Wolves In Sheep's Clothing

by digby

Ron Paul made a compelling case against corporatism in the health care system today on Rick Sanchez's show, rightly pointing out that the insurance companies are getting a good deal from the government with this mandate in exchange for some regulations. He claimed that it is government managed care that has ratcheted up costs:

SANCHEZ: Congressman Paul, you're a big free market guy. And -- and I think a lot of folks respect you for that. But do you not believe that some of these big insurance companies have gotten too powerful in what they can do?

PAUL: Well, yes.This is a consequence of government-managed care. The corporations get involved. The managed health care gets involved. The insurance companies get involved, the drug companies.

Who do you think pushed through prescription drug programs? It was the -- it was the drug companies. So, I agree that corporations are out of control. But it's -- it's not because it's a market function. There's been no market function. It's been a government-mandated function. The government controls this.

So, right now, do you think this administration is going to take on the drug companies and insurance companies? That's not going to happen.

We have a type of corporatism that runs in this world and in this country, and it moves toward a fascist system, because government and big business go -- get in bed together. And it's not free markets at all. The free market that I know about existed a long time ago, and things weren't nearly as bad as they are today, let me tell you.

SANCHEZ: That's -- that's interesting, because you're -- it's a double whammy that you're proposing. You're saying, look, the corporations are screwed up because they have gotten too greedy, and the people who have helped them get screwed up is the government, who have really been their allies in this.

PAUL: That's absolutely right. And they still are. They still are.
Provocative, interesting stuff, right? Unfortunately they ran out of time before Paul could really talk about what he thought should be done aside from the usual opening up insurance across state lines and tort reform. The good news is that last Tuesday both he and his son Rand (also a physician, who is running for the Senate in Kentucky) were on The Situation Room discussing their views on health care reform and they delved a little bit deeper:

RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY SENATE CANDIDATE: ...I think that if you talk to voters in Kentucky, they'll ask, how are we going to spend a trillion dollars on health care and yet it's not going to add anything to the debt?

Nobody here believes that. I don't think many people in the country believe that...

BLITZER: But that's what the Congressional Budget Office...

RAND PAUL: -- a trillion dollar program...

BLITZER: -- the Congressional Budget Office came up with that assessment, that they -- there are certain ways you can cut some of the growth, in Medicare, for example, among other things, and that way you'll have basically no increase in the debt.

You don't believe in the CBO...

RAND PAUL: Well, the argument is...

BLITZER: You don't believe in the CBO numbers?

RAND PAUL: Well, the argument is that they're going to get a lot of money out of waste and fraud.

But my question to them is show me the government program that's ever come in under budget. Look at the Medicare prescription drug plan. CBO predicted that it would cost $400 billion. Within a year, they revised their estimates to say it was going to cost a trillion.

So I think notoriously, government underestimates the cost of programs. And when something is free, people tend to over use it and it costs a lot more than they projected.

BLITZER: Congressman, do you trust the CBO?

RON PAUL: Well, I trust them that they're trying to do their best. But I don't think anybody can project the future, because you don't know what the revenues will be, you don't know what the interest rates are going to be, you don't know how much abuse there's going to be and who -- who lines up at the trough.

So, no, nobody is -- nobody can do that. And that's why government always fails once they get involved in doing these things and the market works, because the market irons these things out. The people who are inefficient get shoved aside or they have to declare their bankruptcy or they have to revamp. But when government does it, they have nobody to report to and all they do is go back and tax the people even more and that's why it fails.

BLITZER: So if you were in the Senate right now -- and you want to be the Republican candidate from Kentucky, Rand Paul, in the United States Senate. You want to get that Republican nomination.

You would reject the president's effort to come up with some sort of health care solution, is that what you're saying?

RAND PAUL: Well, what I would say is I would reject what the president is proposing. But I would also say that we, as Republicans, need to articulate a vision for what we would do. I personally am worried about the expense. And people come up to me everyday and are worried about the expense. I'm worried about pre-existing conditions. I'm worried about if Wolf Blitzer grills me on these questions and I have a heart attack today but I survive that my rates could triple.

So I'm concerned about the price. But my question is, is it that we need more government involvement or less?

Over half of what I do as a physician is already paid for by government. And the problem is, is that when government sets the price for health care, the patient quits caring about the price and there is no price competition.

BLITZER: All right.

RAND PAUL: You need to have price competition to make health care work.

When they talk about competition, they believe the problem is that patients aren't forced to comparison shop for heart bypasses, which raises costs. The government needs to stay completely out of it and let the market between patients and doctors work. If a few parasites people have to be sacrificed to make things more efficient,so be it. Otherwise we will have fascism.

The two Pauls are very slick characters. They have an appealing way of speaking about the ruling elites, which I'm sure gets a lot of young socially liberal populists at hello. But it's very important to understand what their philosophy really is and where it leads. Unsurprisingly, it leads to "every man for himself" --- and consequently enables the "corporate" side of the corporatist program to operate unfettered by pesky regulations or taxes. Of course if you want to put all your faith in the invisible hand to manage those wealthy interests on your behalf, then this sounds good. It sounds like useful idiocy to me.

There is no doubt that we have a corporatist system at work in Washington. Thirty years of conservative rule takes its toll --- this is, after all, how they planned it. But let's not allow ourselves to get confused by shills like Paul --- or allow young people who are already prone to see the fun side of libertarianism miss the other side of the coin. Little Randian Paulites almost always turn into Big Business Wingnuts once they start making a paycheck, at which point their concerns about "corporatism" tend to morph into concerns about government spending money on people who aren't wonderful producers like they are.

Update: Here's a nice succinct essay by Ron Paul on health care reform, which proves that he is a con artist. An excerpt:

"Universal Healthcare never quite works out the way the people are led to believe before implementing it. Citizens in countries with nationalized healthcare never would have accepted this system had they known upfront about the rationing of care and the long lines.

... Having to subject our health to this bureaucratic insanity and mismanagement is possibly the biggest danger we face. The great irony is that in turning the good of healthcare into a right, your life and liberty are put in jeopardy.

Instead of further removing healthcare from the market, we should return to a true free market in healthcare, one that empowers individuals, not bureaucrats, with control of healthcare dollars. My bill HR 1495 the Comprehensive Healthcare Reform Act provides tax credits and medical savings accounts designed to do just that."

Paul is obviously a fairly typical Republican liar but even on the merits, this argument comes down to the fundamental difference between modern American liberalism and right wing libertarianism. Liberalism seeks to protect civil liberties and pursue social justice while libertarianism seeks to protect civil liberties and preserve individual wealth. There is some common ground, to be sure. But the differences lead to starkly different beliefs about the role of government.

Update II:You can see the difference between right and left libertarianism as well by comparing the differences between Paul (who is also, incidentally, a fake libertarian) and left libertarian Chomsky. Their critiques of the problems are the same, but their solution is exactly opposite: Paul wants to leave health care entirely to the market and Chomsky is for a single payer system.