This article first appeared in The American Thinker on September 11, 2009
Is the US Government bankrupt?
Before we continue to debate the merits of any Obama health care plan, we need to consider a few important facts.
By any rational means, we must consider the present condition of our Government's financial situation. An honest look at those finances would have a prudent person conclude that our government is tacitly bankrupt. Our unfunded liabilities far exceed our assets. Adding up all unfunded liabilities for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Government sponsored pension funds gives us a figure slightly in excess of $100 TRILLION dollars. That's TRILLION with a ‘T'. The Federal budget deficit for fiscal 2009 will be approximately $1.84 TRILLION. That's TRILLION with a ‘T'. Over the next ten years the projected deficit will be $9 TRILLION +. That's $100,000,000,000,000.00 -- TRILLION with a ‘T'. Of course, this projected deficit comes from the Congressional Budget Office and has to be considered a conservative estimate. In 1966 the feds estimated that the cost of the Medicare program by 1990 would be approximately $9 billion dollars/year; the actual cost was $67 billion dollars/year.
Several other government programs over the years have proven to be equally underestimated in funding. Amtrak has a yearly budget shortfall of $1 billion dollars. The Postal Service, although deemed a private entity with its pension fund provided by the government, has a $3 billion dollar deficit. And the list goes on and on...
It's time for Americans to realize that the good times have stopped rolling. There may be no return to a robust economy. Our future can take only one of two possible paths; either we accept our unsustainable debt and reduce government spending and taxation accordingly with a structured refinancing of the Federal debt, or face the prospect of a chaotic bankruptcy with a massive collapse of the dollar on the world market followed by a severely reduced standard of living. If it's any indication of the way government has approached past difficulties, I'm betting on the chaotic. Stagflation on a large scale may well make the 1970's look like high times. Job losses that will occur may well make the 1930's look like a picnic.
This brings us to the question of healthcare. Why would anyone with a sound mind want to entrust a bloated, fiscally irresponsible government with the job of restructuring 17% of our economy? The Feds have proven, time and again, that trusting them to run a program based on sound fiscal policy is nearly impossible. Besides restructuring our national debt, we should take the only logical course with respect to healthcare and that would be to reform the private sector by the following means. 1) Allow individuals to purchase insurance across state lines. Congress has the authority through the Commerce Clause to make this happen. Insurance companies may not like this approach since it engenders competition, which will effectively lower the cost of premiums. Isn't this what a free market is supposed to do -- promote competition? 2) Remove as many mandates as possible that now exist at the Federal and State levels. There are, currently, over 2000 mandates for various procedures that insurance companies must comply with. In vitro Fertilization, Erectile Dysfunction, Hair Transplants and other specialized procedures should be left to individuals to decide what they might actually need. Removing these barriers and allowing individuals to design their own policies will be a strong motivator in reducing the costs of an insurance premium. Many other excellent ideas for reform of healthcare, too numerous to mention here, can be found at CAHI.org, The Council for Affordable Health Insurance.
James Madison expresses the government role with respect to its citizens clearly in Federalist 51:
If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.
The first part of Madison's quote has been achieved, but obligations concerning government restraint with respect to the populace remain unfulfilled. Was there ever a time when self-control was a mark of our elected officials? I believe there was, but, sadly, we've given in to our own impulse for self-gratification and our representatives have been only too happy to indulge us.
Time is short. Either accept responsibility for our own lives and reduce the role of government in our most important affairs, or a chaotic future with citizen against citizen and neighbor against neighbor will be our fate. Our founders and many great leaders warned us of the dangers of unlimited government; let us be wise enough to heed their words now more than ever.