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Jun 22 2011

Rand Paul: “How much food do the elderly REALLY need, anyway?”

I paraphrase of course, but not by much.

The point of absurdity comes when you don’t realize that spending 2 billion on giving elderly food translates into well more than 2 billion in medical care savings. Yes, it’s well possible to save money by spending money on preventive care, and it’s even possible to figure out mathematically exactly where returns start to diminish. For example, doing yearly maintenance on your car saves you from having to buy a new car when it rots to pieces and you total it on the highway. And in the medical reality of the States, it probably also saves you from going bankrupt when you’re taken to the emergency room.

All you have to do is damn well put your ideology aside and look at the numbers. Can you do that, Rand? I’m guessing not, given your namesake and your political bent.

20 comments

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  1. 1
    Rich Wilson

    It’s actually not his namesake. It’s short for Randy. But you can certainly see why people make the assumption.

  2. 2
    Daniel M.

    Your argument is an argument for “external benefits” for spending. The bottom line, Jason, is that there ISN’T a savings when the government continues to spend for supposed “moral” reasons.

    The government was the problem in the first place and their over involvement has caused confusion in medicine and the rest of all of these issues.

    There would be more private charity available if the government stayed out of it.

    But then again, you’re a BIG government guy trying to used supposed moral arguments to support that view.

  3. 3
    Stephanie Z

    Daniel, those are all nifty assertions. That’s all they are, however. There’s a reason you’re not providing any backup for them.

  4. 4
    Rich Wilson

    It occurs to me there are two issues.

    a) should government be involved in the health of citizens. Libertarians tend to say ‘no’.

    b) presuming government is involved in the health of citizens, where should funds be targeted. The answer to that is clearly (I hope to everyone) ‘the sooner the better’. That is, a “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” (Benjamin Franklin).

  5. 5
    Jason Thibeault

    How does “there would be more private charity available if the government stayed out of it” make any sense when the government isn’t in it now, and private charity isn’t doing a damn thing?

    How does it make any sense to spend tons more on emergency care and nursing homes when simply feeding and palliative care would save you a bundle?

    How do you think any argument of yours against more medical care would fare when made to someone who is the beneficiary of single-payer (that payer being the government) healthcare, in a country where comparative healthcare is a quarter to a sixth as expensive per capita?

    You DO realize I’m Canadian, right?

  6. 6
    George W.

    uhhh, Jason,
    I think Daniel is actually arguing that the Government be absent on both ends of the equation, prevention and cure.

    These are the same people who decry our atheist “survival of the fittest” worldview.
    Priceless.

  7. 7
    Daniel M.

    Actually, George is right and I apologize my response wasn’t more substantial. I actually have a lot to say about this but I know we’ll be discussing it for quite some time should we decide to talk about it.

    George makes the incorrect assumption that Government is somehow the superhero for all of our problems when he suggests that the only other option is “survival of the fittest.” Government involvement in private healthcare is what got us into this mess and their “solution” is more government regulation. This philosophy that the Government should be taking care of everybody is baseless.

    Most liberal thinkers decry that our “free-market healthcare system” failed us and that is why Government regulation and involvement was necessary. Indeed, that “free-market” system they hate so much wasn’t free-market at all, it was the complete opposite. The regulatory apparatus has created intense and even false demand for insurance with decreased supply. The term “free market” shouldn’t exist together with Healthcare in America, simply because it isn’t any more.

    People used to pay small fee’s for doctor visits in the past and even when there was private insurance companies it was for serious events. If the free market were actually allowed to determine the prices, health insurance would be affordable to everybody and Doctors would get paid accordingly. There was a large number of doctors who did pro bono work for people who couldn’t pay — another thing that decreased to non-existence when the shift to third-party payers happened.

  8. 8
    George W.

    Daniel,
    Here is the thing: Governments are not superheroes. I agree. What Governments are is the manifestation of the possibilities of pluralism. They are the power of a million voices being put into the hands of a few. They are the vehicle of ultimate human potential.

    As a society, we get to decide how to wield that power. There is nothing perfect about this: it is fraught with missed opportunity and abuse. Without resigning ourselves to it’s shortcomings, we turn our backs on the infinite possibilities of its potential.

