Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Reactionary Reform

Congress, the Administration, and pundits are, right now, all rallying about the need for reform.

Quick question:

What needs reforming?

1. Health care. Total expenditures are too high and rising too fast. And millions of Americans are uninsured, many because they cannot afford insurance.

2. Banking and Finance. Millions of Americans are at risk of losing their homes, the stock market is down, unemployment is up... all because Banking and Finance sectors of our economy are messed up and in need of reform.

A second question:
In which sectors of the American economy are most regulated by the federal government? That is, in which sectors is the federal government most heavily involved?

1. Health care. Federal regulation began with the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, then increased when opiates were placed under federal controls (during the early years, most of those prosecuted under these early "drug laws" were physicians.) The economic impact of federal involvement expanded enormously during WWII when the federal government allowed (and encouraged) employers to attract workers by providing "medical insurance" (actually, it amounted to employer-paid medical care) in lieu of higher wages (which had been frozen by the government). This company-paid medical care could be deducted by the employer as a business expense - just like wages - but employees would not have to report the medical coverage as income for the purposes of income tax - unlike wages.

2. Banking and Finance. Starting with the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. Since then, Banking and Finance have been the most regulated (and interfered-with) sectors of the American economy.

3. Transportation: highway standards, vehicle standards, control of rates. Regulation in this sector was greatly reduced during the 1980s.

Final question:
If the sectors of our economy in the most trouble - most in need of reform - are two of the three sectors in which the federal government has had the most control, why is increased federal control considered a "reform"? The heavily-regulated sector that is not in trouble is the one whose regulation was reduced 20 years ago.

If doing something causes a problem in our lives, most of us recognize that we ought to stop doing it. Must one have a Harvard Law Degree to be so dumb as to think the solution is to do MORE?

Doing more of what caused the problems in the first place is reactionary and dumb.

Of course, the "reformers" claim the problems exist because the government wasn't given enough control in the first place. Think of the physicians who bled patients to treat fevers; if the fever worsened or the patient weakened, the physician took more blood.

Same thing.

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