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Subject: qotd: Wealth redistribution for health care
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2012 10:08:02 -0700
From: Don McCanne <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Quote-of-the-Day <email@example.com>
The New York Times
September 28, 2012
Redistribution of Wealth in America
By Uwe E. Reinhardt
A recent article in The Washington Post and an audio clip accompanying
it on the Web featured an excerpt from a speech in 1998 by Barack Obama,
then an Illinois state senator, at Loyola University Chicago.
In that speech he remarked, "I actually believe in redistribution, at
least at a certain level, to make sure that everybody's got a shot."
The article then quotes Mitt Romney: "I know there are some who believe
that if you simply take from some and give to others then we'll all be
better off. It's known as redistribution. It's never been a
characteristic of America."
Aside from hard-core libertarians, who view the sanctity of justly
begotten private property as the overarching social value and any form
of coerced redistribution as unjust, how many Americans on the left and
right of the political spectrum would disagree with Mr. Obama's very
general and cautiously phrased statement?
In fact, I wonder whether even Governor Romney actually disagrees with
that general statement, aside from some dispute over "the certain level"
at which redistribution takes place. After all, he has promised elderly
voters to protect the highly redistributive Medicare program, which
would remain highly redistributive, or become more so, under proposals
by his running mate, Representative Paul D. Ryan, for restructuring
The fact is that redistributive government policy — mainly through
benefits-in-kind programs, agricultural policy and the like — has been
very much a characteristic of American life, just as it has been in
every economically developed nation, albeit at different levels.
At issue between the two political camps in this election season, then,
is not redistribution per se, which is as American as apple pie. Rather,
at issue is the "certain level" to which that redistribution is to be
pushed. An honest and thoughtful debate on that would certainly be
useful at this time. It would be useful at any time.
To be respectful to voters, such a debate should proceed at a level
concrete enough to allow voters — or at least researchers and news
organizations — to estimate fairly precisely how different families
would fare under the different visions of that "certain level."
It is the minimum voters ought to expect from political candidates.
NYT Reader Comments:
San Juan Capistrano, CA
Even though Mitt Romney derides redistribution, he too actually supports
it. "Romneycare" was prompted by an opportunity to use a larger share of
federal Medicaid funds if they could design a program that would comply
with federal requirements. Although Medicaid is a program with
redistribution to the poor, in this instance it was also a
redistribution to Massachusetts from the taxpayers of all other states,
since Massachusetts would have had to forgo the funds had they not acted.
Romney is now taking pride in that transfer, but at the same time he
rejects "Obamacare," even though it is a program which ensures a similar
redistribution as he supported in Massachusetts, but with a greater
degree of fairness in the redistribution between states.
We could dismiss this as the silliness typical of electoral politics,
except that the politicians carry through with policy once they are in
control. That has consequences. We have the most expensive health care
system of all nations, yet also one of the most inequitable, partly
because of our failure to adopt policies that would ensure the fairest
redistribution through an efficient health care financing system.
The most efficient system that eventually would receive the support of
the majority of U.S. citizens would be an improved Medicare program that
served everyone. That would be the right way to redistribute our wealth
to the benefit of our health, if only we citizens had the political
wisdom to demand it.