Monday, May 11, 2009

No Bitter Pills Here

It's amazing how one day's news can offer a deep mine of riches to be commented on... and it's usually because what's being “reported” isn't the real story at all... but pieces, at least, of the real story can be discerned, or confirmed, by reading whatever the “spin doctors” have come up with. Thus we have, from today's paper alone, the following, for starters:

The “medical industry” has – generously, and out of the infinite goodness of their collective hearts – “offered $2 Trillion in spending reductions over 10 years to help pay for the program” -- i.e. for President Obama's health care program – call it “Obamacare” to distinguish it from “Hillarycare”. And these spending reductions are... well, hold on. They are not actually “reductions”, as it turns out. What they are is “slower rate increases”. So right away the question arises, “slower” compared to what? Is it like the sharp businessman who marks everything up 50% so he can advertise a 30% discount and still come out ahead? Who's going to monitor, or audit, the “medical industry” regarding all of these notional rates that they, mercifully, condescended to increase less rapidly?

But here's the key sentence: “With this move, Obama picks up key private-sector allies [here comes Il Duce again] that fought former President Bill Clinton's [read: Hillary Clinton's] effort to overhaul health care.” Also key: “And it puts the private-sector groups in a good position to influence the bill Congress is writing.” Yeah -- “influence” is the word for it – the way the medical industry “influences” the FDA, for instance. So – to the grotesque, unnatural marriage of government to the stock market, banking, insurance, and automobile manufacturing you can add one to the medical industry as well. Who knew that Obama was that big on polygamy?

But wait a minute – you'll say – why didn't anyone come up with this idea the first time around... you know, back when Hillary was conducting top-secret meetings in order to plan how to take over the medical industry? Why did they fight like demons then, and are now rushing to join the Obama administration, with tongues lolling and tails wagging? What I imagine is something like why Libya decided to give up its habit of not working and playing well with others – they saw what happens when the U.S. gets teed off at someone. In this case, the medical industry has only to look upon the grisly spectacle of the banking, securities, insurance, and auto industries lying, like beached whales, along the shores of the Potomac. Did the Clintons ever make them an offer they couldn't refuse? Apparently not. Has Obama shown them, in no uncertain terms, what happens when you don't “cooperate”? Damn straight. So really, it has nothing whatsoever to do with trying to be generous and helpful – it's all about salvaging their butt. And frankly, the sooner they join the parade the better their chances will be of accomplishing that salvage operation, and staying "profitable" to boot.

Now, will the medical industry folks figure out a way to co-opt, corrupt, and subvert whatever the administration comes up with? Of course! They're just as wily, in their way, as the bankers, stockbrokers, and all the other characters who are already on the receiving end of the new “partnership” between business and government. A guy who earned straight C's in business school is still going to be smarter, on any given day, than the highest-rated bureaucrat or regulator in Washington (who was, almost invariably, a liberal-arts major). Plus, they have been in training for this moment all of their adult lives... whereas, let's admit, the Washington types really haven't. It's one thing to regulate, but it's a totally different thing to run – i.e. a business, an industry, a market, whatever. The two things involve different skill sets... different priorities... different motivations... different brain types, even. There is a business “personality”. I remember, on any number of occasions, seeing a group of people in the lobby of my (government-rented) building, or on the elevator. You could tell the government types from the business types as readily as you could tell sheep from goats (never mind which was which!). The government types were conventional, unimaginative, complacent, stodgy, anal, and obsessed with rules, regulations, and detail. They were also disinclined to “make waves” or give any sort of impression other than blandness – and their dress, grooming, and demeanor all reflected this. (You know the bit – barber-shop haircuts and off-the-rack-at-Marshall's business attire. And they spent most of their time looking down at their shoes.) The business types, on the other hand, were sharp-eyed... focused like hawks... smiling and joking like game-show hosts... constantly looking for a lead or advantage. They were sharp, creative, aggressive... and not all that concerned about rules, regulations, or the law. And man, were they ever dressed, and groomed! Salon hair, and they each had an open account and their own “advisor” at Brooks Brothers. (Frankly, they looked as out of place in that tacky building as Cary Grant would look in a Trailways station. But that's where the money was, so they had to put up with it.)

And make no mistake – the “medical industry” is a business, not just a friendly fraternal society made up of a few hundred thousand Dr. Welbys. And because of the kind of business it is – i.e., already thoroughly corrupted by its “relationship” with the government, it's also a racket. So, is this new “partnership” going to make it any less of a racket? Surely you jest. And mind you, I would be the first to say that we should not deny profits and prosperity to anyone in exchange for a job well done – if only the entire industry wasn't a government-granted monopoly, with prices that reflect... well, certainly not supply and demand, but whatever the market will bear. And with government picking up the tab – i.e. with government as the sole “market” -- is whatever the market will bear ever going to go down, or will it continue its climb into the stratosphere? I'll give you one guess. When's the last time, for example, that one of the Defense Department's notorious “no-bid”, or non-competitive, contracts actually saved the taxpayers any money? Yeah, they might save some paperwork (but no government employees will be laid off as a result, so what's the difference?)... and you might even, by sheer accident, get a better product once in a while. But as far as saving money is concerned – no way.

But, well... it can't be too bad an idea, since AARP is all for it. I've always wondered why, given how enamored they all are with socialism, the AARP membership doesn't just move, en masse, to Scandinavia or Great Britain, where everything they say they want is already firmly in place -- and, supposely, working just fine.

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