Via McQ (who had posted on the topic previously), I see that Wisconsin is planning to introduce universal statewide health care at an initially estimated cost of about $15.2 Billion per year:
Democrats who run the Wisconsin Senate have dropped the Washington pretense of incremental health-care reform and moved directly to passing a plan to insure every resident under the age of 65 in the state. And, wow, is “free” health care expensive. The plan would cost an estimated $15.2 billion, or $3 billion more than the state currently collects in all income, sales and corporate income taxes. It represents an average of $510 a month in higher taxes for every Wisconsin worker.
In the spirit of Justice Brandeis’ famous dictum designating States as “laboratories of democracy,” John Stossel says “go for it, Wisconsin!” Or as McQ summarizes, Stossel’s “theory is that perhaps their experience will finally demonstrate for all that the ’socialist approach’ isn’t the way to go.” Both Stossel and McQ outline the government meddling (in the form of insurance mandates) that led to Wisconsin’s decision, the regressive nature of the taxes that will be assessed to pay for the program, as well as the probable reasons that it will eventually fail. I think that they are both spot on with their analyses.
However, both conclude that the eventual failure of this system may provide yet more evidence of the misery that is socialism, and thus turn American’s off supporting that ideology:
“That’s why America needs ‘Healthy Wisconsin.’ The fall of the Soviet Union deprived us of the biggest example of how socialism works. We need laboratories of failure to demonstrate what socialism is like. All we have now is Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, the U.S. Post Office, and state motor-vehicle departments.
It’s not enough. Wisconsin can show the other 49 states what ‘universal’ coverage is like.
I feel bad for the people in Wisconsin. They already suffer from little job creation, and the Packers aren’t winning, but it’s better to experiment with one state than all of America.”
“So I’m with Stossel. Go for it Wisconsin. Run this thing. Let’s see how it works out, because we’re all interested to see if, in fact, TANSTAAFL is something to finally be tossed in the bone-yard of conventional wisdom. Just as we’ve seen others try to repeal the laws of economics, I’m interested to see how well Wisconsin does in that regard.
However, if we are lucky enough to have it turn out as most expect it will, perhaps it will provide the basis for avoiding what I believe would be a disastrous attempt by the federal government to take the Wisconsin plan national.”
My quibble with their conclusion is that there is no way in Hades that Congress, and particularly Democrats in Congress, and even more particularly Democrats from Wisconsin, will let the system fail on its own. Accepting for the moment that “Healthy Wisconsin” will suffer all the rather predictable problems noted by Stossel and McQ (which, in fact, I do), the state does not live in a bubble. If the federal government was willing to bail out Chrysler and S&L banks, its certainly not going to sit idly by while an entire State goes down the tubes. Should it? Absolutely. Will it? Absolutely not.
In addition to the practical problems with allowing a State to be crushed under the weight of its own legislative stupidity, there are also the strategic interests in play who won’t want to see anything resembling universal health care reduced to a pitiful mess that is plain for all to see. Any Senator or Representative who has universal health coverage on their agenda will be quite game to funnel money into the Wisconsin system, either through Medicare/Medicaid, SCHIP, or some euphonious block grant. So too will the representatives of States (such as Massachusetts) that are either planning to, or in the midst of, implementing their own version of such a program. And then, of course, there are the usual suspects such as Big Labor who have been pushing for universal coverage for quite some time now.
With all of those interests aligned in support of Wisconsin’s experiment, I’d be shocked if were actually allowed to fail. Most likely, no such failure will ever be acknowledged, and the burden of paying for it will slowly be shifted to the American taxpayers as a whole. If the assumed failure is admitted at all, it will be used by this same array of forces to agitate for nationwide universal health care, under the argument (akin to that employed by gun control advocates) that States who don’t put the same safeguards in place for their own populations, are merely free-riding off of Wisconsin’s superior system.
So, instead of saying “go for it, Wisconsin!” I would instead encourage the purveyors of this plan to explicitly waive any federal assistance, now or in the future, to make that waiver binding on all future actors for the State, and to make it applicable to either requests for or offers of assistance. In other words, I would say to Wisconsin “put YOUR money where your mouth is, and put it in writing.”
Technorati Tags: universal health care, Wisconsin, “Healthy Wisconsin”, John Stossel, McQ, economics, rent seeking, public choice theory, laboratories for democracy
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