Saturday, July 18, 2009

Let the children pay!

I’ve always assumed that Wall Street Journal readers are more economically literate than the general population. So I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I read in Letters to the Editor the other day a paragraph beginning: ‘If the government doesn't help with the runaway costs of health care, who will?’

The government can’t create wealth, but it can most certainly shift it around. Asking ‘the government’ to pay for our health insurance can only mean one of three things:

Let my rich neighbor pay!

Let my prudent neighbor pay!

Let my grandkids pay!

No doubt part of the bill will go to each of these disfavored classes: another surcharge on ‘the rich’ – another shifting of costs from couch potatoes to joggers, smokers to non-smokers, gluttons to the abstemious – and an increase in the national debt. Given the desire of the president and the Congress for re-election, however, I fear that the third option will look most attractive. Already the 2009 deficit amounts to 13 percent of our gross national product (every dollar earned by every individual and business in the United States). That’s more than twice what it was at any time during the Cold War, more than twice what it was at the height of the Great Depression, higher indeed than at any time except during the first and second World Wars. Blue skies! – Dan Ford

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