The Jury Talks Back

10/30/2009

Comparing Ridiculous Numbers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Leviticus @ 1:55 pm

This is something that’s been pissing me off, lately:

People are complaining about the costs of healthcare reform – the estimate I’ve read is $900 billion over ten years, to provide healthcare to 36 million uninsured Americans.

The Defense budget for 2009 is $518 billion.

I know that the estimates of the cost of the health care bill proposed by the Democrats are widely disputed – some say it’s going to cost a hell of a lot more than $900 billion if it’s passed. But is it going to cost us, oh, I dunno, $5.2 trillion? I doubt it – even in a worst case scenario.

So – is this a legitimate time to talk about reigning in the Defense budget? And if not, is there ever a legitimate time to talk about reigning in the Defense budget? Or is that the one exception to the principal of fiscal conservativism in America?

53 Comments

  1. Where, in the Constitution, is the equivalent of “provide for the common defense”?

    Comment by AD - RtR/OS! — 10/30/2009 @ 2:43 pm

  2. “… reigning (sic) in the Defense budget…”

    Comment by AD - RtR/OS! — 10/30/2009 @ 6:06 pm

  3. I really wonder if this is a serious post…

    Comment by MunDane68 — 10/30/2009 @ 6:57 pm

  4. Leviticus, how many Americans currently without health insurance are going to be covered by the current plans being floated through Congress? As you probably know, there has been a great deal of discussion on this matter. If we take Obama’s most recent number of 30 million uninsured, and we understand that the best case scenario is that we still have 12 million American citizens who will remain uninsured (with the Senate bill keeping 18 million American citizens uninsured), then how can you say that the present proposals are a good use of taxpayer funds?

    Put it another way: in the heady days of Obama’s election one year ago, if I had told you and other progressives that his health bill would fail to cover anywhere between 12-20 million American citizens (along with the 12+ million illegal immigrants we have in this country), would you have imagined that this was the best that could be done under one-party rule, especially with Democrats having a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate?

    Comment by JVW — 10/30/2009 @ 10:50 pm

  5. Just like a Liberal…arguing that we should be cutting back on one of the few things government is actually supposed to do, so the government can spend the money doing something it has no business doing.

    Comment by gahrie — 10/31/2009 @ 4:07 pm

  6. It is instructive to see our progressive (projective?) Leviticus compare the annual defense budget for 2009 with a single healthcare reform Bill proposal … he might as well be comparing said proposed Bill with the purchase of the enormously cost-over-inflated toilet seats of defense budget notoriety for all the validity of the comparison …

    Try this, O Wise Leviticus …

    Compare the 2009 defense budget amount with the 2009 healthcare budget amount as a percentage of US GDP … do the same thing for defense and healthcare budgets for the preceding 10 or 20 years …

    By the time you finish graphing those numbers, you may find yourself a lot less concerned about what is spent upon defense each year and a whole lot more worried about the trend in healthcare spending …

    Comment by Alasdair — 10/31/2009 @ 9:18 pm

  7. Well … the defense budget is about keeping our country safe. And the health care budget is about keeping 84-year old people alive for one more day.

    Comment by nk — 11/1/2009 @ 12:11 am

  8. Thing is, we actually know what the Defense budget is; that’s real money, appropriated and spent. But when the 2003 Medicare Part D bill was being pushed, it was projected — before it was passed, of course — to cost $422 billion over ten years. Then, within a month after passage, nope, sorry, it’ll be more like $535 billion. Then, about a year later, oops, so sorry, looks like somewhere between $720 billion and $1.2 trillion!

    Does The Third Book of Moses really believe government cost projections for untried programs?

    Comment by The economist Dana — 11/1/2009 @ 6:19 am

  9. NK – nope. The elderly already have medical assistance which is an excellent program. The Health Care plan would cover families, students, people whose job does not provide health care. Insurance is noted for “that is not covered” and we need real health care for all. Severe accidents, illness, birth defects causing pain and disability cripple the family’s who experience these difficulty’s. It could be you.

