PJ Media

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

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.

Mayor Bing’s plan sounds good. Green spaces and trees are attractive, right? Certainly miles of grass and trees are better than dilapidated houses and crumbling factories. And better not to pay for police patrols or put out arson fires in abandoned areas.  The trouble is grass and trees don’t allow a city to thrive like small businesses or nice neighborhoods full of intact families do.  Grass and trees don’t contribute money to the arts or culture. And grass and trees don’t pay taxes.

Detroit’s decline has nothing to do with natural causes. No earthquake or flood or any act of God has destroyed this once mighty Midwest industrial titan. The auto industry has certainly faltered, but the city’s decline has more to do with many decades of liberal governance. Detroit is a sump of corruption, high taxes, and tangles of red tape. Public schools are mostly warehouses for poor minority kids (provided those kids even show up for school). Crime, principally drug-fueled, is endemic. The middle classes — mostly white, but not all — have long voted with their feet, seeking safety and stability in Detroit’s suburbs or by scooting off to Sun Belt locations.

Consider the universals in government failure. The order will vary from failure to failure, but here goes: 1) corruption; 2) waste and fraud; 3) ballooning costs, higher taxes, and mountains of red tape; 4) sorry management with little or no attention to the bottom line; 5) few (if any) penalties for failure; and 6) big time union involvement, which factors adversely into any of the first five elements.

With all the manifest failure, what’s Detroit’s liberal establishment’s response? Does the establishment make a mea culpa, renouncing the policies and programs that have laid low Detroit? Is pro-growth/pro-family reform — not the cockeyed liberal variety — on the lips of Detroit leaders? Where are the big brooms to sweep corruption out from every nook and cranny of government? Why aren’t Detroit’s leaders standing up to the unions and telling them in no uncertain terms that their days of privilege are over?

Instead of surrendering failed liberal ideology, Bing and Detroit’s leaders opt to manage failure — smartly, they believe. Detroit’s remedy isn’t revitalization through free market reform and initiative — and cleaner, leaner, competent government — but by transforming large swaths of the city into sod and trees.

Detroit is something of a metaphor for what government-run health care will become. Or, perhaps, Detroit isn’t so much a metaphor as a road map to what inevitably befalls any enterprise once bitten by that Dracula of Draculas: intrusive, big government.

And just like Detroit, when government-run health care begins to fail, how will Democrats respond? Will Democrats own up to their failure or will they concoct a bunch of government-centered fixes? When those fixes don’t work, as liberal fixes haven’t worked in Detroit, then what will remain for Democrats to do? Smartly manage government-run health care’s decline and failure?

How Democrats could convince Americans that sod and trees are reasonable substitutes for affordable, accessible quality health care is anyone’s guess. But let’s hope Speaker Pelosi comes up short on her vote count this week and we never see the Detroit-ization of the nation’s health care system to find out.