    Libertarians want you to believe that if it wasn’t for the restrictions of government, people would organize together to help society flourish. People would look out for their brother, people would value community, to each according to their need.
    Guess what, Daniel? We have that organization already. An organization that harnesses the power of pluralism to strengthen communities and promote positive change. One that has the ability to make sure that those who cannot afford to see a doctor get that opportunity. Every one of them, not just those with benevolent doctors. There is an organization that does every single thing that libertarians are sure will be done by the benevolence of the wealthy. We call it government.

    Libertarianism is as flawed and Utopian as the communism of last century. It assumes that the system usurps human frailty. It is a pipe dream that is sold to the masses by those who want the power to forgo their debt and hoard their profits.

  9. 9
    Daniel M.

    George,

    That was a pleasant way to put it, but I’m afraid they are utterly unfounded. Libertarianism isn’t a political framework that aims at achieving utopia. It also isn’t anarchy. It is based on the individual in society. It respects no group over another and places no special rights in the hands of a few or in groups.

    As a Libertarian, I don’t believe in completely eradicating Government (that would be anarchism), rather we believe in the limited power of Government and most importantly – a true free market. We don’t give up rights for the sake of being controlled. It is a fallacy that total Government control is the only way to be organized. It goes against everything our Founding Fathers believed to assume that the large Government is the better. They framed this country with a clean slate and have been fighting against Central Government authority from day one of this country’s independence.

    All of the ills in our country right now, both economically and socially are precisely because of Government expansion. Our Healthcare system is in shambles because of Government. Canada’s, Jason’s beloved country, healthcare is about to implode. More Government spending on countless programs isn’t free. It places burdens on businesses and individuals. Liberty is about our freedom as individuals to simply be. We don’t believe in constant Government involvement in tinkering with supply and demand. We don’t believe in Government stepping on the toes of sovereign businesses and individuals.

    It is precisely because Government has over expanded and tried to solve the worlds problems that people believe that the common good of individuals couldn’t solve some of the most basic problems. Governments set up arbitrary thresholds for things they want to give away for “free” to groups of people that “need” the help. The problem is none of it is free. I pay for it, you pay for it, and so does the rest of the country. It is no surprise in places like San Francisco where they spend countless dollars on homeless initiatives that they have the highest rate (growing higher every year) of homeless individuals than any city in the country. THE GOVERNMENT IS NOT THE ANSWER. It never was.

    The system most BIG GOVERNMENT people promote is a philosophical misunderstanding about the role of the Government. It is no surprise that Austrian economists predicted the downfall of America because of its ever growing Keynesian ideologies that have propagated more government expansion and has made every one worse off. What’s worse is that people elected President Obama on the pretense that he would be better than Bush and fix everything Bush “ruined.” Is it really a surprise that he only amplified everything Bush did by bail outs and more government expansion? It is the ridiculous concept that Government is our Nanny that has caused such idiocy in America that we are willing to put candidates like McCain and Obama up for office.

  10. 10
    George W.

    I’m not suggesting, Daniel, that Libertarianism is trying to achieve Utopia (unless, I suppose, you are a millionaire); what I am saying is that as with communism, libertarianism depends on the utopian notion that if we could only achieve Political Ideal X then all the reasons we impel people to promote social goals will be unnecessary because the system is “self-correcting”. It is dishonest and naive.

    Every political system favors one group over another. That is a hard and cold fact. Libertarians believe that because their system is entirely meritocratic that this means that no one was favored because those that benefit earn their benefit. If you think that your system is any different, then you are soapboxing dogma.

    Not one person in this conversation is going to advocate “total Government control”- and trying to create a dichotomy where you either have laissez-faire or totalitarianism is not going to be helpful to this conversation. The government has a very important place in achieving balance and equity in society, but certainly any ultimately workable framework will need to balance economic reality with human intervention. The founding fathers of America wrote the Constitution to be a progressive document, not an assault against “Big Government”. The negative rights afforded in the Constitution were designed to enshrine areas where Government ought not to tread, yet the battle cry was not “No Taxation!” but “No Taxation without representation!”

    I agree with your assessment of healthcare in America, inasmuch as I think that trying to offer universal healthcare while maintaining the illusion of a private delivery system is a giant clusterfuck. Obama failed America not by offering public intervention into healthcare, but by not offering enough.
    If you honestly believe Canada’s healthcare system is on the verge of implosion then you obviously do not live or receive care in Canada. Fox News has lied to you. I live there. We have the third lowest debt to GDP ratio in the Western World, we have the fourth lowest debt per capita ratio. Every country that surpasses us in those two key economic barometers are countries that offer MORE universal healthcare than we do. I’d be interested to see by what metric you feel that public delivery in Canada is verging on untenable.
    We offer more services to our citizens at a near identical (and in some brackets lower) adjusted income tax rate to America.
    Look it up.

