Steve G.

Yesterday’s Townhall Meeting With Ben Cardin: Part II

In Activism, Health, Libertarian, Live-blogging, Media, Nanny State on August 12, 2009 at 5:01 pm

The first four questions were selected from among the blue cards submitted earlier in the night, and were read by the administrator in the green tie.

The first question, read at 7:34, asked whether “illegal” immigrants would be included in the healthcare system, to which Mr. Cardin responded that they would not.

The second question, read at 7:35, concerned small business.  Cardin responded by claiming deep concern for small business, and noted that he was on a committee dealing with small business for this exact reason.

At 7:36, the question read asked how these new proposals did not constitute socialised healthcare.  Not surprisingly, Mr. Cardin tried to assure us that it was not; the audience, however, was not buying it.

Finally, at 7:37, the question read asked how these new proposals could possibly save us money.  More on money, later.

At 7:38, the floor was finally opened to direct questions from the audience, unfiltered by the man in the green tie.  A few minutes were taken up in setting up the microphones, which the administrators wanted to set up no closer to the stage than aisle eight.  Thus, the lines that had quickly formed had to keep stepping back.  I shan’t list all of the questions asked, nor Cardin’s response to each—I will, however, list the more interesting or popular ones.

At 7:43, a gentleman asked about tort reform, and why it has not been included in any of the proposals.  This question received huge applause from the audience.  When the applause dwindled, he added, “Is it because most members of Congress are lawyers?”

A gentleman at 7:45 asked whether Congress would be included in any plans that are adopted, to which Cardin said they would.

At 7:47, an audience member asked Mr. Cardin to cite the specific clause, section, and article of the Constitution that grants to the federal state the authority to get itself involved in matters of health.  This question, to the best of my memory, received a standing ovation.  A woman behind me yelled to Cardin, “I have a copy [of the U.S. Constitution] here if you want to see it!” but I am sure she was heard only by those in her general vicinity, given the loud nature of the applause.

Around 7:53, I had the opportunity to ask my question.  I had been working on it all day.  My original draft was three-and-a-half note-card pages long, and included discussion of anarchism.  And had the majority in the audience appeared in favour of the statist policy suggestions, I probably would have risked reading the whole thing.  But because 90% of the audience was already opposed to the “healthcare” schemes Congress is brewing, I figured it would be more reasonable to present a truncated question.

And thus I began by stating my affiliation with the College Libertarians of Towson, which I’m happy to say received some moderate applause.

Following my affiliation statement, I began:  “Harry Browne often said, ‘Government is good at one thing:  It knows how to break your legs, hand you crutches, and say, “See, if it weren’t for the government, you wouldn’t be able to walk!”’”  This comment received both laughter and applause, so I waited until the applause ended before continuing.  “According to Dr. Mary Ruwart, best-selling author of Healing Our World in An Age of Aggression, we can cut the cost of healthcare by 80% by getting government out of healthcare.  Why is it—”  I had to stop speaking, for at this point I again received applause. I continued, “Why is it, then, that we are moving in the direction of bigger government rather than smaller government?”

After I finished my question, I headed to my seat and listened to Mr. Cardin’s reply.  He essentially said that he didn’t see the 80% figure as realistic.

Had I instead asked him my longer question, it would have listed ways in which healthcare really would become cheaper without government.  For one thing, if we have complete free trade with Canada (and all other countries), then we can freely purchase drugs from these other countries, and thus we can shop around for better deals than we might otherwise be able to get.  For another, without the government-created patent system which gives an unnatural monopoly to big business, then drug companies would have to compete on a truly free market, and they would not be able to charge customers exorbitant costs.  Without the evil FDA, which costs tens of thousand (if not hundreds of thousands) of lives every year, drug companies would not have to go through years and years of bureaucratic red tape, and could instead submit their drugs to private companies similiar to Underwriters Laboratories for testing.  But because drugs cannot be sold in the U.S. without FDA approval, and because it costs so much to get this government monopoly to approve any drug, the costs are passed along to the consumers who thus suffer.  We can also cut costs by alleviating doctors of their onerous government paperwork if we were to turn Medicare and Medicaid into private charities.  And if we were to eliminate government mandates on insurance companies, then insurance companies could tailor their plans to fit what customers want, instead of forcing us to conform to whatever it is that the politicians and bureaucrats think is best for us.

The elimination of government involvement in healthcare would have very liberating effects for consumers of healthcare.  But Cardin doesn’t see the savings as realistic.

At 7:59, I noticed that Mr. Cardin once again looked tiffed.  At no point did he cuss at his audience or stamp his foot, but he made it perfectly clear that he was in stark disagreement with the majority of his audience.

Someone, pointing out that Congress rarely reads the bills it signs, asked if Mr. Cardin would promise to read the bill prior to voting for it.  He promised he would, although I have to wonder how fully he aimed to keep this promise.  Would he read it verbatim himself, or would he get his aids to read it and then summarise it for him?

A person at 8:09 asked about interstate commerce in health insurance, asking why Congress hasn’t made it legal for consumers to shop around.

Another person, at 8:11, pointed out that there were ultimately not very many slides employed by Mr. Cardin, and then asked why it is therefore necessary to have 1,000-page bills.  This question definitely received applause, but the person was not done with questions.  “Can you name even one thing that the private sector was doing that the government took over and made more efficient?” this person asked, and received a standing ovation.  Mr. Cardin ignored the first half of the question and focused on the second half for his response.  I do not at this time recall his responses, but I do recall that he received laughs.

The gentleman who spoke at 8:26 said that if the Founders were there, they would be horrified, and would be looking for ways to get government out of healthcare, to which he received a standing ovation.  He continued by asking, “So why is it that instead, we’re handing over healthcare to a monopoly?: the government!”

The last person to speak pointed out that government rationing of healthcare seemed more similar to some sort of Hitlerian scheme than something we ought to champion as American.  Finally, the event ended at 8:30.

—Alexander S. Peak

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  1. There has been a great deal of talk in the media — print, radio, tv — just about everywhere about the behavior and tactics being employed by various organizations. There have been comments about well behaved and polite citizenry attending meetings to voice their opinions. There have been stories of those who haven’t conducted themselves well. I suspect these stories will go on throughout the month of August and perhaps beyond. For one, I hope they do go on well beyond.

    I think both sides have taken essentially the same tactics. Labeling each other with invectives, giving their supporters a ‘playbook’, and attempting to use the media to their advantage. All of this is okay. It is okay because in America we have the right to freedom of speech, assembly and freedom of the press. These are rights that thousands have given their lives to protect. The debate on health care which consumes nearly a fifth of the national economy and involves everyone is something that we should openly debate and understand the intended and unintended consequences of before we change an entire system.

    It is important to provide better access, bend the cost curve so that health care is affordable (and not just through shifting costs by taxing) as well as sustainable, and improving the quality of the care delivered.

    We are a country that leads the world in health care innovation. We have to zealously protect that aspect. No other country in the world is positioned to take our place if we take our eye off this important work.

    But above all democracy demands that citizens get involved and voice their opinions. To follow the health care debate and other important facts about he health care system visit http://www.ilovebenefits.wordpress.com

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