Quote of the Day

QUOTE OF THE DAY…. Conservative economist Arthur Laffer appeared on CNN earlier, and made the kind of insightful observation we’ve come to expect from him and other opponents of health care reform.

“If you like the Post Office and the Department of Motor Vehicles and you think they’re run well, just wait till you see Medicare, Medicaid and health care done by the government.”

Regrettably, no one laughed out loud on the argument. Worse, no one bothered to note that Medicare and Medicaid are run by the government, and that Laffer’s observation was child-like foolishness.

It’s remarkable to me that the larger policy debate is so often stuck at the starting gate. At the AARP event last week, President Obama relayed this anecdote: “And I got a letter the other day from a woman; she said, ‘I don’t want government-run health care, I don’t want socialized medicine, and don’t touch my Medicare.’ And I wanted to say, well, I mean, that’s what Medicare is, is it’s a government-run health care plan that people are very happy with. But I think that we’ve been so accustomed to hearing those phrases that sometimes we can’t sort out the myth from the reality.”

Paul Krugman noted in his column last week:

At a recent town hall meeting, a man stood up and told Representative Bob Inglis to “keep your government hands off my Medicare.” The congressman, a Republican from South Carolina, tried to explain that Medicare is already a government program — but the voter, Mr. Inglis said, “wasn’t having any of it.”

It’s a funny story — but it illustrates the extent to which health reform must climb a wall of misinformation. It’s not just that many Americans don’t understand what President Obama is proposing; many people don’t understand the way American health care works right now. They don’t understand, in particular, that getting the government involved in health care wouldn’t be a radical step: the government is already deeply involved, even in private insurance. And that government involvement is the only reason our system works at all.

It’s frustrating that there’s widespread confusion, and it’s more frustrating still that we have prominent conservative figures like Arthur Laffer exacerbating the confusion on national television.

But let’s also not forget that opponents of reform have a vested interest in keeping things this way.