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View from the Cordillera

A Commentary on Achieving Excellence in Local Government
Read by Municipal Leaders on 4 Continents
Published by the Cordillera Institute
(Vol. 4, Issue 28)
The Health-Care Dilemma (part 2): A Giant Step in the Wrong Direction
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Summary of This Commentary
After the passing of the so-called health-care-reform bill by the U.S. Congress, the focus of the major media quickly shifted to the next items on the administration's agenda.  Few reported on the follow-up celebrations in the White House or on Capitol Hill.  Why would the major media want to shift public attention away from a 'victory' that they played such a major role in bringing about?  It's partly because this 'victory' was opposed by a majority of Americans — and because that majority seems to grow each time the alternative media expose more of what was 'hidden' in the 2,700-plus pages of the bill.  In this commentary, we examine some of the major flaws in the legislation, including the means for the federal government to take over control of what remains of private health care in the U.S.  But, this obese law is just the tip of the iceberg.  Within it are some 2,000 authorizations for unelected, unaccountable-to-the-public federal bureaucrats to write the new rules under which everyone else will have to live.

So, why should any of this concern local government?  After all, the administration and its agents have given assurances that your health-care insurance plans will not be touched.  The question is: does the federal government have the resources to make good on those assurances?  You be the judge.  Federal spending since January 2009 has more than doubled the federal debt.  The debt has increased so much and so fast because the federal government is spending money it doesn't have — money it is borrowing, in our names and in the names of generations yet to be born, from communist China and from other foreign lenders.  The federal government has used some of its giant slush funds — TARP and the so-called stimulus — to bail out states and municipalities which have supported its policies.  But, those bailouts were only temporary stop-gaps.  States have now consumed or committed the bulk of those subsidies.  We are beginning to see states like New York and California proposing cuts in state employment, reductions in wages (to minimum-wage level in California), and reductions in benefits.  If this is what states are proposing for their own work forces, is it realistic to think that local government will escape untouched?  And, is it realistic to think that the $940 billion which the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) estimates that the new health-care law will add to the debt will have no consequences for local government?  If anyone is still in doubt, just ask the former employees of the City of Maywood (California), all of whom were terminated by city council on June 21 when that city could no longer pay its bills.

If you are 1 of our 1,000s of readers living outside the U.S., you may be tempted to dismiss this as an American problem which will have little effect beyond the U.S. borders.  After all, our major media are telling us that our economies are in better shape than that of the U.S.  And, most of our countries already have government-run health-care systems.  So, why should we be concerned about what is happening in the U.S.?  In big-picture terms, a continuing-to-falter U.S. economy will hurt all of our economies since a portion of what our economies produce is exported to the U.S.  And, since this current administration — like its depression-era counterpart — is pushing to curb foreign imports, our economies are going to feel the pinch.  Also, the current Congress is making significant cuts in military spending — meaning that our governments will have to make up at least some of the differences or leave our countries more vulnerable to terrorists and others who would do us harm.  With those coming demands on the resources of our national governments, is it realistic to think that our local governments will see no cuts in senior-government funding?

In health-care-system terms, the U.S. legislation introduces a number of new wrinkles which some of those who run our senior-government health-care systems will likely want to adopt.  That's because most of our government-run systems still rely on private-sector organizations to deliver at least some aspects of health care.  This U.S. legislation offers new 'tools' for those who wish to drive the private sector completely out of our systems.  And, it offers new methods for those who would expand the power of government at the expense of the public who rely on our government-run systems.  is it realistic to think that our local-government health-care insurance plans will not be affected?  Or, is it realistic to think that our individual health-care needs will be met as well in future as they are today?  Once you have read the full text of this commentary, you be the judge.

As always, we welcome your comments.

David Barber
Cordillera Institute
(416) 293-9300

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Each issue of View from the Cordillera covers some aspect of excellence in local government.  It may examine one of the success elements; it may present a case study; it may introduce a resource (an individual, a group, a publication, etc.) which is advancing excellence; it may advocate a new direction for local government; or it may identify a wrong turn in public policy and offer an appropriate remedy.  This electronic publication is read by those who govern, manage, support, and sustain our local governments.  For more information, just click on the About VFC button below.

About the Cordillera Institute
The Cordillera Institute is an independent research and public policy organization dedicated to excellence in local government.  Since our founding in 1994, we have studied many high-performance organizations to learn what makes them successful.  From this research, we have distilled a set of principles, paradigms, policies, programs, and practices which are the key elements of their success.  Our mission is to be a catalyst — to empower municipalities, school boards, public utilities, and other local public agencies to achieve excellence by adopting and applying these success elements.  For more information, just click on the About CI button below.

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