Think About Housing When You Think About Health Care

Scour the web and you'll find no shortage of analysis of the Obama administration's health care plan. Since very few people have the time, intellect or inclination for rigorous scrutiny, branding matters when policy meets politics, and policy makers know it. I'd wager out here in flyover country support is ordinarily driven by whether my guy, or your guy, is for or against it.

Elected policy makers themselves are prone to it too. Nearly no one read the stimulus plan and yet it passed on almost a purely party line vote. Why? In addition to 1) ideological preference and 2) laziness, individual members of Congress have all the incentive in the world to respond as their leadership demands. Leadership controls some, all or most of committee assignments, voting schedules, floor agendas, campaign funds and information flow so Congress, like any large organization, moves mostly as its leaders want it to move.

So as we learn about President Obama's plans, do yourself a favor and forget your personal feelings about him. He'll be gone in four or eight years and someone else will be building upon, or ratcheting back, his plans. When thinking about his health care plans, forget how they will look at inception or shortly thereafter. The real cost comes later as the long, slow, steady march toward centralized influence over our economic life continues.

Read this article about Washington involvement in the domestic housing market. It's been going on a long time with Congress enjoying ever growing power. Intentions were initially noble and appropriate: removing capricious, arbitrary and patently discriminatory barriers to mortgage opportunities. Political power accrued as Congress learned that policies to prevent discrimination could be repurposed to require particular mortgage lending outcomes (and for those who buy Barney Frank's view that Republicans carry the bulk of the blame, read this article from a well known right wing rag*).

The administration wants to replace an incomprehensibly complex series of human and financial relationships with a structure politically useful to them in the here and now subject to enormous, inevitable, political gaming in the future. The way our country finances health care sucks eggs and I don't believe government has no role but recognize that as politicians gain influence resources, just like with housing, will be allocated politically first and foremost.

*sarcasm alert

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