Arnold Kling  

Keith Hennessey is Bitter

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He writes,

The President is attempting to claim credit for [health care] savings that (a) do not yet exist, (b) are not backed up by any specific changes in industry practices or government policies, and (c) are related to him only in that the groups announced they were adopting his quantitative goal. For all three of these reasons, the President's claim that these savings will materialize is wildly unrealistic, and it is absurd to attach a per-family savings number to it. This is like the Mayor claiming credit for the 40 additional wins now, and telling fans that he will be responsible for the team winning the pennant. No one should take these claims seriously.

The serious issue in health care is that we cannot all have unlimited access to medical services without having to pay for them. Obama the wonk recognizes this. But Obama the politician knows that you cannot sell health care reform by telling people it means getting fewer medical procedures. So he offers lollipops instead.

As Hennessey points out, the whole point of today's announcement is to show political muscle, so that the Republicans just roll over. I see conservatives and Republicans as in an impossible position (even before all the health care lobbyists lined up on Obama's side). Imagine you are a parent, and you have been having an issue with your kid about junk food and snacking between meals. Next thing you know, your mother is over for a visit, offering the kid a lollipop. At this point, you can forget the anti-junk-food campaign. You have nothing but down side if you try to get between your kid and grandma's lollipop.

Obama's health care plan is positioned like grandma's lollipop. You cannot stop it. You'll just have to deal with the consequences down the road.

By the way, if you think I'm the only economist who is cynical about the political process, read William L. Davis and Bob Figgins in Econ Journal Watch.

Comments and Sharing

COMMENTS (10 to date)
hacs writes:

(3) and (13) are emblematic to me given the presumed rights to freedom of speech and freedom of press in a free competitive market ...

Yancey Ward writes:

Fake lollipops at that.

Snark writes:

You have nothing but down side if you try to get between your kid and grandma's lollipop.

I work for an organization that used to require each member to take turns refilling a large candy jar when it ran out. The jar would have to be refilled weekly. When it was my turn, I filled the jar and taped a very graphic image of a dental patient with advanced periodontitus to the front of the jar with a caption that read “The Cost of Free Candy.” I don't know why the image was never removed, but eventually everyone lost interest and the requirement went away. Admittedly anecdotal, but my heart tells me true.

The point is that there can be an upside if Republicans and conservatives can somehow tape a graphic image to the jar of unlimited access that Obama is trying to peddle.

Political Observer writes:

For some time I have resisted the idea of linking the tactics of Obama to the other well known facist dictators of the past century. However as I have continued to read more history of the period and have followed the current developments in our country the links have become far more evident than I had hoped.

Obama is practicing the "big lie" propaganda as effectively demonstrated by Hitler. Make no mistake, Obama despite his calm and reassuring manner is lying. He knows what he is doing and has made a deliberate choice to falisfy the facts. He is doing so in the great tradition of Saul Alinsky who stated in his Rules for Radicals that the end justifies the means. As Alinsky pointed out - the radical is at war with the current status and in this war there are no rules - just victory.

At this point, rational arguements are of no value. Instead the only means to attack this line of reasoning is to take it to absurd levels. If we can have all of this for less cost, why stop there. Why can't we have everything we want for as much as we want without any cost? When the argument is extended to all other areas of the economy and all reaches of peoples lives than maybe they can begin to recognize the lie that is being put forth on what government can actually do when it takes on the role of sole provider of our health.

Bill Woolsey writes:

The health care industry is already using the government approach describing its finances. Spending cuts are smaller increases than planned and they are aggregated over a 10 year period to get an impressive number. (Tax cuts and tax increases, of course, are treated in the same manner.)

Troy Camplin writes:

I heard someone on a talk show the other night say, when asked why nobody from the free market camp was involved in Obama's health care deform, that there were people from the health care and pharmaceutical industries there, that corporations were represented. Except that the presence of corporations doesn't mean the free market was represented at all. Probably quite the contrary. If a corporation can get an advantage, they will take it. That isn't pro-market at all, but pro-government-granted-privilege. Worse, the talk show host didn't even correct him. If our "friends" on the right don't know the difference between corporate socialism and the free market, then what good are they?

8 writes:

There are solutions, such as Montana's new gun law.

The issue for Republicans is that old people love Medicare and federal dollars have federal strings. Unless conservatives can convince older Americans that liberty is more valuable than free health care, nothing will ever change.

Matt C writes:

I'm a little surprised by this, as I'm pretty sure the important people want more money in the health care system rather than less. Why would Obama lead out talking about cost savings?

My guess is that Obama is trying to frame the conversation so that everyone looks to the private sector to be responsible for reducing health care costs. Basically, pre-empting the people who are likely to complain about the cost of whatever new programs the Obama administration comes up with.

This is planning ahead further than I usually give politicians credit for, so I'm not very confident in this guess. Got to be a reason, though.

PMB writes:

I disagree. What you have to do is explain that the lollipop is poison.

Daughter of Liberty writes:

This is a very interesting discussion. I am not an economist. However, in an attempt to educate myself about econ related issues, I have been reading the Mises book on Socialism found in the library on this site. Based on what I have read so far, I am starting to be very concerned. Like the Political Observer, I have resisted linking Obama and socialism. I have also struggled to understand why there is the defacto assumption that central control of banks, healthcare, and the car industry is a good thing and why those that raise objections are dismissed as being selfish. I had understood that this administration was looking for evidence based solutions. Mises addresses all of these issues in a way I find enlightening and disconcerting at the same time.

@PMB--The lollipop is the opium of the people.

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