What Does the Brooklyn Bridge Have to do with Socialized Medicine?

The idea of Medicare for all, as proposed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Kamala Harris, and many others on the left, sounds amazing.  They’re a little vague on details, but as I understand it, everyone on U.S. soil, whether they pay into the system or not, would be entitled to free quality healthcare from birth until death.  That would include rich and poor, healthy and infirmed, young and old, citizen and non-citizen alike.  There would be no exemptions, no carve-outs, like there were for Obamacare.  After all, who would want to be exempt from a dream program like that?  And all of it would be administered by the government and funded by taxes on the wealthy. 

Their plan is based on a simple premise:  Healthcare is a basic human right.  Were it not for an oversight 240 years ago, our Declaration of Independence certainly would have recognized our God-given unalienable rights as life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and healthcare.    

But our Founding Documents don’t mean much to today’s Progressives or Democratic Socialists anyway.  And because they see socialized medicine as an enormous benefit to our society, that $32 trillion price tag is also largely irrelevant to them.  As Ocasio-Cortez suggested, they can work out all the details later.  But the basic idea is to tax the extremely wealthy, the top one percent who, they say, really don’t need the money anyway.  They claim that the rest of the country, the other 99 percent, will be absolutely elated with the result. 

I see why, to the younger generation, the plan sounds awesome.  It’s also easy to understand why families who regularly struggle with medical bills would welcome it, as would those with pre-existing conditions and the otherwise uninsured.  The way they’re selling it, I’d expect even the millions of Americans who are happy with their health insurance to also be clamoring for socialized medicine. 

But there are political pie-in-the-sky promises, and then there’s reality.   

One of the most common justifications for socialized medicine goes something like this: “We’re the only civilized nation in the world that doesn’t guarantee healthcare for everyone.”  If that phrase sounds familiar, it’s because similar words have been spoken in almost every household across the country.  I used the same argument myself as a child whenever I wanted something my parents couldn’t afford, “…but everyone else has one.”    

They always gave the same response in the form of a hypothetical question: “If everyone else jumps off the Brooklyn Bridge, does that mean you have to join them?”  I never had a rebuttal, so that usually ended the discussion.  Besides, I guess I instinctively knew that my “everyone else” argument was pretty weak in the first place.  Looking back, I now understand that their rhetorical question was really a life lesson about common sense, herd mentality, financial responsibility, and envy.

Ocasio-Cortez and her acolytes seem to envy Sweden’s model of socialized medicine.  But the medical needs and healthcare issues of that country, of around 10 million citizens can’t compare to those of our country, with more 300 million people.  America is, in fact, one of the three most populated countries in the world, except for China and India.  And incidentally, all three of those nations, including Communist China, currently provide their citizens with some combination of government-run healthcare and private insurance.    

Ms. Cortez also glosses over the funding of her proposed plan.  She acknowledges that higher taxes on the wealthy would be necessary, but fails to mention that even Sweden cannot maintain its healthcare system by taxing only the top one percent.  The enormous tax burden is shouldered by the entire population.

Admittedly, most Swedes seem content with socialized medicine, but that country is also dealing with a mass immigration problem.  There is no way it can offer healthcare to the tens of thousands of new immigrants without raising taxes to even higher levels, reducing quality of care, or rationing services.

And there are other issues Progressives ignore when they make the “every other country” argument.

What’s the relative quality of the healthcare other countries provide?  Is it rationed?  What percentage of their GDP is spent on defense vs. healthcare?  Do they even have a defense budget?          

And while they love to talk about Sweden, they never mention some of the other welfare states, whose leaders promised more than they can deliver – countries like Greece, France, and most recently, Venezuela.

Yes, it’s understandable that a lot of Americans might welcome this “innovative” approach to healthcare, Medicare for all – socialized medicine.  It’s too bad that the people who are selling it never learned that simple principle most Americans learned in childhood: 

Don’t buy something you can’t afford, and don’t be envious of those who do.

This article first appeared on westernjournal.com under a different title.

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