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Public Option Debate

The big health care reform news of the day as reported by CNN, NY Times, News & Observer, Washington Post, L.A. Times and Wall Street Journal is whether or not to remove the public option from the health care reform package.

The debate over the public option has completely overshadowed the real issue: Our current health care system is broken and needs to be fixed.  We cannot pass up this opportunity to develop a more efficient and more effective health care system.

President Obama is right when he says the public option is only a small piece of health care reform.  If we can find a way to provide affordable health insurance to everyone who wants it without a public plan, then let’s do it.  I would love to hear some meaningful suggestions from the insurance companies and other critics about how we can improve access to care without a public plan.

Maintaining the status quo is not an option.  We cannot let the debate over a public plan derail the effort to reform our health care system.  There is too much at stake.

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9 thoughts on “Public Option Debate

  1. Even now that I’m living in California, I’m still looking to North Carolina health leaders to stay abreast of the latest issues. Thanks for the blog, I’m really enjoying it!

  2. Dr. Atkinson,

    Since you’re asking for meaningful suggestions from critics, I thought you’d enjoy this from Dr. Ron Paul, Congressman from Texas:

    What a third party is paying the bills and malpractice lawsuits loom, doctors have every incentive to maximize costs and order all possible tests and treatments. The incentive to cut costs is lost, as physicians (now working essentially as low-level employees) seek to make as much as they can in the new corporate environment and charge the maximum the HMOs allow. Before 1965, physicians and hospitals (like all other private entities competing for your dollar) strove to charge the minimum; because payment now comes so largely from third parties, they instead charge the maximum. At the same time, patients suffer when legitimate and necessary treatment is denied. HMOs have become corporate, bureaucratic middlemen in our health care system, driving up costs while degrading the quality of medical care. In all other industries, technology has nearly always led to lower prices – except in health care, thanks to the managed-care system that has been forced upon us.

    The story behind the creation of the HMOs is a classic illustration of what economist Ludwig von Mises once said: government interventions create unintended consequences that lead to calls for further intervention, and so on into a destructive spiral of more and more government control. During the early 1970s, Congress embraced HMOs in order to address concerns about rising health care costs. But it was Congress itself that had caused health care costs to spiral by removing control over the health care dollar from so many consumers in the 1960s, and thus eliminating any incentive to pay attention to costs when selecting health care. Now, Congress wants to intervene yet again to address problems caused by HMOs, the product of still earlier interventions.

    The most obvious way to break this cycle is to get the government out of the business of meddling in health care, which was far more affordable and accessible before government got involved. Short of that, and more politically feasible in the immediate run, is to allow customers and their doctors to pull themselves out of the system through medical savings accounts. Under this system, consumers could save pretax dollars in special accounts. Those dollars would be used to pay for health care expenses, with patients negotiating directly with the physicians of their choice for the care they choose, without regard for HMO rules or a bureaucrat’s decision. The incentive for the physician is that he gets paid as the service is rendered, rather than having to wait months for an HMO or insurance provider’s billing cycle.

    With the cash for the MSAs coming from pretax dollars, most Americans could afford deposits that would cover routine expenses that families experience in a year. Insurance would tend to return to its normal function of providing for large scale, unanticipated occurrences, and would become far more affordable.

    Even now, though, it is possible for physicians to operate outside this crazy system if they make a special effort to do so. Several years ago I had a chance to meet Dr. Robert Berry, who had come to Washington to offer testimony before the congressional Joint Economic Committee, of which I am a member. Dr. Berry had opened a low-cost clinic in rural Tennessee. The clinic does not accept insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid, a policy that allows Dr. Berry to treat patients without interference from third-party government bureaucrats or HMO administrators. He and his patients can therefore decide for themselves on appropriate treatments.

    In other words, Dr. Berry practices medicine as most doctors did 40 years ago, when patients paid cash for ordinary services and had inexpensive catastrophic insurance for serious injuries or illnesses.

    Doing so affords him additional advantages as well. Freed from the bureaucracies of HMOs or government, he can focus on medicine rather than billing. By operating on a cash basis he lowers his overhead considerably, thereby making it possible to charge much lower prices than other doctors. He often charges just $35 for routine maladies – only slightly more than insurance co-pay that other offices charge. His affordable prices enable low-income patients to see him before minor problems become serious, and unlike most doctors, Dr. Berry sees patients the same day on a walk-in basis.

