Fred Barnes has written an aptly titled article for the April 5-12 issue of The Weekly Standard: “Economics for Dummies.” It’s about “Nancy Pelosi’s cockamamie ideas.” Nancy does have a lot of those, but the dummy in this case is Fred Barnes.
(BTW, this may be the first and last time I’m going to say anything about Nancy Pelosi that isn’t critical of her.)
The dummy part is where Barnes says this:
So far as I know, Pelosi is the first person in the universe to regard the lack of portability of health insurance as a deathblow to entrepreneurship. This idea is, to put it mildly, farfetched. Is there evidence that budding entrepreneurs have been deterred by the fear of losing health insurance for a spell? Don’t bet on it. Are future Michael Dells or Ted Turners or Pierre Omidyars suppressing their entrepreneurial juices because their doctor visits aren’t covered? Please.
Pelosi, as is the habit of Democrats, cited an uncheckable and probably imaginary case. “If they had a child with diabetes who was bipolar … they would be job-locked,” she insisted. Maybe so. But a job-locked entrepreneur? It’s surely overkill to revolutionize our entire health care system for the sake of that rare bird. Besides, there’s COBRA, the federal law that permits an employee who quits to stay insured for months.
Barnes is way out of touch. Pelosi is NOT the first person in the universe to regard the lack of portability of health insurance as a hindrance to entrepreneurship. (“Hindrance” is a fairer way of characterizing her words than “deathblow.”) I’m not the first, either. All Barnes would have to do is get out and talk to people who work for large organizations that provide health benefits. Talk to them about their plans and aspirations. He would find no end of people who stay where they are because of health insurance, instead of striking out for something new and different, sometimes to start their own business — just like Nancy Pelosi describes.
If there could be any saving grace to nationalized health insurance, it would be in making health insurance more portable. Unfortunately, all the negatives about the Democrats’ way of going about it are going to cancel out any vestige of the benefits of the portability that Pelosi talks about. But she is absolutely correct in linking “entrepreneurial power” with greater portability in health insurance. If Democrats had concentrated on that and had really meant it, they could have devised a national plan that would have harnessed the power of markets to give us portability and lower costs, too, instead of creating a bigger and more fearsome monster than the one we have now.
Well, Democrats aren’t going to do anything to harness the power of markets or anything that will give people more choices. Their game is power. They have a psychological and political need for dependency, which means they’re not really going to do anything to encourage entrepreneurship, any more than Stalin tried to encourage the kulaks. But we should give Nancy Pelosi credit for at least talking a better game than the Barnes-type Republicans.
Barnes asked, “Are future Michael Dells or Ted Turners or Pierre Omidyars suppressing their entrepreneurial juices because their doctor visits aren’t covered? Please.”
The answer is yes, some future entrepreneurs will suppress their entrepreneurial juices due to the fear of losing health insurance for a spell. Some people will not risk dropping their employer-paid insurance and then incurring family difficulties that will constitute pre-existing conditions if they try to get it back in a few years. And not all entrepreneurs are people with the resources of Michael Dell or Ted Turner, nor should they have to be. Nor should we think only of those high-profile people when we think of entrepreneurs. We should also think of Joe Plumber and other people who don’t travel in Barnes’ rarified atmosphere.
And what’s even more amazing (and stupid) is that Fred Barnes thinks the health care debate is about having doctor visits covered. If it was just a matter of doctor visits, health care would not be 17 percent of our economy and growing. It makes you wonder if Barnes was hiding under a rock the past few decades while these things have been discussed. I’ll put his remark in the same category as Hillary Clinton’s, “I can’t be responsible for every undercapitalized business.”
Barnes refers to COBRA. But COBRA lasts only a relatively short time. We should expect entrepreneurs to be able to think a little further down the road than that. They have to be long-term planners who think ahead to more than the next paycheck, or they’re not going to be entrepreneurs. COBRA is one of those Democrat-devised things that was intended to keep people in dependence on the good graces of the government, as a way to avoid putting market forces to work to create truly affordable, portable, and accessible health care. It’s kind of strange for Barnes to be praising one of the Democrats’ Rube Goldberg devices in defense of another.
If the reason that Republicans pushed their better ideas only half-heartedly is because they were thinking like Fred Barnes, we can put a large share of the blame for the monstrosity that was just passed on Republicans. Such a head-in-the-sand attitude is going to drive people to desperate solutions — even solutions that will make matters worse. Which is what got enacted just last month.
Barnes is a dummy.