The Hillary plan won’t be hilarious

There was a frightening moment when it appeared that Dan Rostenkowski might spring from his chair and crawl across the hearing room to kiss the hem of Hillary Rodham-Clinton’s skirt.

He hasn’t been so overwhelmed with emotion since the last time he amazed the sports world by bashing a golf ball that landed on a fairway.

But he wasn’t the only one. As Rodham-Clinton talked her way through Capitol Hill this week—selling the upside-downing of health care—the congressmen were as giddy as a bunch of kids at a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party.

Many of them declared that her program was the most wonderful thing they had ever heard and would go down as one of the great historical events of our time. Oh, they might have to tinker with it a bit, but gosh, ain’t it great? And ain’t she great?

Which confuses me. I listened to much of her testimony about how and why the health care program would be terrific for all of us. And I couldn’t figure out what the heck she was talking about. It was a deadly combination of bureaucratic jargon and legal jargon. And if any congressman claims to have understood it, he has been in Washington too long.

I understood the basic pitch: Somehow we are all going to have better health care. Somehow everybody in America will be covered by a medical plan. And somehow it won’t cost us more money.

And somehow I think that is one of the biggest political con jobs I have every heard.

Which explains why so many congressmen were drooling like happy puppies. They specialize in political con jobs. And what better way to con voters than by telling them: “Have I got a deal for you—something for nothing. Just sign here on the ballot.”

Before you respond, “Yeah, but what do you know?”—I’ll admit I’m not an economist, a lawyer, a congressman or a health care expert.

All I am is someone who has managed—without the help of politicians or Hillary Rodham-Clinton—to provide my family with good medical care for the past four decades.

Which is what the vast majority of Americans have been doing, without the help of politicians and the federal bureaucracy.

But now, because about 12 percent of all Americans don’t have medical insurance (a figure inflated for propaganda purposes), the entire system is going to be turned on its ear.

Fortunately, there are genuine experts who aren’t as easily dazzled as the vote-hunters and money-merchants in Washington.

They include some of the best economists and medical experts in the country. And while they phrase it more politely, what it boils down to is that the Hillary Plan is a lot of bunk.

The economists say the numbers don’t add up. And if this program becomes reality, this country is going to be hit with a huge tax hike to pay for it. And not just the silent, embarrassed rich. Next time, everybody with a paycheck will be clobbered.

That has a domino effect. Higher taxes, less spending. Less spending, less demand for goods and services. Less demand, lower production. Lower production, more layoffs and fewer jobs. Fewer jobs and more people in need of free health coverage. And since nothing is free, somebody is going to have to pay for it.

Guess who?

The economists and doctors say that the Hillary Plan would be the end of medical care as most Americans know it and like it.

You now have a family doctor you trust? You now take your kids to a pediatrician you trust? And that’s the way you like it?

Sorry, but that would quickly become something from the good old days that you can tell the grandchildren about.

Once the government takes over health care, you will go where Big Brother and Big Sister tell you to go. Sneaking off to a private physician—if you can find one—might even be a criminal offense.

Big Bro and Big Sis will wind up rationing health care. Big Bro and Big Sis will decide how many docs can be specialists. So you have a rare disease and there is a shortage of specialists in that rare disease? Call Big Bro and Big Sis. The recorded message will probably say: “If you are dying, press one … .” In time, Big Bro and Big Sis and the bureaucracies they create will decide just about everything, from your hangnail to your tumor to when the plug would be pulled.

And Big Bro and Big Sis will probably pull it off. They have a big advantage in the media, since economists and doctors don’t know how to get their message across in 20-second sound bites and buzzwords on TV. The genuine experts wind up on the Op Ed pages of a few big newpapers or in small magazines, which are about as widely read as Marcel Proust.

The government will run health care. For a preview of its track record in that field, visit a VA hospital.

A native Chicagoan, Mike Royko attended Wright Junior College, the University of Illinois and Northwestern University. The home base of his syndicated column is the Chicago Tribune and it has been provided to the Star by Tribune Media Services.