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Government Lies

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In the current “debate” over Health Care Reform, many claims are being made about what is and what is not included in the proposed legislation. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine that many of these assurances are clearly not true.

Why are those of us who are skeptical of these claims castigated for questioning them? Why are we demonized for looking at the facts and saying “wait a minute… this doesn’t add up.” Is it so difficult to understand why we would question these claims? The thing about these “promises” (made by a President or Congress in the heat of discussion over proposed legislation) is that if we believe them, and we pass legislation they support based on those promises and assurances, and then those promises prove to have been wrong, we still have to live with the legislation we passed. The fact that we were lied to does not give us the right to withdraw passage of the legislation. There is no “broken promise guarantee” built into legislation, but wouldn’t it be great if there were?

Government and politicians don’t have a particularly stellar track record when it comes to making claims and promises about proposed legislation. Consider the following historic examples.

Medicare: when it began in 1966, in the effort to get it passed, the House Ways and Means Committee and President Johnson predicted that it would cost a mere $12 billion (inflation-adjusted) by 1990. However, the real cost in 1990 was over $107 billion. Today’s cost is $420 billion and still climbing. That original cost forecast was well off the mark, however we still have to make up the difference. The fact that the American people were duped into passing legislation, under incorrect (or perhaps, dishonest) estimates of the costs, leaves us with absolutely no recourse.

Medicare: Section 1801 of the 1965 Medicare Act reads: “Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize any federal officer or employee to exercise any supervision or control over the practice of medicine, or the manner in which medical services are provided, or over the selection, tenure, or compensation of any officer, or employee, or any institution, agency or person providing health care services.” Even though that assurance was written IN the legislation, that’s certainly not the way the Medicare Act has been implemented. The government clearly supervises and controls the medical services provided under Medicare, by dictating what procedures are allowed and by limiting the amounts paid for specific services. People on Medicare daily live with government supervision and control over the medical services they receive.

Social Security: in the move to pass Social Security legislation, a 1936 government pamphlet clearly stated: “After the first 3 years — that is to say, beginning in 1940 — you will pay, and your employer will pay, 1.5 cents for each dollar you earn, up to $3,000 a year … beginning in 1943, you will pay 2 cents, and so will your employer, for every dollar you earn for the next 3 years. … And finally, beginning in 1949, twelve years from now, you and your employer will each pay 3 cents on each dollar you earn, up to $3,000 a year. That is the most you will ever pay.” “That is the most you will ever pay.” That was a very specific promise, but compare that to today’s reality, including Medicare, which is 7.65 cents on each dollar that you earn up to nearly $107,000, which comes to $8,185. The “that is the most you will ever pay” promise proved not to be true, but still we must live with the passage of Social Security legislation, and pay the escalating rates that come with it.

Social Security: The Social Security pamphlet closes with another statement which has proven to be false: “Beginning November 24, 1936, the United States government will set up a Social Security account for you … The checks will come to you as a right.” In actuality, there is no Social Security account containing your money. Your “contributions” go into the general Social Security fund used to make payments to current recipients. And more importantly, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on two occasions that Americans have no legal right to Social Security payments, contrary to the promise made in the effort to get Social Security passed. The promises proved not to be true, but still we must live with the passage of Social Security legislation.

Income Tax: in the effort in 1916 to ratify the 16th Amendment (which supposedly changed the Constitution to allow the government to tax our income), President Taft and Congressional supporters promised the American people that only the rich will ever pay federal income taxes. Based on the information (and promises) we had been given about this amendment, it was consequently ratified, and while the promises proved not to be true, all generations of Americans since then have had to live with the consequences of ratification.

So now we’re being promised a great number of things about proposed Health Care Reform. We won’t have to give up our current plan if we’re happy with it. This plan will not provide coverage to illegal aliens. This plan will increase competition between insurance companies, which will only lead to less expensive coverage for us all. It will in no way limit or “ration” health care. A “government option” will do nothing to eliminate private or employer based coverage. Personally, I have serious doubt about the validity of these promises. Government promises frequently (usually?) prove not to be true. They turn out to be worthless words, spoken in an effort to sway opinion and support for a pressing political objective. Unfortunately, government promises and assurances are not binding, no matter how much sincerity they appear to be delivered with. So why are we still fooled by them, and why do we still expect them to be true?

Credit for pointing out these historic examples goes to Walter E. Williams.

Written by jb

September 10, 2009 at 1:47 pm

Posted in Political thought

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