John Stossel: Repeal! No, wait!
REPUBLICANS PROMISED TO REPEAL the Affordable Care Act. But now they are hesitating. I understand why.
Most Americans opposed Obamacare ever since the Democrats imposed it. But now that Congress actually might kill it, more (about half those polled) say, “Wait, I like Obamacare!”
Once people get a subsidy, they’ll fight to keep it — fight hard.
People fight even to keep subsidies and guarantees that are obviously destructive. French job “protections,” such as a 35-hour work week, have so wrecked France’s economy that its socialist president tried to lengthen the work week, as well as raise the retirement age to 62 years old.
Thousands of people protested, blocking roads to airports. The reform plan died.
Greek day care workers took to the streets when their bankrupt government tried to get them to work more than 30 hours per week.
Recently, Mexico said it would stop subsidizing people’s gasoline. Seems reasonable. But the riots were so severe that people died.
I hope Donald Trump’s attempts to end bad programs have more success. But I won’t count on it.
Farm subsidies were supposed to be a temporary Depression-era “fix.” They would protect America against food shortages. Now America has food surpluses; our citizens are fat; and farmers are richer than most Americans. Did farm subsidies diminish? No. They rose from $3 billion to $23.3 billion.
U.S. sugar quotas raise the price of everything that’s sweet. Our crazy rules are why Coke is made with corn syrup in America but sugar in most of the world. This enriches Florida’s Fanjul family, which protects its handout by donating to both Republicans and Democrats.
Peanut subsidies will soon approach the total value of the whole U.S. peanut crop itself. Insane. Yet the subsidies continue.
After World War II, American sheep and goat farmers convinced politicians that mohair deserved special protection because it was used in soldiers’ uniforms. Today, uniforms are made of synthetics, but mohair subsidies haven’t stopped. My former colleague Sam Donaldson even got some because his family raised sheep. When I confronted him, Sam agreed that the payments are “a horrible mess” but said he’d keep the money since “the law is on the books.”
In 1995, the Clinton administration did manage to get rid of the mohair subsidy. But five years later, Congress brought it back.
Why? Recipients of corporate welfare are motivated lobbyists. They have lots of money at stake. You, by contrast, pay a little more in taxes or a few pennies more for soda. Will you bother your congressman about that? Probably not.
Congressman Jason Chaffetz is still trying to kill the mohair subsidy. I wish him luck. At one point, he got help from, of all people, Congressman Anthony Weiner. Weiner brought a goat to Capitol Hill to draw attention to the dumb handout. It may have been the only sensible thing Weiner ever did.
But even the goat didn’t work. Congress rejected Chaffetz’s bill. And the goat stabbed Weiner’s hand with his horn.
Farm subsidies are terrible, but America’s biggest handouts are entitlements: Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
You say, “Social Security and Medicare are not handouts! I paid a premium every year.” You are right, but you don’t realize that your medical bills will likely cost three times what you’ve paid in. Medicare is mostly a handout.
But good luck to any politician who proposes cutting it.
One ray of hope: In the '70s, the Ford and Carter administrations eliminated the Interstate Commerce Commission, the Civil Aeronautics Board and the jobs of bureaucrats who regulated gas prices. Leftists and people in industry screamed, but the reformers prevailed.
That saved Americans billions of dollars.
It can be done.
John Stossel is the author of “No They Can’t! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed.”