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Let's Provoke a Recession In Healthcare So That We Can Get Out of the Recession!

Posted Jan 06 2010 12:00am

The New Republic's Noam Scheiber comments on the debate over jumpstarting the economy, which, in this case, means criticizing a Wall Street Journal op-ed by three University of Chicago economists, by Gary Becker, Steven Davis, and Kevin Murphy. Fine. Scheiber is a liberal, and Becker et al. are free-marketeers. So of course they are going to disagree.

But it's interesting that Scheiber, in the course of disagreeing with Becker & Co., so that he can tout his own Obama-friendly neo-Keynesianism, overlooks the obvious big jobs program staring him--and all of us--in the face. What jobs program is that? Healthcare, of course, which is a sixth of the economy and accounts for about 13 million jobs now, and growing fast. Growing fast, unless, of course, the government squelches that growth--which seems to be the Obama administration's goal, a goal that Scheiber eagerly signs on to.

Here's how Scheiber ledes his piece, which is headlined, “Beware the Meme! Would our economy be in better shape if Obama were less ambitious?”:

My favorite moment from last month’s White House jobs summit came when the president asked if Washington had been doing something to discourage hiring. At this point, a man named Fred Lampropoulos, the CEO of a Utah-based medical device manufacturer, chimed in that yes, in fact, it had. “[T]here’s such an aggressive legislative agenda that businesspeople don’t really know what they ought to do,” Mr. Lampropoulos told the president, according to The New York Times. Political uncertainty, he said, “is really what’s holding back the jobs.”

Well, okay. Let’s stipulate that if you make MRI machines, or whatever, and Congress is threatening to pay a lot less for them (via health care reform), you’re probably not rushing out to hire more workers. 

The message seems to be: Let's kibosh the healthcare sector, so that we can get on with the job of growing the economy!   Any more questions?

And yet interestingly enough, it's Scheiber who argues that the government ought to get bigger, overall. In criticizing Becker, Davis, and Murphy, he writes: "They start from the ideological assumption that a bigger role for government is bad." And for his part, Scheiber starts from the ideological assumption that a bigger role for government is good. And he is for Obamacare, in one form or another, as part of that ideological belief. So healthcare "reform" is great, he seems to be saying, as an exercise in social-medical justice, or perhaps as a rationing plan to fight against waste--just don't think of it as a jobs program!
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