Government can't just annex "one-sixth of the U.S. economy" (i.e., the equivalent of annexing the entire British or French economy or annexing the entire Indian economy twice over) and then just say: "OK, what's next? On to cap-and-trade." Nations that governmentalize health care soon find themselves talking about little else.
In Canada, once the wait times for MRIs and hip surgery start creeping up over two years, the government distracts the citizenry with a royal commission appointed to study possible "reforms," which reports back a couple of years later, usually with recommendations to strengthen the government's commitment to every Canadian's right to health care by renaming the Department of Health the Department of Health Services and abolishing the Agency of Health Administration and replacing it with a new Agency of Administrative Health Operations, which would report to a reformed Council of Health Policy Administrative Coordination to be supervised by a streamlined Public Health Operations Administration Assessment Bureau.
......We were told we had to do it because of the however many millions of uninsured, yet this bill will leave about 25 million Americans uninsured. On the other hand, millions of young, healthy Americans in their first jobs who take the entirely reasonable view that they do not require health insurance at this stage in their lives will be forced to pay for coverage they neither want nor need. On the other other hand, those Americans who have done the boring, responsible, grown-up thing and have health plans Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid determines to be excessively "generous" will be subject to punitive taxes up to 40 percent.
.....Looking at the millions of Americans it leaves uninsured and the millions it leaves with worse treatment and reduced access and the millions it makes pay significantly more for their current health care, one can only marvel at Mr. Reid's genius: Government health care turns out to be all government and no health care. Adding up the zillions of new taxes and bureaucracies and regulations it imposes on the citizenry, one might almost think that was the only point of the exercise.
That's why I believe America's belated embrace of government health care will be far more expensive and disastrous than the Euro-Canadian models. Whatever one's philosophical objection to the Canadian health system, it is, broadly, fair: Unless you are a Cabinet minister or a big-time hockey player, you'll enjoy the same equality of crappiness and universal lack of access that everybody else does.
.....Whatever happens, it's a dagger at the heart of American federalism, just as the bill's magisterial proclamation that the Independent Medicare Advisory Board can only be abolished by a two-thirds vote of the Senate strikes at one of the most basic principles of a free society - that no parliament can bind its successors.
These details are obnoxious not merely in and of themselves but because they tell us the truth about where we're headed: Think of the way almost every big government project bursts its bodice and winds up bigger and more bloated than its creators supposedly foresaw.
....As the savvier Democrats have always known, once you've crossed the Rubicon, you can endlessly re-reform your health reform until the end of time, and all the stuff you didn't get this go-round will fall into place, and very quickly.
As I've been saying for more than a year now, health care is the fast-track to a permanent left-of-center political culture. The unlovely Democrats on public display in the week before Christmas might have seemed like just a bunch of jelly-spined opportunists, grubby ward heelers and rapacious kleptocrats, but the smarter ones are showing great strategic clarity. Alas for the rest of us, Euro-style government on a Harry Reid/Chris Dodd/Ben Nelson scale will lead to ruin.