"And everybody praised the Duke,
Who this great fight did win."
"But what good came of it at last?"
Quoth little Peterkin.
"Why that I cannot tell," said he,
"But 'twas a famous victory."
-- Robert Southey
"The Battle of Blenheim"
WASHINGTON -- Barack Obama hopes his famous health care victory will mark him as a transformative president. History, however, may judge it to have been his missed opportunity to be one.
Health care will not be seriously revisited for at least a generation, so the system's costliest defect -- untaxed employer-provided insurance, which entangles a high-inflation commodity, health care, with the wage system -- remains. Obama could not challenge this without adopting measures -- e.g., tax credits for individuals, enabling them to shop for their own insurance -- that empower individuals and therefore conflict with his party's agenda of spreading dependency.
On Sunday, as will happen every day for two decades, another 10,000 baby boomers became eligible for Social Security and Medicare. And Congress moved closer to piling a huge new middle-class entitlement onto the rickety structure of America's Ponzi welfare state. Congress has a one-word response to the demographic deluge and the scores of trillions of dollars of unfunded liabilities: "More."
There will be subsidized health insurance for families of four earning up to $88,200 a year, a ceiling certain to be raised, repeatedly. The accounting legerdemain spun to make this seem affordable -- e.g., cuts (to Medicare) and taxes (on high-value insurance plans) that will never happen -- is Enronesque.
As America's teetering tower of unkeepable promises grows, so does the weight of government, in taxes and mandates that limit investments and discourage job creation. America's dynamism, and hence upward social mobility, will slow, as the economy becomes what the party of government wants it to be -- increasingly dependent on government-created demand.
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