The time for talk is over.
So proclaimed the most talkative president in modern memory. I can't remember when Barack Obama said that. Maybe it was during the first "final showdown" on health care. Or maybe it was the third. The fifth? It's so hard to tell when pretty much every week since the dawn of the Mesozoic Era, Obama or Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid has proclaimed that it is now Go Time for health-care reform.
So you'll forgive me if I'm somewhat skeptical about the possibility that the health-care reform debate is about to come to an end.
The president recently said, "Everything there is to say about health care has been said, and just about everybody has said it."
But wait. If everything, pro and con, has been said about the subject, by everybody, that means someone isn't telling the truth, right? I mean, if you've said X and not-X, that means you've probably said something that isn't true.
That, at least, is the impression I got this week listening to Obama make his closing arguments for health care at rallies in Pennsylvania and Missouri. It's telling that the president -- long in favor of a single-payer system -- is selling his health-care plan on the grounds that it will increase "choice" and "competition," reduce "government control" and "give you, the American people, more control over your own health insurance."
You know your sales pitch for a government takeover of health care hasn't worked when you have to crib rhetoric from free-market Republicans. And that's after you've already tried to pin your plan's unpopularity on the ignorance of the American people.
Obama's talking points track reality about as well as the screenplay for "Avatar." Indeed, the same week he was hawking competition, choice and less government, Obama backed a new Health Insurance Rate Authority that would do even more to cement big health insurance companies into their new role as government-run utilities.
This latest gambit is of a piece with the White House's demonization of the health-insurance industry. I have no love for that industry myself, but let's get some perspective. As of August, the health-insurance industry ranked 86th in terms of profit margins -- behind anemic industries such as book publishing (38th) specialty eateries (71st) and home furnishing stores (84th), according to data compiled by Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute.
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