John Stossel

"On, Wisconsin ... run the ball clear down the field!"

It's time to amend the Wisconsin football song so we can cheer on the Badger State's politicians as they move toward health-care socialism.

The Wall Street Journal editorial-page editors are upset that Wisconsin's state Senate passed "Healthy Wisconsin", which will give health insurance to every person in the state. Of course, the Journal editors are right in saying that the plan is "openly hostile to market incentives that contain costs" and that the "Cheesehead nation could expect to attract health-care free-riders while losing productive workers who leave for less-taxing climes."

In addition, as the Journal put it, "Wow, is 'free' health care expensive. The plan would cost an estimated $15.2 billion, or $3 billion more than the state currently collects in all income, sales and corporate income taxes."

And, of course, down the road it will cost much more than that. Even the $15 billion is based on the usual Pollyannaish assumptions such as millions in savings "from putting more emphasis on primary care."

As usual, most of the new taxes will be imposed on employers. Progressives believe money taken from them doesn't cost anything. Rich corporations will simply waste less on lavish perks and excess profits. But taxes on business are often paid by workers, stockholders and consumers. Businesses that can't pass the taxes on to someone else will close or move out of state.

But progressives are oblivious to this fact. They see Wisconsin becoming a fairyland of health happiness supervised by the 16-person "authority" that will oversee the plan. Socialism will work this time because the "right" people will be in charge.

Does it never occur to the progressives that the legislature's intrusion into private contracts is one reason health care and health insurance are expensive now? The average annual health-insurance premium for a family in Wisconsin is $4,462 partly because Wisconsin imposes 29 mandates on health insurers: Every policy must cover chiropractors, dentists, genetic testing, etc. Think chiropractors are quacks? Too bad. You still must pay them to treat people in your state.

Want to buy insurance from another state, like nearby Michigan, where an average policy costs less? Too bad. It's against the law to buy across state lines. Your state's Big Brother knows best.

The WSJ writes about a "last line of defense against" Healthy Wisconsin, but I say, let Wisconsin try it! Their suffering will be for the greater good.

As I interview people for my health-care TV special scheduled to run on ABC this September, I'm struck by how many hate the current semi-free-market system America has now. I say "semi" because it's not a free market when about half the health-care bill is funded by government. But it's still better than socialism. It allows for innovation like the creation of better drugs, pain-relieving joint replacements, artificial hearts, LASIK eye surgery, and who-knows-what-else that may reduce pain and extend my life.

Socialism will kill that, but people seem to like socialism, at least when it's sold as free stuff from politicians. Wisconsin's Capital Times reports that "two-thirds of Wisconsin residents support the Democratic plan -- even when presented with opponents' arguments that it would be a 'job killer' that could lead to higher taxes. Said Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, one of the plan's sponsors, 'Everything we have heard [against the plan], we put in the poll. And it still comes back at 67 percent approval.'"

That's why America needs "Healthy Wisconsin." The fall of the Soviet Union deprived us of the biggest example of how socialism works. We need laboratories of failure to demonstrate what socialism is like. All we have now is Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, the U.S. Post Office, and state motor-vehicle departments.

It's not enough. Wisconsin can show the other 49 states what "universal" coverage is like.

I feel bad for the people in Wisconsin. They already suffer from little job creation, and the Packers aren't winning, but it's better to experiment with one state than all of America.


John Stossel

John Stossel is host of "Stossel" on the Fox Business Network. He's the author of "No They Can't: Why Government Fails, but Individuals Succeed." To find out more about John Stossel, visit his site at >johnstossel.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. ©Creators Syndicate