Should members of the LSU Board of Supervisors disclose who receives their scholarships?|
Story Archives: Meetings do little to settle anything
- 2013 - 801 articles
- 2012 - 1954 articles
- 2011 - 2029 articles
- 2010 - 2139 articles
- 2009 - 2066 articles
- December 2009 - 163 articles
- November 2009 - 166 articles
- October 2009 - 231 articles
- September 2009 - 161 articles
- September 26th, 2009 (Saturday) - 2 articles
- September 25th, 2009 (Friday) - 2 articles
- September 24th, 2009 (Thursday) - 27 articles
- September 23rd, 2009 (Wednesday) - 9 articles
- September 19th, 2009 (Saturday) - 2 articles
- September 18th, 2009 (Friday) - 1 articles
- September 17th, 2009 (Thursday) - 19 articles
- September 16th, 2009 (Wednesday) - 12 articles
- September 15th, 2009 (Tuesday) - 1 articles
- September 10th, 2009 (Thursday) - 31 articles
- September 9th, 2009 (Wednesday) - 11 articles
- September 6th, 2009 (Sunday) - 3 articles
- September 3rd, 2009 (Thursday) - 30 articles
- September 2nd, 2009 (Wednesday) - 10 articles
- September 1st, 2009 (Tuesday) - 1 articles
- August 2009 - 136 articles
- July 2009 - 153 articles
- June 2009 - 126 articles
- May 2009 - 164 articles
- April 2009 - 242 articles
- March 2009 - 204 articles
- February 2009 - 163 articles
- January 2009 - 157 articles
- 2008 - 1757 articles
|Meetings do little to settle anything|
When students of political history open their textbooks 50 years hence, they will no doubt marvel at the great age of the Town Meeting in America, a period when seemingly every member of the U.S. Senate and Congress felt an unexplained compulsion to stand in front of a group of constituents and allow them to vent in turn.
Just where the catalyst for this common compulsion among federal politicians arose is a question not even the historians will likely be able to answer. Maybe it came like anthrax through the congressional mail box, or perhaps from some strange electron emanating from Capitol Hill e-mail.
Whatever the cause of the outbreak of Town Meetings, the disease has clearly reached the point at which those congressmen who have not convened at least one gathering will be considered out of touch with their districts. Not to be outdone, our own 6th District congressman Dr. Bill Cassidy descended upon Livingston Parish this week to hold, yes, a Town Meeting. For better or worse, Dr. Cassidy's Livingston Parish event proved quite a bit calmer than some of the others around the nation that have received the most national air time. Of course, yelling and screaming always makes the TV cameras churn, and there was a distinct and welcomed lack of that at the Livingston Town Meeting.
The meeting itself didn't settle much, nor, I perceive, have any of the other Town Meetings around the nation. That's mostly because the 1,000 page bill currently serving as the centerpiece of debate does nothing to address the central problem with health care in America today. That problem is the escalating cost of Medicare and Medicaid spurred by an ever-increasing demographic of over 65's, and an ever-increasing tendency on the part of Washington politicians to spend other people's money for their own political benefit.
There's not much that can be done about the fact that the bubble of Baby Boomers, those born from 1946-64, is about to enter the Medicare system, a system into which that generation has paid taxes all of their lives.
But there is something that can be done about the increasing tendency on the part of senators and congressmen to use their political influence to funnel more Medicare and Medicaid money to health care providers back in their home districts. Indeed, although Congressman Cassidy himself has not been in office long enough to affect the spending process, he has spent a career providing health care to the aged and the indigent and being paid for his services with Medicare and Medicaid money.
It is a mathematical fact confirmed by the Congressional Budget Office that if the current spending increases on Medicare and Medicaid continue apace, the system will be broke before the year 2020. It is an economic fact that rising Medicare and Medicaid spending inflates the cost of medical care for everyone.
The Obama White House, inside private talks with Democratic leaders, reportedly has told them that the president wants a true fix to the system, and that fix cannot come without some kind of restraint on the political spending of Medicare and Medicaid money. Obama reportedly supports the concept of some kind of specialized committee that would determine what gets covered by Medicare and Medicaid, thus taking the process out of the hands of elected officials.
Under one plan under discussion such a committee would make annual recommendations to Congress, much like military base closings, and Congress could vote up or down on the entire proposal. Another idea, put forward in a Senate bill by two Democrats, would set up a government entity much like the Federal Reserve Board, and that entity would determine what gets covered by Medicare and Medicaid, and in what amounts.
The political objection raised by some key senators like Olympia Snow of Maine, one of the few Republican senators left north of the Mason-Dixon Line, is that she will be held accountable by her constituents for Medicare and Medicaid coverage, but would be powerless to do anything about it.
That's the classic argument often heard during debates in legislatures and Congress over road money, who gets it and how much. Good government dictates a road plan to eliminate waste and duplication. But elected legislators and congressmen are under constant constituent pressure for better roads. Delivering the roads becomes a key to reelection.
So it has also become with Medicare and Medicaid. Congress taxes workers' paychecks, then decides on a political basis how that money is redistributed to so-called "service providers." Those providers include hospitals, doctors, nurses, drug companies, commercial health insurance companies, and other groups all of which use part of the Medicare and Medicaid money they receive to hire lobbyists to help them get even more money.
This cycle of "tax according to productivity and redistribute according to political influence" has been ongoing since the Medicare system began under the umbrella of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society in 1965. Projections are that the system will destroy itself shortly after its 50th birthday.
The era of the American Town Meeting has descended upon us, but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Will Congress take serious steps to control Medicare and Medicaid spending, or will they avoid the issue once again and postpone action until the system actually goes bankrupt?
I can only hope I'm around to find out.
Jeff David owns and publishes The Livingston Parish News, an award-winning newspaper located in Denham Springs. David is a past president of Louisiana Press Association and National Newspaper Association.