Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Saving? Not really.

Maine has been (unfortunately) designated a battleground state in the 2004 election. I say unfortunate because it means we get assaulted visually by 40 million campaign ads between late 2003 up to Election Day this November.

The latest Kerry ad has him talking about saving over $350 billion dollars in health care costs by streamlining the system and eliminating redundancies and paperwork.

Now, this would be a very good thing. This is something I have wanted to have happen for quite some time. It was heartening to hear him talk on it, as it kept the gorge from rising to my mouth as it always does when I realize I am voting for him this November in a Machiavellian maneuver to purge the theo-cons from the GOP, create gridlock in DC (at this point, no government is good government), block a Hillary run until 2012 and get a moderate GOP ticket on board for the next election.

Then I looked at the rest of his plan, and the gorge came rushing back. Indeed, he wants to save $350 billion through streamlining. The problem is he wants to spend $900 billion in new funds for health care. So he's really spending an extra $550 billion dollars.

And that's only if he actually reduces the overhead. This has been a goal since the early 90s, and no one has been able to do it. So Kerry's savings are potential, while his spending is actual. So the potential cost of Kerry's plan lies between $550 and $900 billion, dwarfing Bush's $500+ billion Medicare boondoggle/giveaway.

It looks like a key part of this is allowing people at the age of 55 to buy into Medicare. Are you kidding? So now Kerry wants to spend all this money on allowing the fastest growing portion of our citizenry to buy into a program to which Bush has just attached a money-draining drug benefit.

So now not only is this $900 billion in spending, but it will inflate the long-term cost of the Bush giveaway. So now the costs are easily reaching over $1 trillion dollars.

So the obvious question is: how will he pay for it? Of course, it's by repealing the tax cut to anyone making over $150,000 per year. I question whether that will cover all of his plan, but set that aside. The major point is this: the deficit will not go down at all. In fact, it will probably increase.

Why? Because right now the current deficit is a combination of lowering taxes and raising spending. If Kerry repealed those tax increases and took in more cash, he'd begin to balance the budget. But now he is going to spend that money. And not only spend it, but do so on a program that will only grow over time and cost even more.

So the deficit, whick Kerry rightfully slams Bush over, wouldn't go down at all under Kerry. It would most likely increase, since he wouldn't apply increased tax revenues towards deficit reduction, but large social programs whose cost would only escalate over the years.

The only reason I am not running for the Caymans right now is that I'm pretty confident that the GOP will hold onto the House and Senate. And although they spend money like drunk sailors on leave in Bangkok, socialized health care scares the crap out of them. So Kerry's plan won't go anywhere.

The one piece that I wish would, though, is the plan to allow children into Medicare. Kids shouldn't suffer because of bad decisions by their parents or the unfortunate fact they are poor and cannot afford care. And by investing this money in young children and keeping them healthy, not only will they grow into healthy adults, they will be productive adults. So here the short-term cash loss is a long-term gain, as they will become net contributors to the tax system instead of net receivers.

Four years of Kerry. I'm gambling he won't tank the country. But as someone else said, Carter didn't do it. Here's hoping Kerry can equal that molehill of achievement.

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