Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Obama's Health Plan vs. McCain's Wars

Some libertarians like to criticize Barack Obama's health care plan because of its cost. Now, I certainly would prefer a more market-based approach. But Obama's plan isn't quite the government bogyman that it might at first appear to be. For one thing, it's not mandatory, so anyone can opt out. Obama's plan also relies on private insurance companies, not the government, to provide coverage. But what about the cost? Obama says his plan will cost between $50 billion and $65 billion. Respected M.I.T. health care economist Jonathan Gruber is more pessimistic, estimating a cost of $102 billion per year. That's not chump change, but it's also less than two-thirds of the cost of George Bush's War on Terror.

That $102 billion is also far less of your tax money than John McCain plans on spending. The Iraq war so far has cost over $100 billion a year. And that's only the direct costs. Economist Joseph Stiglitz estimated in 2006 that for every $1 of direct costs, the United States is incurring roughly an additional $6 in indirect costs, including long-term medical benefits and pensions for soldiers, and the costs of rebuilding the military to pre-war strength. That's a total bill of over $2 trillion over the first three years, or about $700 billion per year. A congressional report released in November put the cost of the war at a more modest $1.6 trillion through 2009, or about $270 billion per year. Using either of these measures, McCain's plan to keep fighting this disastrous war beats Obama's health plan on the big government front. Obama might even be able to use some of the savings from ending the war to pay for the tax cuts he has promised.

But Obama's health plan is a permanent entitlement, you might argue, while the war is temporary. Well let's just assume for the sake of argument that combat miraculously ends next year and McCain's 100-year peaceful occupation begins (despite all the evidence that the fighting isn't nearly over). The cost of the war would go down then, right? The United States has about 132,000 troops in Iraq right now. Let's assume President McCain is able to reduce that to a South Korea-like 40,000. So even if we take the more modest congressional estimate, the occupation would be only slightly cheaper than Obama's universal health care. And that's assuming that McCain doesn't start any other wars.

So the next time you hear people accusing Obama of being a big spender, consider the alternative.

1 comment:

LibertyRepublican said...

The point is that they're both big spenders. Hence, neither should be supported.