    His patients are largely low-income working people who cannot afford health insurance but don’t necessarily qualify for state assistance. Some of his uninsured patients have been forced to visit hospital emergency rooms for the nonemergency treatment because no doctor would see them. Others disliked the long waits and inferior treatment they endured at government clinics.

    And speaking of poor treatment, those who favor national health care schemes should take a good, hard look at our veterans’ hospitals. There is your national health care. These institutions are a national disgrace. If this is the care the government dispenses to those it honors as its most heroic and admirable citizens, why should anyone else expect to be treated any better?

    Ron Paul
    The Revolution – A Manifesto
    P. 87 – 91

  3. I agree with Dr. Paul. The very best fix to health care is to get out of the way of the productive doctors and hospitals who strive to bring wide health care availability.

    What happens in our market system when there’s a segment of the population lacking service? Auto companies build inexpensive cars, and offer deals on used cars. Walmart opened to provide cheap goods available to just about everyone. Charity and faith based groups across the nation feed and house the poor at no cost to them…

    How unbelievable is it that health care could (and if we can remember back, did) operate in much the same way?

    The beginning of insurance was to help the working poor, who suffered debilitating disease or injury, so they could take time off, heal and get back to work. Now, you’re hard pressed to be able to afford routine medical care without insurance. Physicals alone usually run over $200 at any provider that accepts insurance.

    Is the answer to this ever increasing cost system to increase the reasons why it spiraled out of control in the first place? Would you, as a doctor, treat a patient who swallowed a pint of gasoline by pouring another gallon down his throat?

    But this is always the rally cry of the looting class. Why should they have to pay for the goods, services, education and experience of a physician? Who are these people to make a living? It’s a fundamental right!

    But look back. For 200 years we went without insurance or significant government intervention in health care. It wasn’t perfect, there were problems. Problems that, to a large degree, technology and innovation were stamping out.

    In the 1960’s we decide that we know better than history, and start meddling. Which led to more meddling, and more meddling, and on and on… Now, you describe this as a crisis, and a catastrophe! And I agree.

    So, my meaningful suggestion? Government and bureaucrats pack it up and get out of our way. Free us, and we’ll do what we do best.

  4. Computers.

    Early in computer development, expanding computer capability was expected to require huge amounts of space. A single computer would take up an entire room, and only be available to the super rich. Even as late as the 1980’s, the head of military technology at the Pentagon regarded computers as a passing fad, refusing significant investment.

    Of course, now we know that they were wrong. Superconductor technology, microchips and many other innovations have brought computers in exactly the opposite direction. Computers are far more capable, and far cheaper than anyone ever anticipated.

    Automobiles

    Consider the response you would have gotten in the late 1800’s telling a person that soon everyday citizens would be driving metal boxes, weighing thousands of pounds, filled with highly flammable chemicals and moving at speeds never before achieved by man. Insanity!

    What made these innovations possible? More to the point, what made these innovations possible in America where to this day the conveniences we take for granted are nearly unheard of elsewhere in the world? It certainly wasn’t government bureaucrats sitting around directly our greatest minds what to do and how to do it. It was done in the all holy name of chasing profits.

    Chasing profits, today, is condemned as evil: those dirty insurance companies! Trying to make a profit! How dare they!

    Envy has given way to stupidity. If the insurance companies are making a profit, and that’s bad and they’re evil, why do we contract with them and give them our money of our own free will? Is it possible, just possible, that they provide a service we value? And if they don’t, why do we bother with them?

    Profits aren’t made by cheating people. Let’s look at this pre-existing condition argument. I’ve been told by our own president it’s a bad thing that insurance companies don’t insure those with pre-existing conditions.

    Instead, we’re told, they should greatly increase their financial risk and invest in people they’ll probably end up losing money on. Wait a second… I know this argument… it sounds so familiar… Wasn’t it a very short time ago that we were all so red around the collar that mortgage companies were creating “high risk loans” which led to the financial mess we have today?

    So, while the mortgage companies shouldn’t practice high risk business principles which brought on financial disaster, health care should because it makes up a far greater percentage of the economy.

    Wait… what?

    This is what we get, when we leave government to run our industries. This stupidity, this contradiction; it sounds so good on paper! Just as when Obama was working as a lawyer for ACORN, pushing for high risk loans to low income people.

    Is it any wonder that the United States provides the world with the vast majority of innovation, both inside and outside of health care? It’s not by magic. It’s not Pelosi or Obama or Bush or Cheney sitting on high yelling down to the masses: “make me a Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine!”