    Comment by Bruce Eggum — 11/1/2009 @ 10:34 am

  10. The vast majority of people who don’t have health insurance in the United States today can afford to buy it and CHOOSE not to buy health insurance.

    Comment by gahrie — 11/1/2009 @ 10:56 am

  11. “Does The Third Book of Moses really believe government cost projections for untried programs?”

    – Dana

    No, not really – that’s why I dislclaimed it further down. But it’s worth thinking about, either way.

    nk: I can’t believe that you really believe that every dollar being spent for defense in this country has a tangible (beneficial) effect on our safety. But I do agree that an enormous percentage of what we’re spending on healthcare these days is going towards end-of-life sorts of care, which are ridiculously expensive.

    This is also interesting: when I was looking through some of the rankings of world healthcare systems, I saw that countries spending far less money on healthcare were having much more success in keeping people healthy. So it certainly is worth considering whether throwing more money at healthcare is really the best way to improve our situation, or whether making more minor adjustments (mobile insurance policies and catastrophic coverage and the like) might be more effective.

    One way or another, I think that people ought to be able to afford insurance in a country as wealthy as the United States. And I think that we spend more money on Defense than is rationally justifiable in an age of nonstate actors, where conventional militaries are largely (not completely, but largely) sidelined.

    Comment by Leviticus — 11/1/2009 @ 12:48 pm

  12. “… much more success in keeping people healthy…”

    Then, why do the mortality stats show that cancer victims in the U.S. live much longer after discovery of their ailment than in the wonderfully Progressive EU with their vaunted National Health Systems?
    We spend more money because we receive better care.
    Just as, when you buy a Mercedes you spend more than if you buy a Hundai (they’re both JUST cars, right?), but the differences are considerable.

    Comment by AD - RtR/OS! — 11/1/2009 @ 2:46 pm

  13. The report I was reading took into account the distribution of care across socioeconomic strata (where the US still ranks above most countries, obviously, but not at the top) – so, while it readily acknowledged that the US was at the cutting edge of medical procedure provision/research, it nonetheless pointed out that that care was typically received by the select few able to pay for it.

    Here’s the report:

    http://dll.umaine.edu/ble/U.S.%20HCweb.pdf

    I’m still having trouble embedding links – you’re just supposed to highlight the text you want to cite and the paste the URL into the pop-up box, right? Or am I missing a step?

    Comment by Leviticus — 11/1/2009 @ 3:24 pm

  14. Please identify those who are being denied life-saving care in the United States.
    We know who they are in places such as England and Canada, they are the ones who die whilst on a waiting list.

    Comment by AD - RtR/OS! — 11/1/2009 @ 5:11 pm

  15. Well… we just did a case study in my Government Regulation class that opened with an anecdote about an Arizona woman named Dianna Brown who died of liver failure after she was denied a transplant by the state program that was supposed to cover her. There were numerous other examples of such deaths in the case study (“Matters of Life and Death: Defunding Organ Transplants in the State of Arizona”).

    Comment by Leviticus — 11/1/2009 @ 6:04 pm

  16. There are also stories about how Medicare and Medicaid are violating the rules in live-donor transplants and making it harder for people to get transplants. If you think the Medicare/Medicaid example is an anomaly, I submit Dianna’s case might be, too. And if neither are anomalies, then which is worse?

    Comment by DRJ — 11/1/2009 @ 7:51 pm

  17. In the Third Book of Moses it is written:

    I do agree that an enormous percentage of what we’re spending on healthcare these days is going towards end-of-life sorts of care, which are ridiculously expensive.

    You’d agree, then, that if the federal government takes over health care costs, there will be an enormous government incentive to tell old people to just shut up and die, right?

    Comment by The economist Dana — 11/1/2009 @ 8:02 pm

  18. Leviticus wrote:

    I’m still having trouble embedding links – you’re just supposed to highlight the text you want to cite and the paste the URL into the pop-up box, right? Or am I missing a step?

