- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 19, 2009

It’s said that Bill Clinton lied about sex and that George W. Bush lied us into war. Here is a new one, and not the least bit paranoid like the second: President Obama and friends are busily lying us into a health care catastrophe.

Maybe you don’t like the word “lie,” because, after all, there are ways of telling the truth while misleading people, as when Mr. Obama stood before Congress and the nation in September, telling us in those revival-meeting tones of his that the foremost health plan of the moment would cost only - only? - $900 billion for its first 10 years. Neglectfully, he did not mention a gimmick at work here.

Look hard at this thing, andmaybe you’ll notice what the guardians of our destiny actually cooked up. For the first few years, you gather in revenue without spending what’s promised, and that skews what a normal 10-year period would look like under a hopelessly complicated Senate bill. Go to the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and he’ll tell you that the normal 10-year cost will be $2.5 trillion. And others think even this estimate from Sen. Max S. Baucus, Montana Democrat, is about a half trillion short of the final cost.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who thinks a failure to inflict this monstrosity on the American people is equivalent to a 19th-century failure to end slavery prior to the Civil War, momentarily wanted to make it even more expensive by extending Medicare to people as young as 55, meaning that a program already heading for bankruptcy would have gotten there in maybe a week. OK, maybe longer, but saying it would take a week to wreak that particular piece of havoc is not much more a stretch than what the Obama administration is now saying - that the current plan overall will diminish medical spending.

Do these people really think there are no economists in the country to show how silly this is, no health experts to counter this nonsense with truth? Do they think we are all boobs? Well, maybe so, and maybe enough of us are that they will get their way and build up such a mountain of debt that this land will be miserable for years.

Then there’s the tale told repeatedly by Mr. Obama that 47 million Americans do not have health insurance, which is technically true, but hugely misleading if the intention is to suggest there are that many American citizens who cannot obtain health insurance.

As is explained in congressional testimony and by any number of analysts, millions of these are people who could buy it if they wanted it but don’t want it. Millions more are illegal immigrants. Millions are people who are qualified for a government program but have never signed up. Those who don’t have access to insurance come to maybe 10 million, and that’s important to know. If you exaggerate and misrepresent a problem, you get an exaggerated, incorrect answer for fixing it.

Although Mr. Obama has lately used a 30 million figure instead, he is still exaggerating, just as he has exaggerated by saying repeatedly how people live longer in some countries that keep costs lower than ours. As other writers such as Steve Chapman have noted, the quality of our treatment for serous illness here is as good as you will find in this world, and our longevity is tops among industrialized nations when you leave out homicides and auto accidents in making the calculation.

Exercise prudence, listen to people talking about shifting tax breaks from employers to individuals over time, give bottom-up, voluntary reforms a chance, and you can fix most of what’s wrong with our system without huge expense. Insist on extensive government controls and the kind of new entitlement the Democrats want, and you will likely have something that makes today’s model seem paradisiacal. And that’s no lie.

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

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