Saturday, March 8, 2014

If Government Healthcare is So Great, How About “Foodcare”?

With Obamacare, Medicare, and Medicaid, plus countless state mandates and other regulations of the private medical care and health-insurance market, we are rapidly moving toward a total government takeover of medicine in America. Advocates of a totally state-run and state-funded system—“single payer”—claim that medical treatment should not be dictated by a person’s ability to pay and everyone should receive the same level of care as a birthright.
Really? One could make the same assertion for any human need, such as food: The rich shouldn’t get any better food than the poor. Every person is entitled to get the food he needs as a birthright. Therefore, the state will provide universal Foodcare. What would happen if such a claim were made? It would be touted as a moral ideal, motivated by kindness toward the needy. Opponents would quickly be vilified as callous, merciless sadists who enjoy watching people starve to death—oh, and they’d also be branded as racists and misogynists, as well. Before the American people knew what hit them, a bill would be introduced, and it would become a law. Welcome to Foodcare, the new government program that provides you with food, and you need never do anything except open your mouth.
Initially, the state gives you a deluxe food plan, which it touts as superior to the allegedly immoral, low-quality food that the unfettered free-market “fat-cat” vendors tried to pass off on you. The lobster you bought only on your birthday becomes your regular fare, as does your favorite imported cheeses, exotic vegetables, and beef made from cattle massaged with rice wine. You need no longer watch your pennies now that your appetite and wallet have parted company.
Because the same idea occurs to 300 million others, Foodcare’s costs skyrocket to ten times its budget, and a Foodcare crisis develops. Big Brother can no longer passively foot the bill for your busy mouth. Now he will dictate when, where, and what you are allowed to eat. This requires numerous new government agencies, thousands of bureaucrats, and a 110,000-page rulebook.
One provision of Foodcare covers restaurants. You visit your favorite one to find it is not what it used to be. Gone are the tablecloths, flower displays, and cheerful hostess to greet you. In the past you gladly paid for these enhancements in the price of your meal; but now the U.S. Department of Restaurants has eliminated them as a wasteful indulgence of the people’s resources. You seat yourself and peruse the menu, which has been drastically reduced to a few simple offerings. Missing are the savory specials of the talented chef, whose last creation required five years and 30 pounds—not of ingredients but of paperwork—to gain approval from the New Recipe Administration.
You want to order steak, but serving it requires that the chef call a central office to obtain pre-authorization. Because your are allotted only 30 minutes to dine, with a long line waiting to slide into your barely warmed seat, you order hamburger instead. You notice your neighbor eating steak—and sitting at the best table. You remember a time when he was unemployed and you bought him dinners. Then, he thanked you for your charity and quickly got another job. But that was before he had “rights” to his food. Now, he has permanently quit working and spends his time milking the system so that he can eat off your tax dollars.
You barely recognize the frazzled chef sitting in a corner, buried in paperwork. The once lively, happy figure doting over your every need now slaves for a new master, one that runs him ragged, denying his fee for serving Cognac, second-guessing his decision to make soufflĂ©, requiring a special certification to buy a new oven. You know that under Foodcare he works twice as long for half the pay and merely bides time till retirement. When he goes, you doubt he’ll be replaced because enrollment in chef’s schools has dipped as the number of bureaucrats hounding them has risen.
Having dispatched your restaurant ration, you proceed to the supermarket to exercise your "rights" under another provision of Foodcare, which covers retail operations. Since you are now a public-aid case and no longer a customer, there is little need for customer service. Gone is the kaleidoscope of colors, tastes, and smells in the gastronomical paradise that was the American supermarket. No more bountiful rows of edibles that were a testament to the prosperity and individual tastes of the patrons and to the entrepreneurial genius of the providers. You rummage through splinter-ridden crates that keep food hidden so that you will not take too much and burden society with your mastication. Your once welcomed business is now dreaded by the manager, since the Foodcare Utilization Board fined her for giving you too much salmon and denied her payment for the steak she let you have without first checking with her regulator.