    It’s profit chasing. It requires providing a valuable skill to the public. It’s the very principle of the free market.

    But no, health care is somehow different than every other industry in the world! Just because profit chasing gives way to huge advances in quality of life, it’s exactly the opposite in health care. Just because profit chasing has made cars, computers, air travel, high quality food, clothing and millions of other conveniences widely available at an increasingly low cost – health care is different… by magic…

    But, let us look at another argument: competition. Insurance companies, of which there are many, need competition in the market place we’re told. Hence the need for a public option.

    Really? I would have thought that increasing availability of medical care would come from increasing competition in the medical industry: that is, doctors and hospitals. How, exactly, do hospitals compete today?

    Let’s look at Wake County. You’ve got Duke, Rex and WakeMed. If I go to Rex, will I pay more for my surgery than if I go to WakeMed? No, I won’t. My dollar at Rex buys the same service that my dollar does at WakeMed. When I was scheduling a surgery not long ago there was no cost difference between the two hospitals – my dollar didn’t buy more at one than the other. Was it based on which doctor would perform my surgery? No, my surgeon has his own outside office. Could I expect a different experience at one hospital than I could at the other? Not really. I was unconscious through that part. So who got my dollar? Rex did, because they were able to see me sooner. That’s it and that’s all.

    Would increasing competition among the insurance companies increase competition in the health industry leading to better care? No, it wouldn’t. Just the opposite. Either the government or the insurance companies are who the doctors and hospitals have to negotiate with, they’re paying the bills. So, where am I in the equation? Something akin to your car when you bring it in for maintenance.

    You care about your car, so far as it keeps you getting from point A to point B, but do you really care if your mechanic gives your automobile the loving touch? “Oh no, use the bolts with the comfortable threads. I know they’re a little more costly, but my Mazda’s worth it!”

    I love competition. I would love to work in a competitive atmosphere. I want my competition to be striving to beat me out of business, just as I’m striving to beat them out of business. I want to be working my hardest for promotions to leave my co-workers behind. This isn’t just the atmosphere I want to work in, it’s the atmosphere I want to purchase goods and services in because I want my dollar to be worth the best minds and greatest talents.

    This is not what congress and our president are proposing. They’re proposing just the opposite: a market where doctors and hospitals aren’t competing for the customer’s dollar, because the customer isn’t paying the bills. And if the hospitals and doctors aren’t working for the consumer, who exactly are they working for?

    “Why’d you go to Hospital A?”
    “Oh, they cut a sweetheart deal with some bureaucrat so it was the only place I could go for my ‘free’ care.”
    “I heard they clean their surgical equipment with used hydraulic fluid.”
    “Is that why my knees don’t squeak anymore?”

    Isn’t this already the case? Just look at this forum. Here we’ve got the president of a major hospital organization using company resources to argue for this health care reform. At the same time, the staff at said organization has had benefits slashed this year: no merit based raises; no end of year bonuses; paid time off can’t be bought out or traded to co-workers in need at equal value; etc…

    Is the president fighting for tort reform? No, tort reform would lower exposure and overhead, allowing for 1) less expensive services, 2) greater compensation for employees, or 3) both.

    Is the president fighting for reduced tax liability? No, reduced tax liability would allow for 1) less expensive services, 2) greater compensation for employees, or 3) both. In fact, a trillion dollar health care reform would only increase tax liability.

    Which all begs the question… why? I realize that you claim you’re only providing information about the debate, but it seems mine is the only voice on this forum providing the other side of the argument. So, why?

  5. I heartily agree with you. Tort reform needs to be addressed as well as many other things. If getting universal health care is so important why do we not have members of congress read the bill and explain what the bill is about. WHY MUST we pass this urgent legislation so quickly. Do it but do it right. Why can “the people” have a say in how the bill is fashioned? Why is it now “unamerican” to protest? It somehow reminds me of the Nixon years.