    At least for a while, the link function on Patterico was behaving badly. Fortunately, I know the coding, and I just insert it manually if I need to link.

    If you’re trying to insert a link in a comment, if you have it right, it’ll work in the live preview; just right click and hit “Open in a new window” to see if it works before you post it.

    Comment by The economist Dana — 11/1/2009 @ 8:06 pm

  19. DRJ,

    It doesn’t seem to me that either example was anomalous; that is, there seemed to be systematic provisions/policies that led to each case (and could be easily foreseen leading to each case). For what it’s worth (and both cases are obviously bad), I think that denying people transplants because they can’t pay is worse than hassling them for money after they’ve already had the procedure.

    Dana,

    I don’t see that the government would have any more incentive to tell an old person to “shut up and die” than the insurance companies that currently pay for their care. I think they might try lowering costs through other methods that involved less in the way of unnecessary senior citizen death.

    And thanks for the link-feature advice.

    Comment by Leviticus — 11/1/2009 @ 8:29 pm

  20. Leviticus, I would wager the whole argument about Americans being less healthy than citizens of other nations has very little to do with our actual health care policies and a lot more to do with the sedentary lifestyles and poor eating habits that so many of our citizens have. As more than one social scientist has noted, we are the first society in recorded history where the poor are more likely to be obese than undernourished. This brings up another reason why I am very skeptical towards letting government play a more active role in health care policy. It is a short trip from where we are today to government declaring that certain people can’t eat or drink certain things, all in the guise of promoting health and saving the taxpayers money.

    Comment by JVW — 11/1/2009 @ 8:32 pm

  21. Leviticus,

    It’s certainly worse for Dianna but when I studied law, they taught me that in the long run systemic problems will cause more denials than occasional lapses. Plus, we’re human and there will be times when bad things happen, which is why it’s so important to have a good process rather than focusing solely on good results.

    Comment by DRJ — 11/1/2009 @ 8:37 pm

  22. DRJ,

    I absolutely agree that systemic problems are of more concern than anomalous incidents, but my whole point was that it was a systemic problem that caused Dianna Brown’s death in the first place.

    Comment by Leviticus — 11/1/2009 @ 8:57 pm

  23. No, it was a systemic choice that led to Diana Brown’s denial of a transplant.

    Comment by DRJ — 11/1/2009 @ 9:04 pm

  24. “Choice” and “problem” don’t preclude one another – a systemic choice can be a systemic problem if the choice consistently produces unjust outcomes.

    But setting that (admittedly disputable) point aside and returning to your original law school anecdote, Dianna Brown’s death was not a “lapse” of any sort, one way or another – so, whether it was a “problem” or a “choice”, it seems to fall into the category of Things Which Merit Attention in the Long Run, insofar as it was systemic and thus had (has?) potentially systemic consequences.

    Comment by Leviticus — 11/1/2009 @ 9:31 pm

  25. I don’t know the specifics of Ms. Brown’s story but I agree it’s sad she died. Maybe there was a great injustice. Maybe Arizona is denying transplants when it shouldn’t.

    But there will never be a health care system that gives people what they want as long as what they want is to prolong their lives no matter how sick they are. I’m all for helping people live longer but I don’t believe we can afford to offer universal transplants, so I’m much more interested in fixing systemic problems than in second-guessing systemic choices.

    Comment by DRJ — 11/1/2009 @ 10:24 pm

  26. Let’s work with Leviticus’ analysis, and even assume that ObamaPelosiReidCare would result in as many as 30,000,000 newly insured people.

    As Levitcus points out, we actually spend $518 billion on defensed per year. Using Leviticus’ analysis, the average annual cost estimated for the travesty of a health care bill is $90 billion to cover 30,000,000 people.

    Doing the math, we find this information:

    $518 billion actual cost per year/300 millon people = $1,727 per person for defense.

    $90 billion estimated cost per year/30 million potentially newly insured people = $3,000 per newly insured person.

    I’d say spending on defense is more productive.

