"I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody," then-candidate Barack Obama famously told Joe "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher when campaigning in Ohio last fall.
At about the same time Obama was revealing this redistributionist vision for wealth, he was also presenting a redistributionist vision for health and health care -- but with far less publicity.
Today, Obama's belief that health itself needs redistributing has become a guiding force behind the health-care reform bills recently approved by committees in the House and Senate.
These bills are saturated with the concept that there is an unjust distribution of health among Americans that can and should be adjusted by government policies.
The supposed endgame is an America where all demographic groups get identical health care and enjoy identical levels of health.
This might have been achievable -- at least temporarily -- in Eden. In our fallen world, it is futile.
Yet, if Congress enacts legislation based on the absurd notion that government policies can equalize health across the U.S. population, it will give politicians and bureaucrats an unbounded rationale for monitoring and controlling every aspect of our lives.
The health-care plan Obama published during his campaign made "health disparities" a priority -- and vowed to hold "accountable" those he believed caused them. "Barack Obama and Joe Biden will tackle the root causes of health disparities by addressing differences in access to health coverage and promoting prevention and public health, both of which play a major role in addressing disparities," said the plan. "They will also challenge the medical system to eliminate inequities in health care by requiring hospitals and health plans to collect, analyze and report health care quality for disparity populations and holding them accountable for any differences found."
Candidate Obama even published a paper promising a strategy to "reduce HIV-related health disparities."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsed something similar when she addressed the NAACP this month. "It is a moral issue for our country to reduce health disparities whether in diabetes, asthma, heart disease, cancer and HIV/AIDS," she said. The health-care bill approved last week by the House Ways and Means and Education committees gives the secretary of health and human services unilateral authority to choose demographic groups that will be monitored for determining whether they are victims or beneficiaries of such disparities.
"The term 'health disparities' includes health and health care disparities and means population-specific differences in the presence of disease, health outcomes, or access to health care," says page 960 of the bill. "For purposes of the preceding sentence, a population may be delineated by race, ethnicity, geographic setting, or other population or subpopulation determined appropriate by the Secretary."
The Senate bill mandates the creation of a massive national database to be used for ferreting out "disparities" wherever they might be found.
"Ensures that any ongoing or new federal health program achieve the collection and reporting of data by race, ethnicity, geographic location, socioeconomic status, health literacy, primary language and any other indicator of disparity," says the Senate Health committee's summary of the bill. "The secretary shall analyze data collected to detect and monitor trends in health disparities and disseminate this information to the relevant federal agencies. The secretary shall also award grants to develop appropriate methods to detect and assess health disparities."
In the name of reducing "disparities," Section 224 of the House bill directs the secretary to change the way that the proposed government-run "public option" health insurance plan pays the health-care providers that do business with it.
"The secretary," it says, "shall design and implement the payment mechanisms and policies under this section in a manner that -- (1) seeks to ... reduce health disparities (including racial, ethnic and other disparities)."
The Senate Health committee's bill includes a section -- "Creating Healthier Communities" -- that authorizes paying tax dollars to so-called community-based organizations so they can monitor individual behavior patterns on the neighborhood level -- and in schools -- in the name of reducing "health disparities."
Only community-based organizations that are part of a "national network of community-based organizations" will be eligible for these grants.
So, what will these government-funded, national networks of community-based organizations monitor in American neighborhoods in the interest of reducing "health disparities"?
"In carrying out subparagraph (A)," says page 386 of the bill, "the eligible entity shall, with respect to residents in the community, measure -- (i) decreases in weight; (ii) increases in proper nutrition; (iii) increases in physical activity; (iv) decreases in tobacco use prevalence; (v) other factors using community specific data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey; and (vi) other factors as determined by the Secretary."
They will be government-funded busybodies paid to monitor the personal behavior of a once proud and free people who surrendered an irretrievable measure of their liberty to a government-run health-care system spawned by the redistributionist vision of Barack Obama and his allies in the Congress.