  6. This is an article that I read the other day… it seems that we are all seeking information, but centered on what motive? Sincerity is defined as a personal quality of living life based on pure motive without deceit. Is healthcare defined as sincere… pure motive. Truly WakeMed does their part because we ‘We provide a quality experience for those we serve, regardless of their ability to pay ‘. This is a sincere step, pure motive without deceit. If you look at the recession, you see many who are educated, who lived the American dream, who contributed to society, whom lost their jobs, and now no healthcare. You look at victims of Katrina; hardworking contributors to society; and now no health care. Look at yourself and what tomorrow would mean for you and your family if you lost it all; let’s see if you would say that you would be fine to not have health care coverage and not provided with a fundamental right. One car accident could change our life. One parent getting laid off or passing away could change an entire household. Is this truly a debate about healthcare; what is our motive?
    http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/08/17/potter.health.insurance/index.html

    Editor’s note: Wendell Potter has served since May 2009 as senior fellow on health care at the Center for Media and Democracy, a nonprofit organization that says it seeks to expose “corporate spin and government propaganda.” After a 20-year career as a corporate public relations executive, Potter left his job last year as head of communications for one of the nation’s largest health insurers, CIGNA Corporation.

    Ex-insurance company spokesman Wendell Potter says the industry seeks to drive the health care debate.

    (CNN) — Having grown up in one of the most conservative and Republican places in the country — East Tennessee — I understand why many of the people who are showing up at town hall meetings this month are reacting, sometimes violently, when members of Congress try to explain the need for an expanded government role in our health care system.

    I also have a lot of conservative friends, including one former co-worker who was laid off by CIGNA several years ago but who nonetheless worries about a “government takeover” of health care.

    The most vocal folks at the town hall meetings seem to share the same ideology as my kinfolks in East Tennessee and my former CIGNA buddy: the less government involvement in our lives, the better.

    That point couldn’t have been made clearer than by the man standing in line to get free care at Remote Area Medical’s recent health care “expedition” at the Wise County, Virginia, fairgrounds, who told a reporter he was dead set against President Obama’s reform proposal.

    Even though he didn’t have health insurance, and could see the desperation in the faces of thousands of others all around him who were in similar straits, he was more worried about the possibility of having to pay more taxes than he was eager to make sure he and his neighbors wouldn’t have to wait in line to get care provided by volunteer doctors in animal stalls. Watch Potter interview with Sanjay Gupta »

    Friday morning my former CIGNA buddy sent me an e-mail challenging something he said his wife heard me say in a radio report about my press conference in the Capitol on Wednesday with Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-New York, chairwoman of the House Rules Committee.

    “She heard you say that these protestors are funded by the insurance companies. Frankly, nothing would surprise me, but certainly not each and every person,” he wrote. “If there was a meeting near me, I certainly would tell my local representative how I feel about this entire subject (and it wouldn’t be pretty), and I certainly am not funded by anyone. So I am ultimately wondering what proof there is that seemingly ordinary Americans are finally protesting what is going in Washington and there are all of these suggestions of a greater conspiracy.”

    If the radio report had carried more of my remarks, he might have a better understanding of how the health insurance and its army of PR people are influencing his opinions and actions without his even knowing it.

    Until I quit my job last year, I was one of the leaders of that army. I had a very successful career and was my company’s voice to the media and the public for several years.

    It was my job to “promote and defend” the company’s reputation and to try to persuade reporters to write positive stories about the industry’s ideas on reform. During the last couple of years of my career, however, I became increasingly worried that the high-deductible plans insurers were beginning to push Americans into would force more and more of us into bankruptcy.

    The higher I rose in the company, the more I learned about the tactics insurers use to dump policyholders when they get sick, in order to increase profits and to reward their Wall Street investors. I could not in good conscience continue serving as an industry mouthpiece. And I did not want to be part of yet another industry effort to kill meaningful reform.

    I explained during the press conference with Rep. Slaughter how the industry funnels millions of its policyholders’ premiums to big public relations firms that provide talking points to conservative talk show hosts, business groups and politicians. I also described how the PR firms set up front groups, again using your premium dollars and mine, to scare people away from reform.

    What I’m trying to do as I write and speak out against the insurance industry I was a part of for nearly two decades is to inform Americans that when they hear isolated stories of long waiting times to see doctors in Canada and allegations that care in other systems is rationed by “government bureaucrats,” someone associated with the insurance industry wrote the original script.

    The industry has been engaging in these kinds of tactics for many years, going back to its successful behind-the-scenes campaign to kill the Clinton reform plan.

    A story in Friday’s New York Times about the origin of the absurdly false rumor that President Obama’s health care proposal would create government-sponsored “death panels” bears out what I have been saying.

    The story notes that the rumor emanated “from many of the same pundits and conservative media outlets that were central in defeating Bill Clinton’s health care proposal 16 years ago, including the editorial board of The Washington Times, the American Spectator magazine and Betsy McCaughey, whose 1994 health care critique made her a star of the conservative movement (and ultimately, the lieutenant governor of New York).”