You settle on chicken, a creature as hapless as you. The gourmet coffees and chocolate cakes you loved were removed from the formulary. Because Foodcare could not afford to give them to everyone for free, now no one can buy them at any price. You join a line of hungry masses—your once proud, self-supporting neighbors who now live off the public dole, waiting for cheerless checkers to process their identification cards and claim forms.
Time passes, and everyone forgets how it happened, but the quality of food and service deteriorates. The taxes you pay for Foodcare far exceed the bills you once paid when you bought your own food and did not obtain it for “free.” Then, you didn't pay for bureaucrats, inspectors, and agencies to tell you what to eat, or for those milking the system like your neighbor. Besides emptying your wallet, you realize that Foodcare has drained all the pleasure you once derived from eating.
You notice that the worse the crisis gets, the more the politicians play the blame game. It seems that everyone is at fault but them and their program. The big food companies are to blame, so laws are passed to cut their prices and seize their profits, causing them to stop offering new products or to go out of business. The big retailers are to blame, so laws are passed to regulate them even further, which is costly for them, so the price of food skyrockets from what it was before Foodcare was enacted. The chefs and grocers are to blame, so laws are passed to cut their pay, insuring that none may ever have a Mercedes in his garage while anyone goes hungry, causing more of them to flee their profession.
You realize that the food industry has been destroyed. But the statist politicians are unmoved by it. They have achieved their moral ideal of giving people free food as a "birthright." You wonder: Is there something wrong with this picture? The ideal isn't wealth, prosperity, happy chefs and grocers who earn a good living in return for the financial risk they take in their businesses, and satisfied customers who enjoy a Shangri La of readily available, affordable food. The ideal isn't a spectacular abundance, with no one starving, with everyone's standard of eating—including the poor—raised dramatically, and all of this achieved without victims, i.e., without the use of government force to fleece the taxpayers and to rob consumers and suppliers of their freedom to make their own choices and deal with one another voluntarily. The ideal isn't the private system, in which the American house pet—with no "birthright to food" guaranteed by any government—eats better than the citizens of countries with actual Foodcare programs, such as North Korea.
Instead, the moral ideal is to transform self-governing, self-reliant, free Americans into state-controlled puppets, not allowed to think or act for themselves. Who gains from this? The Wizard-of-Oz pretenders to status that are the statist politicians, who show no scruples in trampling over our freedoms for the sake of their power grab. Who else gains? Those motivated by envy, who resent a person's ever acquiring anything more than anyone else—even a cup of gourmet coffee. This is what's touted as a moral ideal.
The Foodcare scenario described here is actually playing out in medicine. Once the gold standard of the world, American medicine and the health insurance industry are falling to their knees from decades of crippling regulation, with the final blow to come from “single payer,” the ultimate dream of the statists—the total replacement of private enterprise with a complete government takeover of medicine. To stop this tyranny we must repudiate the allegation that healthcare is a "birthright." Liberty is our birthright. And liberty is, in Thomas Jefferson's words, "unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others." This means we have a right to act, i.e., to get a job (if someone is willing to hire us) and earn money to pay for the things we need. We do not have any "birthright" to seize the money of others and control their activities, thereby violating their liberties, in order to provide for us.
If a thief picked our pockets and claimed it was for a good cause, we'd reply that there can be no good cause whose means is thievery. When our government picks our pockets and claims it's for a good cause, our reply should be the same. Universal healthcare is based on a bogus "birthright" to medical treatment that can be achieved only by government coercion and plunder of innocent citizens. It is neither benevolent nor moral. It is tyranny.
Genevieve (Gen) LaGreca is the author of Noble Vision, a ForeWord magazine award-winning novel about a doctor's fight for freedom in a state-run health system. She may be contacted at genlagreca[at]hotmail[dot]com.

An earlier version of this article was published in the Los Angeles Daily Journal, 6/27/07, titled “New Meaning for ‘Sicko’: Universal Healthcare is a Prescription for Disaster.”

Copyright © 2014 by Genevieve LaGreca. Permisssion to reprint is granted with proper attribution to the author.