John Andrist: Pondering Our Thirst for Government


Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses an audience at The Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, June 15, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Aluka Berry

Rarely does a news event so grip our nation as does the great medical debate, and it is no surprise the Republicans found no resolution.

That is because we have an economic problem that simply has no political solution.

Most Democrats really want a single payer, government health system. Republicans would really prefer a totally private system.

What we have both in Obama care and the replacement plan that failed to muster party consensus is a combination. The truth is there is no affordable plan possible. The cost is simply unaffordable.

As a result it now looks as if Obamacare will continue, and that isn’t all bad. Either it will work or it will crash completely. Time will tell.

One way or another health care will continue to be rationed. Take your pick: A private third payer system some of us cannot afford; a public “take care of everyone” system the government can’t afford.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]One way or another health care will continue to be rationed. Take your pick: A private third payer system some of us cannot afford; a public “take care of everyone” system the government can’t afford.[/mks_pullquote]

The public system works for many countries today, perhaps most.

But most countries seem to have governments that have found a way to run a postal service, operate rail passenger service, and have the ability to let the good guys in and keep the bad guys out.

Government in our country has a record of failure in just about every business they try to operate. Tax collection? Farm assistance programs? Worst of all it can’t pay its bills, and faces a good possibility of bankruptcy.

Is there any business they can efficiently operate? I’m not aware of it.

When we were kids medicine didn’t include nursing home care, birth control, abortion, the whole array of diagnostic tools with names that end in “scans”, designer drugs, open heart and other complex surgeries.

New technologies are wonderful, but our human obsession with living as close as possible to forever has driven the cost beyond availability for all of us.

The longer we live the more it costs to keep us alive.

So it will likely be continued by some form of rationing — unaffordable to some, unavailable to some, more difficult to access, or some other limiting factor we won’t like.

I had a friend in Saskatchewan who needed open heart surgery. It required a wait of about eight months, and he died during the wait. That’s another rather unique form of rationing.

This is an awful subject.

 Daddy, I need it!

I can still remember the plea of my children, when something they desperately wanted was rebuffed.

It’s going on today with the Trump budget that proposes to prioritize military and infrastructure spending over a raft of programs that have become sacred cows to many or most of us.

“But daddy, we need the Endowment for the Arts, we need public broadcasting, we need more public health, we need meals on wheels.”

I certainly agree with them. I can’t imagine life without them. I hope Congress rebuffs some of the president’s proposals.

But the larger question is, must taxpayers pay the bills for these entities?

I donate a thousand dollars a year to public broadcasting. It’s that important to me, and I can afford it. If it gets opted out of federal spending by Washington I will likely increase my gift to help make up the balance.

It is largely the more affluent who have this need in their lives for the National Endowment for the Arts. I suspect there are arts endowment supporters who might do the same.

Meals on wheels fills an important niche. I think it will continue, with or without federal support.

The Fargo community where I live deals as best as it can with refugees and homeless people with little or no federal support.

We do have so many nice federally-supported programs that if they must, will find a way. And if they can’t, maybe they shouldn’t.

After all, you and I are mostly making it on our own, and the last time our federal government was paying all of its bills without borrowing is something like 20 years ago.

When my children were young I remember telling them, America is a most wonderful place. Chances are you can have anything you really want — but that doesn’t mean you can have everything you want.