    Comment by Ira — 11/2/2009 @ 12:43 am

  27. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, in 2007, “Total health expenditures reached $2.2 trillion, which translates to $7,421 per person or 16.2 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.” (See, http://www.cms.hhs.gov/NationalHealthExpendData/02_NationalHealthAccountsHistorical.asp.) That is 4 times our defense budget. And that INCLUDES safetynet spending for providing health treatment to uninsured or underinsured folks.

    So, Leviticus wants to jack that $7400 per person healthy expenditure up by 4% with a new government program when we are already treating the uninsured or underinsured when they get sick?

    Comment by Ira — 11/2/2009 @ 1:01 am

  28. There is a big difference between a constitutionally mandated program where the pros and cons of a specific program are debated on and passed/rejected on an annual basis and a new entitlement program that, once implemented, will continue to grow uabated.

    Even you should understand that distinction.

    Comment by Dr. K — 11/2/2009 @ 8:38 am

  29. DRJ,

    What it boils down to (for me) is this: I think we have a moral duty to care for the poor. That’s it. I’m not wed to the specifics of how we offer that care, so long as we offer that care in good faith.

    Comment by Leviticus — 11/2/2009 @ 10:28 am

  30. In the book of Robert Heinlein’s STARSHIP TROOPERS, one of the soldiers asks his drill instructor during training, “Why are you teaching us how to fight with knives, when we have nuclear rockets?” And the answer, given in greater thoughtfulness than I can give here, is, “Some problems can’t be solved with a nuclear rocket, and some problems shouldn’t be solved with a nuclear rocket. If your objective is to disable a guard and sneak into a facility to gain information, an object, or rescue prisoners, a nuclear rocket doesn’t help. Training and a knife is what you need.” And the discussion went from there into a discussion of the graduations of the use of force and the why behind the use of force.

    The reason the military costs us the kind of money it does is because the military has to have the capability to use forces from the knife level on up to the nuclear rocket level. And sure, there is politically driven waste and inefficiency in the military procurement process but it is no better and no worse than politically driven wast in any other procurement process. Some things, like the Crusader mobile artillery piece (if I recall the story correctly) are outdated, deprecated, and because we have better stuff that does the same thing and more, stupid to keep but can’t be gotten rid of because of political clout. Other things like the F-22 stealth fighter which no other country comes close to matching and won’t be able to match for years if ever get cancelled because of a lack of foresight and a lack of political clout and a foolish desire to cut for the sake of cutting.

    So the thing is, you can ‘look at cutting military spending’ if you want. But it’s stupid to think you can get a lot there. And whenever you try, like Rumsfeld was beginning to do in reorganizing the locations of military bases both here and overseas to reflect current reality, you run smack dab into reams of politics. A military base means jobs and economy and activity, and no Congressman is going to let that go… nor does any foreign country with a military base really want the US to leave no matter how much they kvetch in the papers. Witness Germany when we went to pull out our troops.

    Comment by luagha — 11/2/2009 @ 11:45 am

  31. What it boils down to (for me) is this: I think we have a moral duty to care for the poor. That’s it. I’m not wed to the specifics of how we offer that care, so long as we offer that care in good faith.

    Comment by Leviticus — 11/2/2009 @ 10:28 am

    Thus the HUGE debate about whether we should collectively force each other to contribute to that care and, if so, how to establish and enforce a safety net and how high the safety net should be. Perhaps we should undo the Reagan “revolution” and start forcing people into involuntary care facilities. If Levitcus’ party is in control, perhaps I might get picked up. If people who otherwise think like me except that they think that people like Leviticus must be controlled so that the rest of us can get on in peace, then perhaps Leviticus would get picked up-all in the name of helping the poor wretches who don’t think in the “correct way” for their own good.

    Comment by Ira — 11/2/2009 @ 11:56 am

  32. Levi,

    What it boils down to (for me) is this: I think we have a moral duty to care for the poor and I’ll stick my hands into your wallet to pay for it. That’s it. I’m not wed to the specifics of how we offer that care, so long as we offer that care in good faith.

