Contrary to some people’s opinion, the government is not the problem, and drowning it in the bathtub would be drowning ourselves. Individuals simply cannot do what government does.
Here’s an example. Assume that every individual in the country will be responsible for her individual share of the nation’s roadways. So every person looks out the front window and declares that she will manage the street in front of her house. But the neighbor on the other side of the street says he claimed that part first. As millions of individuals try to sort out their personal responsibility, some bright person comes up with the idea of a computerized list showing the 50-foot piece of pavement each individual pays for. But then someone objects because they don’t want their pavement to be in some obscure part of the next county. Eventually that gets sorted out. Then certain people see that their 50-feet need to be resurfaced. They call a contractor, who arrives, blocks off the street, resurfaces 50 feet of it, and charges a small fortune. The next day another contractor does 50 feet two doors down, but now there are three different road surfaces within 150 feet.
How much longer would this farce have to go on?
Obviously, government should do all those things
that are more efficiently done by government.
How much longer would this farce have to go on before we would have to admit that the plan is vastly too expensive and inefficient? Obviously, the way to do this is exactly the way we do it now, with government planning and management.
We could go through dozens of the things that government does and imagine what they would be like if each citizen were individually responsible, and we would find that virtually all of them would be far better performed by the government. Individuals should manage their own lives, but government should do all those things that are more efficiently done by government. Duh!
Most things that individuals would do better they already do, so it isn’t necessary to remove them from government hands. Most things that government does better, the government already does. There may be exceptions in either case, but if there are, those who think so should propose a debate, rather than making ridiculous statements about drowning us in the bathtub.
The idea of individuals being responsible for everything is ludicrous. Even stone age societies hunted as a group. There are thousands of things better done by government that are useful to everyone. And business has an obvious responsibility to pay its share because it uses things like transportation networks, communications, fire and safety, and so on.
Owners, did your business pay its share,
or are you a freeloader
letting the rest of us pay for what you use?
It’s very obvious that the conservative vision of YOYO (You’re On Your Own) is no pathway to equality or a vibrant democracy. And it is still very much true that big business did not build any of the infrastructure and services on which they regularly depend. Those were built by our tax dollars. Owners, did your business pay its share of taxes for the dozens of tax-supported services you use for free? Or are you a freeloader hiding the money someplace offshore and letting the rest of us pay for what you use?
Let me fast-forward the discussion. Conservatives claim health care and savings for old age should be everyone’s individual responsibility. But it is people with enough money who say this, not the full time workers who simply don’t make enough money to do it.
Saving for old age is impossible for millions of people because, although they work full time at jobs that are essential for the national functioning, they are grossly underpaid. Minimum wage workers cannot even afford the least expensive rent anywhere in the country. Buying food and clothing requires having more than one job. Health insurance and savings are literally impossible because those alone cost more than the worker’s total wages.
Millions work full time for wages so poor
they can’t afford rent anyplace in the country,
let alone to save for old age and buy health insurance.
But if they were fairly paid, they would have enough money to save for retirement. That could be done by the individual, but human nature being what it is, there must be laws that require individuals to save adequate amounts. The best way to do that is via a mandatory government program. Turns out that’s not radically different from Social Security, which is an excellent program that prevents extreme poverty in old age for many millions. No, it’s not going broke, and yes, they accounted for the boomers a long time ago.
Health care is another animal entirely. Costs have been rising faster than inflation for a long time. There are three primary reasons for this. (1) Administrative costs for insurance waste close to one dollar of every three, and provide absolutely no health care; (2) Advances in medicine are often costly. Even MRI, which has become routine, costs over $1,000 each time it is used. New meds are often pricey; (3) Medical education is enormously expensive, and new graduates begin practice with debt in the hundreds of thousands, so high pay is mandatory. There is also the factor of corporate greed, which jacks up the price everywhere.
A good program of national health care,
like the best in the world,
solves all three problems at once.
A good program of national health care, like those in the countries regularly cited as the best in the world, solves all three problems at once. And no, such programs are not at all “Socialist”. They are social common sense, cost-effective, and very popular. Their cost is half of what we pay for a plan that fails to cover millions of citizens. Government has the power to do things like: limit the corporate profit from drugs; get the best price by buying in large quantities; research treatments to find out which work best and are cost-effective; require doctors to be salaried, thus unable to boost their own pay by ordering excessive tests and procedures; pay for doctor training, thus controlling the cost and boosting the number of people who enter the profession, particularly among minority populations; establish independent panels for malpractice cases, which would be decided on terms of national norms, thus eliminating most costly jury trials and grossly excessive awards, and much more.
The idea of YOYO is ill suited for the American democracy. It makes inequality worse, and our inequality is already the worst among OECD nations.