laughing their limited-government behinds off. I vacillate between those two.

In case you have not been following the news, a flurry of, ahem, “deals” have been cut to make this thing work. Not surprisingly, when individual Senators realized they each could hold the bill hostage, they used their leverage like angry butchers waving a cleaver. The result is some tasty gifts for states whose Senators threatened to hold it hostage. Of course, these are only the ones we read about. If anyone in America has actually finished reading the whole bill, he/she is sure to find money allocated for god-knows-what.

Speaking of which, I hardly know where to begin in criticizing this monstrosity. I certainly have not read it in full. Neither have you, and don’t try to tell me you have. So rather than give you a point-by-point analysis, let me pose a few questions that should keep all of us busy for all while whether we support the bill or not.

• What obligations were made to individual states in order to secure passage? We know Nebraska and Louisiana got sweet deals. What about the rest?

• What will the bill do to taxes? Correct me if this came from The Onion and I fell for it, but…tanning salons? Yes, folks, tanning in salons will be taxed. Don’t ask me whether tanners or tannees get taxed. It was embarrassing enough to write this much about it.

• When do benefits kick in? Hint: Not soon.

• When do taxes to support the program kick in? Hint: Much sooner.

• Put together the previous two questions and we get the mother of all questions: How will we pay for all this? This one deserves separate treatment.

If you support this bill, you may do so for noble reasons–you hate to see people unable to afford medical treatment. I do too. If you think this bill will accomplish that end, you are sadly mistaken. Perhaps I am being unfair. Yes, it will help someone, somewhere get medical treatment. In fact, I expect to see all kinds of stories in the popular press about the miracles wrought by Obama’s bold and brave leap forward. All the while something sinister will be happening. Our unfunded obligations will grow and grow and grow. We will keep going to the store to buy new batteries until there are no more. All the neighborhood kids will come by to play. The more worn the system gets, the more batteries it will require, until we are all sitting staring forlornly at the now-motionless creation that had given us so much joy only a few hours before.

In the end, we will find that what we wanted out of the goodness of our hearts has collided with the reality of what we know in our heads. This health care bill cannot work. Within a few short years, it will be bankrupt along with Social Security and Medicare. We will wish we had substituted the wisdom of planning for a lifetime for the short-lived joy of a single morning.

About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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4 Responses to Hon, Did You Get Enough Batteries?

  1. Liz says:

    The laws of the US are organic. I am hoping for a series of “fixit” bills through the years to finally get us where I want us to be – healthcare decoupled from employment, and access for all. Ugly first step we are looking at, says Yoda.
    Keep highlighting ugliness. Keep working for good of citizens.


  2. Terry Noel says:

    Thanks, Liz! Hope you have a great Christmas.


  3. h1jen1 says:

    It seems like a good idea if healtcare WAS decoupled from employment and state-lines were opened?


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