March 26, 2010
March 26, 2010
March 26, 2010
Americans would do well to ponder a recent admission by a former British minister in the Blair government. On March 2, the Guardian reported that the ex-minister, now Lord Warner, said that while spending on Britain’s National Health Service had increased by 60 percent under the Labour government, its output had decreased by 4 percent. No doubt the spending of a Soviet-style organization like the NHS is more easily measurable than its output, but the former minister’s remark certainly accords with the experiences of many citizens, who see no dramatic improvement in the service as a result of such vastly increased outlays. On the contrary, while the service has taken on 400,000 new staff members—that is to say, one-fifth of all new jobs created in Britain during the period—continuity of medical care has been all but extinguished. Nobody now expects to see the same doctor on successive occasions, in the hospital or anywhere else.
The ex-minister admitted that most of the extra money—which by now must equal a decent proportion of the total national debt—had been simply wasted. (The same might be said, of course, of the increased outlays put toward state education.) But his explanation for this state of affairs was superficial and self-exculpating, to say the least: he said that the NHS received more money than it knew what to do with because of managerial inexperience. “It was like giving a starving man foie gras and caviar,” he said.
As it happens, the NHS knew exactly what to do with the money: give it to its staff, new and old. British doctors, for example, are now the second-highest-paid in the world, though not necessarily the happiest. They have accepted the money on condition that they also accept—as quietly as mice—increasing government interference in their work. When you go to a family doctor in Britain, he is more likely to do what the government thinks he ought to do and will pay him a bonus for doing than what he thinks is right. This is sinister, even when what the government thinks is right happens to be right.
Washington, D.C. and Hollywood are two cities suffering from the same condition: they’ve not only become completely alienated from the people they’re meant to serve, they’re bizarrely blind to the fact of that alienation. Like deranged narcissists in a hall of mirrors, both our lawmakers and our culture-makers blow kisses at their own reflections, see a million kisses coming back their way, and think, “Oh, look, they love me—love me!”
For glaring proof in Washington, we have the passage of the health-care bill. Recently the Washington Post ran an op-ed by former Carter pollster Pat Caddell and former Clinton pollster Douglas E. Schoen expressing their amazement that Obama and the Democrats would go forward with this bill in the face of overwhelming evidence that the public doesn’t want it. Caddell—a moderate Democrat who sometimes sports a T-shirt reading I’M GRUMPY BECAUSE YOU’RE DOPEY—and Schoen are baffled that the Democrats continue to grow and grow and grow the government despite polls that show Americans feel the federal apparatus is now an immediate threat to their civil rights and is no longer operating with the consent of the governed.
And yet, even after losing a Senate seat in blue-on-blue Massachusetts almost entirely because of the health care and big government issues, the Democrats plunged forward, certain that we’re going to like what they’re forcing us to eat.