    Fixed it for you.

    I also think we have a moral duty to help the less fortunate. The difference is, I’m not going to force you to pay to help others. I volunteer my time and money to help as I see fir. I may ask you to help with your time and/or your money, but I also believe it is wrong to force you to help.

    Comment by Kenny — 11/2/2009 @ 1:39 pm

  33. “Charity begins at home.”
    …and, the Government can never induce, except through the threat or application of force, someone to be charitable that does not wish to be charitable.

    Plus, how is ObamaPelosiReidCare going to overcome the difficiencies that resulted in “… Dianna Brown who died of liver failure after she was denied a transplant by the state program…”?
    Aren’t you just substituting one flawed government program for another?

    Comment by AD - RtR/OS! — 11/2/2009 @ 1:57 pm

  34. Kenny…
    Leviticus does not respond well to being addressed as “Levi”,
    which was the handle of someone of some notoriety around here, and got banned.

    Comment by AD - RtR/OS! — 11/2/2009 @ 1:59 pm

  35. AD,

    Thanks, didn’t realize that. I’ll keep it in mind for future posts.

    Comment by Kenny — 11/2/2009 @ 4:01 pm

  36. “Leviticus does not respond well to being addressed as “Levi”, which was the handle of someone of some notoriety around here, and got banned.”

    – AD – RtR/OS!

    Actually, I don’t mind too much, since my first name is Levi in real life. I’m used to it.

    Other people don’t seem to like it, though, because they really didn’t like the “Levi” that used to frequent the place in the past.

    Comment by Leviticus — 11/2/2009 @ 4:23 pm

  37. Leviticus,

    We have a moral duty to help people. We also have a moral duty to live within our means so there are limits on what we can do.

    Comment by DRJ — 11/2/2009 @ 10:26 pm

  38. Leviticus – You do realize that your choice to compare Health Care and Military costs is a perfect illustration of why government should not enter the health care field?

    Yes, the military is bloated, just as your friend Rumsfeld believed (along with Gates). The problem, of course, is that the military, by definition, must be run by the government, as privatization presents a Constitutional problem. The military is bloated because programs and personnel decisions are made on a political basis and not due to effectiveness. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Lobbyists and politicians don’t care about the effectiveness or lack-thereof of the programs and personnel they champion. There’s no correlation because there’s no correlation.

    Our military continues to be outstanding because of the people, many of whom come from civilian life to serve and then return. It may be a bureaucracy, but most of the men and women of the armed forces are anything but bureaucrats.

    Health care will be available to everyone at a level far greater than you can even imagine, just as tennis shoes and cell phones are now, if and only when the government gets out of the way and truly lets the free market compete for better products and services.

    Just think if the government had ‘regulated’ the computer industry…

    You’d be typing this on a computer all right, but your screen would probably still be a green, non-graphic CRT.

    Comment by Apogee — 11/3/2009 @ 12:55 am

  39. Leviticus,

    As a Liberal, you confuse apples and crabapples to make your point. You hate the military. You’ll say anything to destroy the military. Only thing you don’t see is how the military enables your liberty to be a stupid dolt.

    Comment by PCD — 11/3/2009 @ 7:11 am

  40. This is off topic:
    Since “dolt” means “a dull, stupid person,” is there a term to describe the literary technique of describing someone as a “stupid dolt.”

    By the way, I don’t think that Leviticus is a dolt. I personally know brilliant folks who actually agree with Leviticus, and are not shaken at all in their thinking despite cogent arguments such as made by both Apogee and PCD. (Leviticus may or may not actually be a dolt, but clearly it is because of our having a military and our willingness to use it to protect our allies that there are many dolts in America and in other countries too who get to openly express what is on their minds.

    Comment by Ira — 11/3/2009 @ 7:47 am

  41. Yes, in my lengthy thing above I forgot to mention how it is the US Military that guarantees the current world economy. If we step down, especially the navy, the sea trade will dry up under pirate attacks.