  11. 11
    Jason Thibeault

    My understanding, Daniel, of the role of government is as a legislative body filled with representatives of the general populace granted with the power to protect said populace from the predations of large corporations, other countries, and tasked with the creation of vital infrastructure like roads, police, firefighters and medicine to allow the general populace to carry out its primary task of producing for the GNP of the country.

    If you don’t like the rules your country sets in exchange for your citizenship, you’re free to move to another country whose rules are better suited to your tastes. Try Somalia. I hear they’re about as libertarian as you can get.

  12. 12
    Daniel M.

    Sorry for the delayed reply.

    First, to George: I’m not going to get into a Canada vs. USA match here – that’s useless as I’m sure you already know. Also, the GDP to debt ratio isn’t always the best indication of the countries economic health, but you are correct in your calculations. The problem is multifaceted. Our citizens, unlike Canada’s, have to support a war machine abroad that spends countless amounts of money that we don’t have. Beyond that, our “war against poverty” is a complete and utter failure from the governments standpoint.

    Jason’s comment about Somalia (although I know he’s joking) is an indication of a) you don’t understand libertarianism b) you think it is synonymous with anarchy or c) your just trying to make a joke.

    BTW, I don’t watch Fox news. I’ve had plenty of Canadian friends who come down hear to avoid waiting lists for surgeries that were more urgent than the Canadian doctors suggested. I got the imploding comment from Dr. Anne Doig, President of CMA.

    Jason,

    Libertarians believe in a free-market healthcare system where the it can run freely without the Government tinkering with supply and demand in every facet of healthcare. Innovation would move more rapidly, medicine would progress further, and there would be rapid growth in the area of technology within this industry. If the free-market healthcare system was allowed, the price for healthcare would be accessible to everybody, even people who didn’t have money at all.

    We of course don’t support the monopoly of large corporations or “corporatism” as it were. The problem with our rules, Jason, is that there are too many of them and they are bankrupting our economy. I’d love to hear your reasoning behind our suffering economy, that would shed tremendous light on how you think things REALLY work.

  13. 13
    George W.

    Daniel,
    I am well aware of economic barometers and how they are imperfect, as well as the fact that the U.S. is facing numerous financial burdens that do not encumber other nations. I was giving those statistics mainly to counter your assertion that our public delivery system is untenable (and I assume this is mostly financial)and not to get into a cross-border pissing match.
    I am certain that those two statistics make it clear that economically at least, Canada is not stretching its resources on Government subsidized services.
    I read the Dr. Doig interview where your comment came and she seems to be talking about longer term viability under our current framework as opposed to “imminent implosion” and the “about to implode” pullquote is used rhetorically(as part of an imagined conversation between Canadian and U.S. doctors) as opposed to factually when read in context.

  14. 14
    Jason Thibeault

    Sorry Daniel et al, I was referring to this video with the Somalia crack, but didn’t link it like I was going to. Silly me. Short answer: yes, it’s a joke. No, not by much. There are certain classes of services that cannot or will not be provided by the largesse of self-interested for-profit groups, and those services are best provided by government. Most first-world nations feel that health care is one of those services, and America is the only hold-out. Removing the middle-men (the insurance companies) from the equation ensures that no vultures profiteer off either the provision or the “rationing” of health care (keep in mind that all health care schemes ration care — yours does so by making sure that only those who can pay receive health care). And as George points out, while our health care system needs reforms, these reforms are needed to make our system even more progressive and to provide it with more funds. They are not reforms needed to turn our health care system into something closer to what America has — where your hospitals pay four to six times as much for the same basic care that ours provide.

    In Canada, we still have charity drives everywhere to help provide hospitals with equipment that they need either to provide services they don’t already do (e.g., getting an MRI machine for a local clinic), or to maintain aging equipment to prevent potential lapses in service. All this despite the fact that no person employing those services has to pay for their use, and all that despite the fact that Canadians take home 82% of their gross pay while Americans take home 81.9%. All this despite the fact that no person goes bankrupt in Canada for getting into a car accident or having a baby.

