Michael Moore loves government.
OK, he doesn't love a government headed by George W. Bush, but he believes that once the Democrats are in charge, government will do a better job providing health care.
In his new movie, "Sicko," he praises government-controlled health care systems in Canada and Europe. He suggests that Americans pay more for health care but have a shorter life expectancy than people in other countries because our health care is driven "by profit."
He is wrong in so many ways.
First, life expectancy is no measure of a country's medical system. Lifestyle and culture matter more, and Americans are different.
Interviewing Moore for an upcoming health care special on "20/20," I said, "In America we kill each other more often. We shoot each other. We have more car accidents. Forgive me, more of us look like ... you."
He smiled at that, but still argued that that people live longer in Canada "because they never have to worry about paying to go see the doctor. That means at the first sign of being sick they go right away to the doctor cause they're not worrying about whether or not they can afford it."
Freedom brings anxiety, but its other rewards are so superior to passive care from a smothering government.
America's medical system has problems, but profit is the least of it. Government mandates, overregulation and a tax code that pushes employer-paid health insurance prevent the free market from performing its efficient miracles. Six out of seven health-care dollars are spent by third parties. That kills the market. Patients rarely shop around, and doctors rarely compete on price or service.
Moore told me, "Government can do things right. ... My dad gets his Social Security check every month. Comes not only every month, it comes on the same day through the so-called 'dilapidated' U.S. mail. ... [A]sk your grandparents what they think of Medicare. Although it has its flaws, although it may be underfunded, it's a much better program than the HMO that somebody has."
Underfunded? Medicare has a 75-year $34 trillion unfunded liability! Its costs are growing faster than inflation. Social Security has a 75-year $5 trillion unfunded liability. These are Ponzi schemes that will be bankrupt before Moore reaches retirement age. The U.S. mail manages to deliver his dad's checks, but compare its performance to FedEx or UPS. The Post Office said it wasn't possible to deliver packages overnight.
I want FedEx health care: innovation, new cancer treatments, hip replacements and pain relief. We get that from private-sector competition, not government lethargy.
Moore said, "You don't introduce profit into your city water department."
He's wrong about that, too. As I wrote in "Give Me a Break", Jersey City, New Jersey's water tasted foul and failed safety tests. City workers said there wasn't much they could do. In fact, water prices would have to be raised ... just to maintain the lousy service they had.
So Jersey City turned its water system over to a for-profit company. Within months it had fixed the pipes government workers said couldn't be fixed, and for the first time in years, Jersey City's water met the highest cleanliness standard. Taxpayers saved $35 million.
The private company could do it better and cheaper because their skills were honed by constant competition.
Private competitors innovate or die. Government workers do what they did last year. That's why I want the private sector to provide my health care. Pursuit of profit will give us our best medicines and medical devices. I'll pay you $1,000 if you can name one thing government does more efficiently than the private sector.
Moore laughed at me, saying, "You are, like, so Thirteenth Century," but he conceded that America's founding libertarian philosophy has made us a rich and innovative country. "Look at everything we've invented," he told me. "I say to my British friends, can you tell me something you invented in the last 50 years. I mean, what have you given us?"
"Can they come up with anything?" I asked.
"No, they have a hard time. That can-do spirit served us well in building this country."
Served? It still does. And will -- if government would just get out of the way.
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