Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch published a comprehensive study of Venezuela’s collapsed health care system. Maybe the problem is that Venezuelans have not followed the advice and guidance of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who says, “Almost every other developed nation in the world has universal healthcare.” Ocasio-Cortez’s website says, “It’s time the United States catch up to the rest of the world in ensuring all people have real healthcare coverage that doesn’t break the bank.”
Article 83 of the Venezuelan Constitution provides, “Health is a fundamental social right and the responsibility of the State, which shall guarantee it as part of the right to life.” Article 84 claims, “All persons have the right to protection of health, as well as the duty to participate actively in the furtherance and protection of the same, and to comply with such health and hygiene measures as may be established by law, and in accordance with international conventions and treaties signed and ratified by the Republic.”
Meanwhile, Article 85 says, “Financing of the public health system is the responsibility of the State. … The State guarantees a health budget such as to make possible the attainment of health policy objectives.”
A Utopian Vision
In spite of Venezuela’s vast oil wealth and a Constitution recognizing health care as a right, the Venezuelan people have little or no system of health care. The pursuit of that Utopianism has destroyed the country. It turns out there’s more to guaranteeing health insurance than piously declaring it to be a “right.”
“You can be a millionaire and never pay taxes,” Steve Martin told audiences in the early 1970s. How? By applying a simple two-step plan. “First, get a million dollars.” But what do you say when the tax man comes to your door and asks why you didn’t pay taxes? “Simple,” Martin explains, “Just say, ‘I forgot.’”
Democrats have rebooted a similar approach to providing health care to all, except nobody is laughing. It’s a very simple two-step process. First, everyone gets health care. Just make the promise, call it a “right,” and voila! Everyone has it. Second step: when somebody asks how you can pay for it, scream at and shame your opponent.
Just be ready with stories about vulnerable children and single mothers who require expensive medication that they can’t possibly afford. Are we hiring more doctors? Importing more doctors from abroad? Are we making it easier or cheaper for people to become nurses? Are we building more hospitals? How will we guarantee continued innovation in the profit-seeking pharmaceutical industry? The answer to all of these questions is, too often, more screaming and shaming.
Just try sketching a supply-demand curve on the cocktail napkin still wet from the condensation rolling off a liberal’s craft brew. It won’t work. She will just raise her voice and shout louder about greedy pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies.
If you’re really tenacious, you might get the liberal to admit that the plan can be paid for using something known as “modern money theory.” I’ll skip the dry reading to get to the punch line: printing money. Liberals have observed that in the last ten years, the Federal Reserve almost doubled the money supply.
Free Money Isn’t Free
Yet the purchasing power of the dollar declined by approximately 20 percent in that same period. The Fed used the new money to buy treasuries and mortgage-backed securities. It now owns $4.7 trillion in assets that it purchased with printed money.
To liberals, that feels like free money. You can buy a lot of health care for $4.7 trillion dollars, so why isn’t that money being deployed to help people instead of gathering dust in remote bank vaults? And if we can print $4.7 trillion with a 20 percent decline in purchasing power, why not double production of the greenback to pay for health care?
That’s not allowed under current law, but laws can easily be changed. We’re one election away from using the printing press to pay for social programs. Indeed, one economist has suggested that we can abolish taxes and just print money as we need it.
So double the money supply and lose only 20 percent value to the dollar? That seems like a magic formula to fund everything! Except that it’s actually a very dangerous bubble that has emerged in the dollar. The fastest way to pop that bubble is to deploy large amounts of money to bid on something that cannot easily be increased.
The one thing you can never make more of is time. A doctor’s day can be cut into ever more thin slices, but he cannot make 30 hours out of a 24-hour day. Some have suggested that our current opioid crisis resulted from insurance companies underwriting cheaper and easily produced pain pills instead of paying for relatively scarce treatments such as surgery or physical therapy. When Obamacare increased demand, the gap had to be made up somewhere.
Venezuela also attempted to pay for its ambitious social programs by printing money. It now has an inflation rate of between 80,000 percent and 10,000,000 percent according to latest numbers. Famine has begun to set in, with the average Venezuelan having lost 24 pounds. More than 90 percent of the country now lives in poverty.
In fact, socialist and communist regimes have accounted for almost every major famine in the last 100 years. In contrast, capitalism has fed hundreds of millions. It’s the great irony of history: The revolutionaries promising a “right” to bounty always deliver the opposite.
Capitalism that promises no such right, yet nevertheless delivers the best outcome for the poor. Ocasio-Cortez and her socialist ilk should be seen for what they are—vanguards of the same system that oppresses and impoverishes millions around the world. If we can’t see that, we will repeat it.