    If you are as compassionate as I assume by virtue of your being a Christian, I don’t see why you find any of this morally wrong. It’s not that I’m specifically making a moral argument for “Big Government”, but that I’m making an argument that government needs to be the right size to be able to handle certain things that private corporations and charities can’t do without also bankrupting your citizens. Unless you can come up with a scheme where these corporations are honestly willing to provide free health care for everyone, whether emergency or preventative, then having the government step in to ensure the health of its country’s people is the best solution. And I don’t believe it’s an unreasonable expectation to have of a government in exchange for your taxes.

  15. 15
    Dan J

    Libertarian philosophy is fine, but it never works in practice because of one thing: greed. Given the opportunity to provide assistance by charity (rather than by legislation), many of the very rich would give. Many others would not, however, because it’s always “Me, me, me.”

    Screw ‘em. I’ll take my Socialism any day over the greedy bastards like Paul.

  16. 16
    Daniel M.

    Dan J,

    Of course, socialism works great because once a central government takes care of everything, greed is extricated from society!

    Please. Greed will always exist. Libertarian philosophy ensures that 1) people have a right to life and property and the government protects that 2) people are free to make decisions so long as it doesn’t effect rule one 3) if people cannot sustain themselves, they must rely on family, community, church, and private charity. This protects us from perpetual expansion of Government. 4) allow the free market to work 5) ensure protection from totalitarian government by having fire arms available 6) avoid socialism at all costs, even if it means a revolution.

    Of course, those are my little 6 points. :)

  17. 17
    George W.

    Daniel,
    The kind of democratic socialism that is advocated by Jason, Dan, and myself is nothing like the state socialism you are describing.
    Colloquial American socialism is to state socialism what Michelle Bachman is to Libertarianism. Not at all alike.

    Democratic socialism in terms of Canadian and American policy doesn’t even meet the strictest definition of “Democratic Socialism”. They are both to greater and lesser extents balanced economies.
    Libertarianism is like reverse Marxism. It is an ideological position that is philosophically extreme and practically untenable. It is a system of serfs and lords.

    Libertarianism is based on the assumption that the only thing worth valuing is unencumbered freedom, and this seems entirely noble. In a functioning economy freedom is inexorably tied to disposable capital, and by refusing to regulate capital whatsoever, you essentially make freedom a commodity to be bought, sold and donated.
    Libertarianism is, in effect, acting positively to destroy the very thing that it claims to cherish.

  18. 18
    Daniel M.

    George, I appreciate your review on Libertarianism, but it is worth suggesting that you are absolutely wrong about it. I suppose you’d have to dive into Austrian economics to understand how an economy would function with property rights, rule of law, and enforcement of contracts in place. I’d like for you to explain how it is “philosophically extreme,” because it seems like your trying to make that statement objective.

    Liberty is not something so far-fetched as to be virtually useless as a goal to be reached. Libertarians do not suggest that we shouldn’t regulate capital all together, but that it shouldn’t be regulated by a few powerful private banks (i.e the Federal Reserve). The Federal Reserve is one of the most evil institutions in America and I am opposed to a central bank all together. So if your speaking about regulating capital in THAT way, then yes, I oppose it 100%.

    The funny thing is, Jasons comment about Somalia may come back to bite him. There are people who’ve closely watched Somalia’s condition and surprisingly enough, without a central authority, there is progress being made. Albeit, the progress is slow and Libertarians don’t necessarily support total anarchy — but there are great examples of how the free market is functioning over there without the role of central government.

    A good example is property protection. BBC spoke about Somalia and how business men have to hire private security to protect their assets. Of course, BBC placed this in a negative tone underlining the idea that a centralized government wouldn’t let that happen, but when you think about it, there’s no real difference. In fact, it would cost more to be taxed to have protection for your property than it does for these men to hire private security firms protect their assets. They pay the private firms for security and get security (all for the wonderful price of $.99! jk!). This is the free market working.

    Now, I’m not advocating that Somalia is the best of the class case study for Libertarianism, I am simply offering a different perspective to prove a point.

  19. 19
    Daniel M.

    Found a good paper on the subject: http://www.independent.org/pdf/working_papers/64_somalia.pdf

  20. 20
    Fabiola Oppel

    I have been gone for a while, but now I remember why I used to love this website. Thanks, I will try and check back more frequently. How frequently do you update your website?

  1. 21
    Why are Republicans and media pundits really trying to eviscerate Social Security? « Lousy Canuck

    [...] Rand Paul: “How much food do the elderly REALLY need, anyway?” [...]

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