Thursday, March 15, 2007

Somebody get me a nurse!


On Air America Radio, Thom Hartman says "Libertarians are conservatives who want to smoke dope and get laid." In other words, don't make any laws curtailing, well, MY freedoms. As for yours, whatever.

The Orange County Register fancies itself Libertarian. For them, it means Grover Norquist's "Government so small you could drown it in a bathtub." Except for the INS. Oh, and the military. Except the INS should not bother illegals who are actually working, because they're lining the pockets of some Republican donor. Oops, I mean Libertarian donor.

Last week they had this gem about the Walter Reed Hospital scandal:
Virtually every American and certainly every elected official believes that the government owes those wounded in war the best possible care.


Now, how can you disagree with that. Except as a prima facie argument it fails. Clearly elected officials don't think the wounded are owed the best possible care. Or else they'd give it to them. Review the original report at the Washington Post here.

So what's the solution? Yep, you guessed it:
The short answer is that these are government institutions that face the perverse incentives every government institution faces. With no effective competition and without the discipline of a profit-and-loss mechanism that could lead to inefficient institutions being forced to shut down, the tendency, despite the efforts of many within the system, is to lapse into mediocrity and worse.

Get that? Did you catch the "profit-and-loss" in there? Here it comes, folks: privitization. Market forces. Capitalism. Yep, that's the answer to everything. And now, to blame the bloggersphere:
The blog world, or at least the left side of it, has jumped on what some call privatization efforts at the hospital as the main culprit. That is disingenuous at best. A few services at Walter Reed are contracted out, but there's no effort to change the basic character of the government-military institution. It is that character that largely explains the long-term problems and widespread conditions that have come to light.

The remarkable thing is that despite the repeatedly documented shortcomings of military and veterans' hospitals, which are the closest thing to fully socialized medicine we have in this country, a significant sector of the public believes that more pervasively socialized health care would be appropriate in what is now the semiprivate sector.

No, silly. What the public believes is that money should be spent, not on tax breaks for Donald Trump but for soldiers' care. The system works as well as the money allocated to it. But as medical expenses for the returning military increase, the funds destined for medical aid are being cut.

Here's the problem with the "free market":

There is no incentive to deliver a quality product.

There is only incentive to make profits.

And especially when given government contracts, the only incentive is to maximize profit. To say that privatization is the answer is to be a solution in search of a problem. As a rebuttal, I offer the US Postal Service. Yes, it screws up sometimes, but consider this: I can toss an envelope affixed with a $.39 stamp, and 2 days later it will be in my friend's mailbox in New York. For the price of a can of Coke I can send a hand-written message across the country.

Now that's efficient.