‘Obamacare’ is a bad deal for all

The headline, “Obamacare touted as good deal,” in The Advocate Nov. 27 piqued my interest.

Any reasonable person, aware that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed by a collection of jackanapes in the U.S. Senate who did not bother to read the legislation they voted for and have an incredibly long history of fiscal mismanagement, might want to know the justification for this headline.

I found it in The Associated Press author’s first sentence:

“States will receive more than $9 in federal money for every $1 they spend to cover low-income residents under President Barack Obama’s health-care law, according to a nonpartisan analysis released Monday.” No further justification was provided. That’s it: exclusive focus on benefits; no recognition of costs.

If someone came up to you on Third Street or at the Mall of Louisiana and said, “Give me $1 and I will give you more than $9 back,” would you consider that “a good deal” — or would you suspect something fraudulent afoot?

Governments do not create wealth, they merely redistribute it. From time to time, enterprising individuals try to emulate the government in this regard. Bernie Madoff and Robert Allen Stanford readily come to mind.

When the “good deals” go sour, some of the clients suffer and the perpetrators (sometimes) go to jail. Yet when politicians engage in the same behavior, we hail their efforts as “progressive” politics. I find it ironic that we look to government to protect our interests in the first instance and we persistently succumb to its blandishments in the second. Economics teaches there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but a gullible public refuses to believe it.

Every dollar spent by the federal government comes from tax revenue, borrowed funds or the printing press. Each of these avenues imposes costs (and consequences) on some segment of society, which means that one group’s “good” deal is another group’s “bad” deal. We expect politicians to hide the full costs of their policies as much as possible, but do we not deserve better from the Fourth Estate?

Perhaps more journalism schools should include economics in their curricula. If a student in Econ 101 evaluated a “deal” by extolling its benefits and ignoring its costs, he would deservedly receive a failing grade. At least it used to be that way back in my day.

Robert Hebert

economist

Baton Rouge