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What Do Detroit, the Postal Service, and Health Care Reform Have in Common?

Fewer and more expensive services, corruption, and inefficiency are the marks of liberal government-run cities, businesses, and programs.

by
J. Robert Smith

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March 15, 2010 - 12:00 am
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Before casting “yea” votes in favor of a government health care grab later this week, wavering House Democrats may want to struggle out of the left’s ideological fog for a moment and consider the sad, but instructive, tales of the U.S. Postal Service and the city of Detroit.  Both are poster boys (excuse me, poster persons) for how government can get almost anything gloriously wrong.

That the U.S. Postal Service is swimming in red ink isn’t news. The nation’s postal service, despite its first-class mail monopoly, swims in red ink a lot. The important news to Americans as they follow Washington’s three-ring health care circus is that U.S. Postmaster General Joe E. Potter wants to drop Saturday mail delivery as a cost-cutting measure.

To repeat, the postmaster general wants to reduce service in an effort to staunch red ink. That’s service as in mail delivery, the U.S. Postal Service’s bread and butter. Imagine a hamburger joint announcing to its customers that it plans to stop selling hamburgers a day or two a week to cut costs. Of course, a hamburger joint wouldn’t limit the sale of hamburgers to keep its costs down. The guy who owns the hamburger joint would get creative in his marketing and pricing to sell more hamburgers. He might trim costs operationally but not at the expense of selling as many hamburgers as he and his help could flip. Why the difference? The hamburger joint can go out of business. The U.S. Postal Service, being immune to risk, cannot.

Just like the nation’s postal service, if enacted, government-run health care will eventually have to limit access to services in an attempt — however vain — to contain costs. No? Propaganda? Actually, there’s precedent other than the postal service, and one doesn’t have to look all the way to Great Britain or even Canada to find it.

Congress and an array of special interests participate in an annual tug-of-war over Medicare and Medicaid funding. Powerful committee chairs, like the recently deposed Charlie Rangel, work with bean-counters to devise formulas aimed at curtailing or capping access to services provided by both programs. Medical providers and patient groups give plenty of pushback and win their share of battles, but not all of them.

Trying to contain Medicare and Medicaid budgets is reasonable enough, so long as cost-containment doesn’t limit access to or cap services needed by your Medicare-dependent Aunt Mimi or the Medicaid-dependent families that your church helps out.

With Medicare and Medicaid, we see rising costs and limits on services. The cost of postage goes up yet Postmaster General Potter wants to drop Saturday delivery. Go figure.

Detroit is upside-down liberal thinking gone wild — almost literally. What’s happening in the Motor City gives us a hint to what may lie ahead for government-run health care. Stick with me on this one.

Mayor Dave Bing, a former NBA standout, plans to raze areas of Detroit that are blighted or abandoned. Bing plans to replace ramshackle plots with green spaces and trees. The total area in Detroit that the mayor wishes to raze surpasses all of Youngstown, Ohio, in square miles. Mayor Bing says that razing decrepit and abandon sections of Detroit is a cost-cutting move that will save the city millions of dollars in police and fire services, among others.

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