    The big PR firms that work for the industry have close connections with those media outlets and stars in the conservative movement. One of their PR firms, which created and staffed a front group in the late ’90s to kill the proposed “Patients’ Bill of Rights,” launched a PR and advertising campaign in conservative media outlets to drum up opposition to the bill.

    The message: President Clinton “owed a debt to the liberal base of the Democrat Party and would try to pay back that debt by advancing the type of big government agenda on health care that he failed to get in 1994.”

    The industry goes to great lengths to keep its involvement in these campaigns hidden from public view. I know from having served on numerous trade group committees and industry-funded front groups, however, that industry leaders are always full partners in developing strategies to derail any reform that might interfere with insurers’ ability to increase profits.

    So the next time you hear someone warning against a “government takeover” of our health care system, or that the creation of a public health insurance option would send us down the “slippery slope toward socialism,” know that someone like I used to be wrote those terms, knowing it might turn many of the very people who would benefit most from meaningful reform into unwitting spokespeople for the industry.

  7. I’m sorry if I’m laughing too hard to develop too thoughtful a response to this.

    Derrick response to a lengthy and logical series of posts is to insinuate that I am (at best) some sort of mouthpiece for the insurance companies. Attack the messenger, not the message, eh? And, even there, you fall flat. I haven’t, anywhere in here, proposed anything beneficial to the insurance companies.

    But, I’ll return to my previous comment. If you don’t like the insurance industry, if you don’t believe they’re working in your best interest, don’t give them your money. Stop buying insurance. The result: they’ll either reform to your demands, or they’ll go out of business. That’s the free market. That’s capitalism. And that doesn’t require the heavy hand of government bureaucrats. Take some responsibility yourself.

    Or, better yet, start an insurance company that works the way you think it ought to. Don’t require premiums from the poor. Don’t deny anyone coverage for any procedure they want or need. Don’t drop policy holders for any reason.

    But, let’s also look at this “pure motive” argument of yours. You say that the WakeMed policy of providing care, regardless of ability to pay is a pure motive. WakeMed could do no wrong.

    Well, that’s mandated by the federal government, so I don’t give a lot of credit to WakeMed for following the law.

    But beyond that, how many patients are kept in the hospital longer than they need to simply because they’re covered by insurance or Medicare? How many tests does WakeMed run every single day on patients that aren’t necessary, simply because they can get away with billing for it? How many patients are ordered onto heart monitors, who have no substantial need for it, just because it pays better than a regular hospital bed?

    The exact answer, I couldn’t tell you, beyond “a lot.” Spend some time in a hospital and count how many times you hear the phrase, “I don’t know what they’re still doing here,” from nurses.

    Is this the pure motive you’re talking about? Now, that may sound like condemnation, but honestly I don’t blame WakeMed (or every other hospital in the nation, who operate in the same fashion), it’s the hand they’ve been dealt by… government bureaucrats. The only way to stay in business is to squeeze every dollar available out of every patient you can. Insurance reimbursements are a fraction of the market value, same with medicare and medicaid, so doctors are forced to charge the maximum they can.

    Meanwhile, who’s lost in the shuffle of billing and reimbursements? The patients.

    Like I said, the answer isn’t more government or more insurance – the answer is less.

  8. Jeff, that’s just it, stop laughing and start thinking. We are still waiting for your first thoughtful response. My comment was to provide information as my article noted that persons who had opinions were not that of plants for the insurance company (paragraph 10 of my prior message), but the article is written by someone in the insurance world. I have no insinuation of you in my response, for my response was to that of the topic, ‘Public Option Debate’… but this one is for you.

    How thoughtful of you to compare healthcare to a mortgage crisis, “Wasn’t it a very short time ago that we were all so red around the collar that mortgage companies were creating “high risk loans” which led to the financial mess we have today? So, while the mortgage companies shouldn’t practice high risk business principles which brought on financial disaster, health care should because it makes up a far greater percentage of the economy.” The last I checked, it was not the mortgage companies who turned themselves in, nor was it the person trying to obtain the loan swindling someone in the mortgage company. The term was deemed predatory lending. And please don’t mince my words to say, Aha so you see predatory healthcare’.

