Well, the sun came up on the day after the great liberal health care victory and, at least over here in London where I am visiting, the birds are singing. The newspapers mix in a few columns about the vote numbers and the extension of coverage to 32 million uninsured (they don't seem to understand reconciliation and deeming) alongside the story about the most recent bombing in Pakistan and Angela Merkel's latest pronouncement on bailing out Greece. Will the bill add cost, make companies less competitive, raise taxes on individuals, force people into inferior coverage, and reduce individual choice - of course. Will it be a major factor in the demise of America as a world power? Some reflections:
By chance, the United Kingdom is having a major election in May, and the ruling Labour party has published a new budget this week. So there are many snippets of information available about the state of things in this country which is probably closer to the United States than is any other European country - a reliable ally in Iraq and Afghanistan; the source of much of the philosophy in our Constitution; and a partner in what French President Sarkozy derisively calls "Anglo-Saxon capitalism".
Some current factoids to show us how far we have to fall:
- The UK recently passed 50% of the Gross Domestic Product being in the public sector, as compared to 40% when Labour took over in 1997. We are about 41%.
- The National Health Service is not only a universal public insurer, but it also runs the hospitals and employs the doctors.
- Some 3500 Sure Start centers for three and four year old children provide government child care and pre-school education.
- Most of the marvelous museums are free.
- Off hours bus transportation for Old Age Pensioners (above 60) is free.
And, making the point that the masses will never be satiated, proposals in the Labour Party's manifesto for the May election:
- A new network of publicly-owned People's Banks located in Post Offices to break the monopoly of the private system - and funnel deposits to local pork-barrel projects. (Japan has been struggling for over a decade to privatize a similar system.)
- A $2 billion pound, government run venture capital fund to start small "green" businesses that are not of interest to the private sector.
- A large increase in the $8.70 minimum wage.
- Free school meals for all.
- A reduction of the voting age to 16.
- Creation of a new force of public employees providing home health care.
- etc. etc. etc.
- And, oh yes, higher health care taxes, especially on the rich.
I have long wondered where the money comes from, with the decline of manufacturing, mining, and agriculture. (Specifically, there is a 50% income tax, a Value Added Tax, and a local Council Tax, but the question is broader.) Perhaps it is cheaper to live in the buildings built by the Tudors and drive tiny cars; perhaps the upper class has well invested the spoils of the lost empire; perhaps the current leaders of the Commonwealth do their banking in London. But it is encouraging that even at this point in the drift to socialism, things can work. In contrast, it is clear that - even with ObamaCare - the US has by far the most vibrant economy in the developed world, and we shouldn't get too despondent.
So, my advice to my fellow Republicans: The American people are optimists; they look forward; and they have a short attention span. On the health care debate, turn the page. A focus on Repeal will lose elections, but that does not mean that this is the end. A 2010 congressional campaign season built around the Health Care Fiscal Responsibility and Fairness Act of 2011 would sweep the field. Lets get working on that.
Joe Biden is always good for a You Tube. Here we have an Israeli snub of the vice president, as US influence in the area approaches a low ebb.
bill bowen - 3/26/10