In 1956, President Dwight Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid for Highways bill. In popular idiom, it became known as the “National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956″.
At the time, the Act was wrought with a certain amount of angst and opposition: The amount of rights-of-way to be purchased, the number of homes, families and buisnesses that would be dislocated, and the fact that the Federal Government was strong-arming the states into a straight-jacket of roads that can as easily rush troops to quickly crush internal strife, as they could to oust the storming of the beaches by the Ruskies was a real concern in the segregationist south in the mid-1950’s.
But, most people saw Detroit dumping five million vehicles a year onto the streets of America, and knew they had to have some place on which to drive them. So, the nearly 48,000 miles of highways was built. It started with a single contract awarded with federal revenue sharing in Missouri –of all places– in the fall of 1956.
In 2013 inflated dollars, the entirety of the system cost a little under $500 billion over the 32-year span of construction. Along the journey, the way Americans look at everything from cross-country travel, to the work-day commute, to even the way we eat, was unalterably changed– most of it for the better, but not entirely, and not without some loss and sorrow.
It is an important lesson in these days of the battle over the amorphous subject of “Health Care”.
First of all, we come at the issue from the Liberal axiom (Harvey Wienstein, call your office) that “America is the only advanced nation without Health Care”. Of course, the statement is not only empirically wrong, it is foolish on its face. But, no matter; We will accept the notion for the sake of this suggestion.
The same argument was made for the construction of the Interstate. Dwight Eisenhower, and his entire staff at SHAEF was awed during their first gander at the German Autobahn, and the way in which it connected Germany that Americans could only dream. The Interstate was at first a European Progressive wet-dream long before it became a nightmare for American environmentalists.
But, we put an American twist on the Autobahn.
First, it was initially planned by state highway departments– and thus, a truly innovative use of what might be termed modern Federalism. Second, it was financed with what became known as a “user fee”– that is, a national sales tax on motor fuels. And third, localities were allowed to come up with their own construction guidelines, as long as they fell within the broad rubric of federal rules.
All of which ought to be applied to “Health Care”– in the form of National Intrastate Hospitals and Healthcare Clinics.
Medicaid will have to be phased out over time. It is simply not arguable. As its administrators and directors have warned countless times, the program (at existing levels) is unsustainable, and is devouring most state budgets. And, as with all Federal entitlement programs, we don’t even have the ephemeral joy of the creation of any hard assets to ponder after the sluicing of untold trillions through the governmental slough.
Even though we’ve spent untold trillions on the poor, the sick, the infirm and indigent– we have zero to show for it. Zero.
Imagine spending this money –or, even a tithe of it– on a system of National or Federal Hospitals; a brand-new system, from the ground up. Hospitals with all of the newest technologies and appurtenances. And, hospitals where any American citizen, of any age or station, can receive treatment– free of charge.
Federal and State planners could site these facilities where they would best serve a given amount of population. Smaller population centers would have regional clinics or community hospitals. And, they could become training grounds for youngsters in medical colleges and universities.
We would retain the entirety of the existing healthcare system. But, all of the federal and state aid for Health Care would NOW flow to the Government Hospital system –and private capital would flow to the private system. Over time, the National Hospitals would be the “safety net”, and the need for both Medicare and Medicaid would cease.
People would actually receive care and treatment, not insurance and reams of compliance and forms and non-functioning web-sites.
Private insurance would plummet in cost because the poor and indigent would gravitate to the National Hospitals and Clinics, as would the “disadvantaged” elderly. Meanwhile, innovation and cutting-edge procedures would mushroom again as private capital would flow into value-added economies of scale, rather than into bureaucratic compliance and bureaucracy.
Imagine the jobs created if we started building hospitals and clinics like we built overpasses and on-ramps and cloverleafs. Imagine the explosion in the purchase of high-tech medical equipment, and how their cost would tumble as the competitive-bid process was applied.
And finally, a system of National Hospitals puts the lie to liberalism: Conservatism is about actually providing answers and delivering results. This system would provide actual “Medical Treatment” for those who otherwise cannot afford it– as opposed to the liberal jam-down of just giving them “insurance”, which is a universe away from treatment, when you actually need a doctor and medicine. Drugs and Doctors versus Forms and Bureaucrats is a war conservatives can win.
I will be authoring more on this as the days unfold. But, Care and Treatment vs. Bureaucrats and Forms: It’s an easy argument to explain, and an easier argument to win.