    It’s probably why China has been working really hard on their navy, and stolen our Aegis technology.

    Comment by luagha — 11/3/2009 @ 9:59 am

  42. When someone starts on some anti-U.S.Military rant, I usually ask them to read the back of my business card:

    “It is the soldier, not the reporter,
    Who has given us freedom of the press.
    It is the soldier, not the poet,
    Who has given us freedom of speech.
    It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,
    Who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
    It is the soldier,
    Who salutes the flag,
    Who serves beneath the flag,
    And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
    Who allows the protester to burn the flag.”
    …….Adm. Jeremiah Denton, USN(Ret)

    A bureaucrat, if he handles something poorly, at worst gets a letter of reprimand in his file.
    A Soldier/Sailor/Airman/Marine who handles something poorly,
    has a very definite chance of being transported to Arlington for burial.

    Comment by AD - RtR/OS! — 11/3/2009 @ 11:29 am

  43. I have to admit to being amused that, in a discussion as to whether private or (Federal) governmental health care is better, the case cited is one where (State) governmental health care potentially failed miserably …

    luagha – I suspect that Leviticus may not have read Heinlein’s books … they’re not exactly likely to be among his ‘favorite philosophers’ – I am not at all surprised that Heinlein didn’t make it onto Anita Dunn’s list either …

    AD – RtR/OS! – where can we find a modern-day Rudyard Kipling ?

    Comment by Alasdair — 11/3/2009 @ 11:47 am

  44. It will be whomever leads us out of PC-land, for RK was, in anything, not PC!

    Someone pointed out that the best thing that could happen to American politics in the near-future, would be to have returning Vets running for political office.
    Perhaps one of those returning squad-leaders will be able to point us to a return to the Republic?

    Comment by AD - RtR/OS! — 11/3/2009 @ 12:00 pm

  45. “Just think if the government had ‘regulated’ the computer industry…”

    – Apogee

    The government has “regulated” the computer industry – training the anti-trust gun at Microsoft comes to mind.

    Guess what? My computer works just fine.

    Comment by Leviticus — 11/3/2009 @ 1:59 pm

  46. Yes, and when they filed that suit, the NASDAQ tanked, dragging the DOW with it bursting the Tech-Bubble.

    Comment by AD - RtR/OS! — 11/3/2009 @ 2:45 pm

  47. Better that than having Linda Connor trying to shoot up Bill Gates to keep Microsoft from turning into Skynet.

    Comment by Leviticus — 11/3/2009 @ 3:54 pm

  48. Well, there are a lot of PC owners out there who would argue with you over that.

    Comment by AD - RtR/OS! — 11/3/2009 @ 4:13 pm

  49. Leviticus – The government has “regulated” the computer industry

    The Microsoft Anti-trust case attacked Microsoft’s bundling of their product – i.e. their sales and marketing arm.

    Had government regulators attempted at any time to dictate to the software companies which products to bring to market, at what price, and specifying rules for the implementation of their code, you would not see anything like what we have now.

    The free market exists, legal or not, whether you want it to or not, and despite all efforts to stop it or control it.

    The only difference is how many people suffer from the warping of that free market by government intervention. The less intervention, the less suffering.

    Comment by Apogee — 11/3/2009 @ 6:24 pm

  50. Leviticus, that is Sarah Connor. Linda Hamilton was the original actress in the movie role.

    Comment by PCD — 11/4/2009 @ 8:14 am

  51. Whoops. Dammit.

    Comment by Leviticus — 11/4/2009 @ 9:30 am

  52. AD – RtR/OS! – as a proud Mainframe computer geek, I point out to people that I am Mainframe and definitely not PC …

    Comment by Alasdair — 11/5/2009 @ 12:47 am

  53. Alasdair,

    As a very proud Sperry Mainframer, I’d rather read Heinlein.

    Oh, in a past Sperry job, NASDAQ in CT was one of my accounts. IE. They called “the Doctor” when the crap hit the fan.

    Comment by PCD — 11/5/2009 @ 8:41 am

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