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Charles Krauthammer on cars for clunkers, and the clunker health care for bills.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

HH: Friday means a Fox News all-star, and today it is Charles Krauthammer of Washington Post columnist fame, and of course the Fox News all stars. Charles, welcome back, always a pleasure to talk to you.

CK: Pleasure to be with you.

HH: I’d like to start by asking you the cash for clunkers program succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dream. They blew through their billion dollars in like a week. Doesn’t that prove yet again that people respond to incentives, economic incentives, and that therefore if the government plan, the public option makes money for employers, they’re going to dump their employees into it?

CK: Oh, I think that’s true. This is about as quick and obvious and easy a stimulus as you can get. You pay people to give up, well, it’s essentially to prematurely change their cars. These are cars that over a year or two or three, people would be trading in anyway, but you want to speed it up, because we’re in the depths of a recession. It’s not a plan you’d want to keep up in the future. But there are two problems. Yes, it is stimulative, and I’m not particularly against it. However, number one, why autos? I mean, after all, we’re already putting $80 billion into auto and subsidies. Why not furniture? The housing industry is dying. Why not get cash for couches. But secondly, here’s the real problem. The liberals in the Congress have insisted that the cars that you trade in have to be scrapped in two days, turned into a block of steel. That’s it. You cannot keep the car or use it as parts, which means there’s going to be artificially imposed scarcity of used cars and parts, which means that poor people, immigrants, students, young people who need a starter car are going to have higher prices. And this is all in the name of the Earth goddess as a way to reduce global warming. It will cause a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a decrease in CO2 emissions of what China emits on a Wednesday afternoon. So it’s of no use ecologically, and yes, it’s a complete waste of hundreds of thousands of perfectly good cars.

HH: You know, Charles, I just finished an hour long conversation with one of the environmental activists behind the listing of the Delta Smelt, and the cut off of water to the California Delta, which has caused massive unemployment in the Central Valley. And so she just made up statistics about well, 40,000 fishermen have lost their jobs because of the Delta decline. I sometimes wonder about the environmental left, if they are fact-based at all.

CK: It’s a religion, Hugh. It’s not facts, it’s not science. It’s a religion. And they’ll do human sacrifice if they have to. The numbers are made up. They know, for example, I mean all of the cap and trade stuff, which would really destroy our economy, they know would be swallowed up in a week or two of India and Chinese emissions. China is starting a coal fired plant every week on average, and that is just throwing all that CO2 into the atmosphere, of which our reductions would be negligible. It would simply end up as a great transfer of wealth out of the West into the third world on a scale never seen. But it’s a religion. So they are impervious to empirical evidence.

HH: Let’s switch over to the health care issue, which I do believe the government plan will get an enormous number of people dumped into it, because it will make employers a lot more money than cash for clunkers make individual car owners, and so they’ll respond to it. But here is Nancy Pelosi two days ago talking about the insurance industry.

NP: The insurance companies are out there in full force carpetbombing, shock and awe against a public option.

HH: Now here is Joel Benenson, the President’s pollster, talking in Canada to a group of businessmen.

JB: One example of this is right now, a big debate in America over whether we should create a public plan option for health care, that people could buy into, that would compete with the insurance industry. The Republicans are still locked into the language they used fifteen years ago to call it government-run health insurance, whereas people like the idea of having a public plan that can compete with insurance companies, because they think insurance companies have been the villain here, not the government.

HH: And so you see, Charles, he comes up with the villain language, the Speaker picks it up, and they go after the insurance business hammer and tong.

CK: Well, they’re being entirely disingenuous. They’re trying to tart up the public plan as being simply as a way to compete with, and therefore to keep honest the insurance companies. In fact, the cat was let out of the bag by Barney Frank this week, when he said publicly that the public option is the way to achieve a single payer system, meaning a government-run system as you have in Canada or in Britain. He said it openly and publicly. It’s the only way to get it, America would not support it if it were presented as an option, a Canadian-type system. Therefore, you want to institute a public option. And you know that it would be infinitely subsidized out of the U.S. Treasury. In the end, insurance companies would not be able to offer any competition. In the end, everybody would end up in the public option, because it would be subsidized in a way that the private companies are not. So it’s understood as the road to a socialized medicine.

HH: It’s a very steep road, too. I think it will happen very quickly. But here is what the President continues to say. This is from his town hall with AARP members earlier this week, the President’s guarantee.

BHO: Here’s a guarantee that I’ve made. If you have insurance that you like, then you will be able to keep that insurance. If you’ve got a doctor that you like, you will be able to keep your doctor.

HH: Now Charles, he used the G word, guarantee. Can he make that guarantee?

CK: Of course not, because even if you want to keep your employee-given insurance, if you’re employer is competing, looks at a public option and dumps, and decides he’s going to eliminate the insurance he’s offering because he knows that everybody is entitled to enter the public option, then you’re going to end up in the public option. You’re not going to have the private option. So he can’t guarantee anything. Look, he guaranteed that if we did the stimulus, unemployment, well, he didn’t guarantee, he said the purpose was to keep unemployment at under 8 1/2%, and we’re of course at 9 ½ and rising.

HH: But now, I hate to get into the biased media thing, but I just have a, this guarantee is bothering me. If George W. Bush, or George Herbert Walker Bush, or Ronald Reagan, or Richard Nixon, or even Bill Clinton came out and repeatedly made a guarantee statement that is so patently and obviously false, would they be allowed to get away with it in the fashion that President Obama has been allowed to get away with it?

CK: Oh, of course not. I mean, look, but I accept the bias in the media, the liberal bias is like the air we breathe. It’s there, it always has been, it’s been worse now with Obama because he, in the eyes of the media, is divine, or just perhaps one notch below, and that’s what you have to accept. So what’s remarkable, I think, Hugh, is that over the decades, with the media so much in the tank, American politics is still center-right, which shows that the common sense of Americans in the end is impervious to the media message, which is always a liberal and leftist one. So it really, it’s like water on a rock. I mean, it might have a slight erosive effect, but in the end, it doesn’t work.

HH: Let me read you an e-mail I got today tested against your understanding as a doctor, Charles. Dear Hugh Hewitt, I own a medical billing company specializing in anesthesia billing. I’d like to point out something of grave concern in the new health care bills that nobody seems to be talking about. Medicare pays anesthesiologists about twenty cents on the dollar compared to private insurance company. The health care bills set reimbursement rates at Medicare rates plus 5%. That might be fine for most specialties where Medicare rates and private insurance rates are fairly close. But it will destroy anesthesia. What doctor’s going to take an almost 80% pay cut? It goes on to give statistics. This has been confirmed by other anesthesiologists. Were you aware of this, Charles?

CK: Well, the plans are always, the government and liberal plans are always biased against specialists. Remember Hillarycare? It was going to reduce the number of actual training slots for specialists, and they all want general practitioners. Let me tell you as a doctor. If your kid is sick, and medicine is sophisticated, you might want a general practitioner for a five minute consultation, who will direct you to an infectious disease specialist, or a pediatrician, or even a rheumatologist if it’s an exotic disease. You need specialists. That’s why Americans are living longer and healthier. It’s specialists, and that’s expensive. You’re either going to accept that, or you’re going to ration it out of existence as the government-run systems do.

HH: Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, always a pleasure, thank you for joining me, and thank you for bringing the medical background that is so infrequently displayed on air. I appreciate it very much.

End of interview.

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