    I think that this discussion is on the basis that something needs to be done. And don’t I have the right to participate in discussion or as you eloquently put it, ‘Derrick response to a lengthy and logical series of posts is to insinuate that I am (at best) some sort of mouthpiece for the insurance companies’. The first part of communicating is to be a good listener and/or reader as well. Elizabeth made a post and Sarah did as well, but just attack me for providing different information. Can I accurately say that you think that I am not part of the logical series of post? If you like red and I like green, does that make me illogical?

    Your ironically mention the poor… remember, if you lost everything, you would be poor. There are many avenues of which people become poor, but there is no class distinction of poor, poor is just poor. Some avenues are if your spouse dies, if you don’t try, if you lose it all, etc. As a switch, there are person who are doing good financially, and still can’t afford healthcare. My question is, would you want health care if you became poor? Would you like an option? I am employed and I do pay taxes, and I do want to see my tax dollars at work and if that means helping to pay for someone’s health care whether 2 years old or 75, with Parkinson’s, cancer, stroke, etc… then I am happy, my tax dollars at work!

    I would not make the assumption that Jeff would like to have all persons who do not pay taxes not able to use the streets, since tax dollars pay for the street.

  9. Would I want health care being poor? Sure. I’d also like a corvette, a summer cottage in the North and 200 channels of cable television.

    Wanting is not the same thing as earning.

    But, I’ll play along, and I’ll stimulate for a moment that the government run option comes along. Being that I’m paying for it, is it then unreasonable for the government option to require drug, alcohol and smoking screening before treatment?

    Let’s be reasonable here, if a person is smoking a pack of cigarettes per day, that’s just shy of $2,000 a year, give or take. They could pay for their own health insurance instead; faced with the decision of smoking or health insurance, they chose smoking. Seems fair to deny them “free” insurance then.

    What if we require them not to have cable television if they’re on the government run option? Cable TV is, about minimum, $600 a year – a substantial part of what could be put toward health insurance instead. Seems fair to me.

    Have any pets? Pets can get awful expensive. What about heating and air conditioning? Depending on where you live, those luxuries are convenient, but not necessities. Own a car? Why aren’t they taking public transportation instead? Internet connection? Are you training for a better career or looking for work? Have they served in the military?

    How long I could go on. Isn’t reasonable though? If a person can’t afford what you call a “fundamental right,” then certainly they can’t afford the luxuries. If they can afford the luxuries, can’t we expect them to provide for their own responsibility of health insurance? Why should I be responsible for it instead?

    If the poor are in such dire straits that they truly cannot afford health insurance after giving up the luxuries, then sure, I’ll help them out. We have a program for that already though – it’s called Medicaid, Welfare, unemployment, COBRA and food stamps. There’s your public option.

    Do I agree with giving people who have hit bottom the opportunity to pull themselves back up? Absolutely, I do. I’m willing to invest in the short term for them now, so they can get back to work later. Am I willing to provide for those who take little to no responsibility for their own well being? Call me heartless, but I don’t.

    I feel a lot of responsibilities in my life. I have a responsibility to provide for myself. I feel the responsibility to provide for my family when they’re in need… I feel responsible to expect the same out of my fellow countrymen.

    And, since you brought it back up, let’s do look at the mortgage crisis and what we can learn from it. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac buy out high risk mortgages, under direction from the federal government. Banks are told to loan to high risk people, under threat from community groups like ACORN and the government. And why? So politicians of every strip can pat themselves on the back for increasing home ownership. When it goes sour, the only safe person to blame is the mortgage companies. They’re evil people working for profit anyway. And the public buys it; hook, line and sinker.

    Who was responsible for the housing crisis? Politicians and community groups that used their power for personal political gain while ignoring the consequences. And, just as much, the people who bought homes they couldn’t afford.

    Banks that acted stupidly? They’ve been failing all over the country. They’re paying their price for it. The rest? Barry Frank and Chris Dodd still sit on their little committees; and now are trying to reduce Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loan requirements yet again. And we’re scrambling to avoid as many foreclosures as possible.

    Do I feel a responsibility to bail them out? Absolutely not. Let the people get foreclosed on, let them file bankruptcy, have their credit record reflect their poor decisions and ability to live up the their end of a contract. And vote out of office every politician that had a hand to play in it.

    But that makes me heartless, doesn’t it? To expect people to provide for themselves, to live up to contracts and obligations? Instead, I’m told, I should be opening up my wallet every time they get themselves in trouble. Be it their house, their insurance, their education… it’s my responsibility to pay for it.

    We hear a lot about accountability today, isn’t it time we start holding our fellow citizens accountable for the decisions they make in their own lives?

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