President Obama mounted a frontal assault on the insurance industry on Saturday, accusing it of airing “deceptive and dishonest ads” to derail his health care legislation and threatening to strip the industry of its longstanding exemption from federal anti-trust laws.Let's leave aside for the moment the hilarity of any successful big-time politico affecting to wax wroth against those who bend the truth, or break it. ("Hey, quit lying -- that's my job!") Let's think for a moment about the structure of the threat being made here.
In unusually harsh terms, Mr. Obama cast insurance companies as obstacles to change interested only in preserving their own “profits and bonuses” and willing to “bend the truth or break it” to stop his drive to remake the nation’s health care system. The president used his weekly radio and Internet address to push back against industry assertions that legislation will drive up premiums.
When I was just a young engineer, back in high school, they taught me in Government class about antitrust. Antitrust, they said, was the height of civic virtue. It was the only thing keeping the top-hatted capitalists from taking our first and last pennies, enslaving us, and probably sleeping with our moms and sisters while they were at it. Inasmuch as I now know that at least 98% of what I was taught in Government class was pure, high-potency, weapons-grade crapola, I find myself skeptical about the benefits, the constitutionality (as if that mattered!), and the efficacy of antitrust. Again, though, let's agree to assume that antitrust is the real goods: our strong and solitary bulwark of defense against the malefactors of great wealth and their depredations.
Then: why does the Health Insurance Crackhouse & Massage Parlor have an exemption from Holy Antitrust? How did they get it? Did they, perhaps, at one time, purchase our noble lawfakers? If so, they must have continued to purchase all the subsequent ones; else, they'd have eliminated this criminal exemption long since.
And, more toward the immediate problem: why does Pres. Rainbow Brite not immediately strip those criminals of their shameful exemption? Why does he instead threaten to enforce the higher law of antitrust unless the criminals shut their mouths for his political benefit?
What is the difference between Prexy saying what he said, and any corrupt police chief reminding the proprietor of a local house of ill fame that, unless the protection money gets paid, there'll be a little trouble with the law?
I don't want to be misunderstood, now. There really is a difference between government and an ordinary organized-crime gang. Government enforcers usually have snappy uniforms to wear, and often have pretty lights atop their cars. Distinctions, you see, must be made. Distinctions are critical.