- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 29, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The 10-year deficit will be $2 trillion higher than earlier predicted, says the Obama administration, even as it proceeds with the kind of reckless spending objectives that have already given us plans for a $221,000 condom study at Indiana University.

To be sure, that investigation on a Midwest campus will cost zilch next to a total decadelong deficit now put at $9 trillion and probably at least another trillion higher than that, but it has symbolic importance. As reported by the New York Post, it’s a grant awarded by the National Institutes of Health out of a stimulus package that was supposed to be generating thousands of jobs while helping to lift us out of a recession.

The recession does seem to be going away, at least temporarily, but the $800 billion “stimulus” has likely had little to do with it, according to a number of central bankers and other economists who recently met at Jackson, Wyo. Their view, says a story in the Wall Street Journal, is that the spending has been too slow in arriving and that the package was poorly crafted.

Well, yeah, to say the least. Its 600-plus pages were a mishmash of vote-buying gifts to constituents, dreamy, unrealistic pet projects that could be more burden than boon to the economy and an overall sloppiness of a kind that generates condom studies and was virtually necessitated by an urgent deadline that has proved utterly meaningless in getting very much done quickly.

The economists at the Wyoming session were also plenty worried about the long-term deficits. One of them, Alan Auerbach of the University of California at Berkeley, is quoted as saying they could cause “serious economic disruptions.” As you might guess, Republican members of Congress have been using even tougher language. One wrote in Politico about growing debt throwing the “economy and future generations into the abyss of stagnant growth and national decline” and said things would become far worse if Democrats enacted an Obama health care plan estimated by nonpartisan sources to cost $1 trillion over the next 10 years.

Even if you want to make the case that Republicans themselves contributed to this deficit mess — and they did — that particular Republican, Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, happens to be on target. There’s a lot of nonsense about the health care package, such as a New York Times editorial saying a nation as rich as ours simply has to make sure everyone has health insurance. But our nation will cease to be rich if it continues to accumulate obligations it has no way of paying for — such as the tens of trillions of dollars owed Medicare in coming years — and it is a demonstrated fallacy that just any style of coerced universal insurance translates into health care preferable to what we have now or could have by employing shrewd analysis.

“We all agree that the system is imploding,” the new president of the Canadian Medical Association recently said of her country’s single-payer, universal, government-run health care, and that’s just one tiny piece of the testimony available on health care dysfunctions north of our border.

The Obama plan’s many problems have been well-rehearsed by now, from its oversized ambitions, to its careless destruction of much of what’s in place, to the damage it will do to small businesses, to how it might stymie innovation and much more. There have been responses, but many are either clearly false or unconvincing, just as it is unconvincing when administration spokesmen question the judgment of the Congressional Budget Office that the plan will vastly increase health costs.

In the end, because it derives from the same kind of ideological hubris and political irresponsibility as the stimulus package, this plan will likely do about as much to improve health care as the condom study at Indiana will do to lower the unemployment rate, and we simply cannot afford it.

Jay Ambrose is former Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard News Service.

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