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May 12, 2009
Time, regrettably, for some politics. In case anyone’s wondering, my take on yesterday’s health care announcement by the Obama administration is perfectly stated here. I could not agree more.
In other words, I see the “historic announcement” as nothing more than political theater. Everyone got together, held hands, and pledged to voluntarily do some not-all-that-painful things to reduce costs, some of which (cost savings through better record keeping?) have already been underway for years. Even so, the chances of all of these being followed through are still low. And even if they were, the amount of money being saved is only a small fraction of what would be needed to pay for the administration’s stated health care goals.
None of this would bother me all that much, under normal circumstances. A lot of what goes on in Washington, at least in front of the cameras, is an elaborately choreographed dance. It’s related to real political dealing in the same way that a synchronized swimming exhibition compares to the 1956 Olympic water polo match between the Hungarians and the Soviet Union. But (like Megan McArdle in the Atlantic link above), I worry that the administration will now pretend that these savings are real. When they turn out to be (gasp!) insufficient, a crisis will be declared (you should never waste one, you know), and more persuasive measures will be used. You know, just as in the recent Chrysler “bailout”, a term I can only put in quotes. (Mickey Kaus perfectly sums up my feelings about that one, in that link and here).
Why should I care? After all, my industry should be more or less in the clear, since prescription drug spending is only about ten per cent of the nation’s health care costs, right? Well, my worry is that we’re a very visible (and often disliked) ten per cent, a nail that sticks up and that may well get hammered down pour encourager les autres. I hope I'm wrong. But I think that the Chrysler deal was just a curtain-raiser for an even bigger one in the same style for General Motors, and I hope I'm wrong about that one, too.
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