THE HAMPTON ROADS FREEDOM NEWS

A Publication of the Tidewater Libertarian Party

Edition 12, August 20, 2009

HouseChamber HospitalER

AMERICA'S DECIDE NOTHING CONGRESS

HEALTH CARE FOR A FREE PEOPLE
   

   

 When the United States Constitution was corrupted in the 1930’s to change the meaning of the Interstate Commerce Clause to include unlimited federal powers in the economy, it was the US Congress that was made omnipotent.  Only the Congress has the authority to control interstate commerce under the Constitution.  The powers of Congress waxed for decades after the 30’s steadily protruding into all aspects of American life.

     Proving once again that legislatures with a lot more power than necessary end up failing at the important roles only government can perform, our Congress has now withered to a body wholly focused on gamesmanship.  Half of a congressman’s time is spent on trying to maneuver federal spending in his or her district’s favor.  The other half is spent raising campaign money and spending it.

          There is simply no time left for the powers the Constitution does directly grant to Congress.

   
Congress has not exercised its obligation to declare War since World War II even though the country has waged six wars across the world since then.  The sole authorization from Congress concerning the invasion of Iraq explicitly gave the President the war-making power to use or not to use as he saw fit.   The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that launched America into the War in Vietnam did not contemplate a full-scale war.  The President committed the nation to that war largely on his own.

        
In times of peace, there is no power given to Congress by the Constitution that is more central to the nation’s long-term prosperity and international standing that the power to coin money.  History is replete with republics that destroyed their way of life through the irresponsible use of paper money.

            Long ago, Congress gave the authority to determine the nation’s money supply away.  The Federal Reserve, a private company owned by the wealthy across the world, has grown to unimagined powers.  Congress was silent  when the Federal Reserve backed by FDR and later Richard Nixon ended the dollar’s backing with gold reserves.  Just last year the Federal Reserve secretly handed $10 trillion to Wall Street for liens on junk assets.   The Fed still refuses to disclose those payments even to Congress.  Congress has taken no action in reply. 


 
Congress takes up the President’s budget, not its own, even if a President of a different party occupies the White House.  When difficult matters arise, like reducing entitlement growth or eliminating outmoded military bases or investigating the most devastating attack on the United States ever, Congress’ responsibility is delegated to specially invented commissions.  Congress is openly known to be too partisan  and venal to do its work when it matters the most.   

     The present Democratic Congress was pushed around easily by George W. Bush through to the very end of his administration.  Congress’ voice in making broad policy decisions is now a mouse squeak as much as ever.   The new President makes all important legislative initiatives and sets all priorities. 

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        The miracle of free markets has brought us the goods and services we need and desire at constantly decreasing cost (in real dollars) in nearly every private sector category EXCEPT health care.  Or at least that is how it appears.

         The perception that health care has become unaffordable has led us to the brink of abandoning capitalism itself, so it would be good to step back and look at the reality of this perception and what can be done about it, from a libertarian perspective.

        Is health care really that expensive? That depends on what health care you are talking about, today’s health care, or health care from the “good old days.”      

        Thirty years ago, the cost of health care was not a hot political issue. But thirty years ago, if your child was diagnosed with Leukemia, your doctor’s advice would have been to start trying to have another child while you were still young enough.  Chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants cost a lot more than a pat on the shoulder and a supply of narcotics to keep your dying child’s screams down to a tolerable level.   Is that really a cost increase or something new and better than what was previously available?

         Similarly, if you don’t die cheaply at 65 of a heart attack, which was pretty much an average fate for men thirty years ago, you face the likelihood of a far more expensive death of cancer or neurological deterioration in your eighties or nineties today. What is the proper price for that extra twenty to thirty years of healthy retirement?

   The point of which is that health care today, in part, costs more because it is worth more and we should not confuse that with ‘out of control cost increases’ as the advocates of socialized medicine would like us to believe. 

        The fact is that health care DELIVERY is actually pretty efficient and competitive. It is worth noting that in segments of health care not covered by insurance, like cosmetic surgery and laser eye surgery, the market works and prices are falling. It is the hidden costs and, especially, the manner in which we pay for it that makes health care so difficult to afford.

        Those hidden costs include, famously, the cost of malpractice litigation, and, more importantly, the practice of ‘defensive medicine’ and increased specialization driven by fear of litigation.

        In a sense, we already have universal health care in this country in that no one goes untreated when they really need it. That treatment often comes in the worst, and most costly, venue, the emergency room, but you can always get treated.  Under State and Federal laws, hospitals cannot refuse treatment for acute illness to a patient who is uninsured or does not have the capacity to pay. They can try to collect after the fact, but they must provide treatment. Someone has to pay for the cost of that unpaid treatment, and that someone is you, either through your insurer or through taxes, if not directly. That cost shifting is by far the largest contributor to the overhead costs of providing your medical care.


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