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On Obamacare and Rationing by Rich Stowell

Sunday, March 28, 2010  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

I met Rich Stowell when I stayed with the California National Guard deployed to Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo last summer. Rich, a corporal, was assigned to assist me during my visit. He has been a high school teacher and a college instructor, but is also a soldier. And a writer. He sent me his most recent piece, this one on Obamacare. His book, Nine Weeks: A Teacher’s Education in Army Basic Training would be a great read for anyone about to embark on their first few months in the Army.

Obamacare Supporters Can’t Deny Health Care Rationing

by Rich Stowell

Many Democrats have complained about Republican mischaracterization of their health care law. Indeed, many of them seem apoplectic that critics of Obamacare would even suggest that the new law would lead to rationing. If conservatives keep up the argument, any mention of “rationing” will be regulated as hate speech.

Americans don’t like rationing, so it’s understandable that Democrats would run from the term. A recent New York Times op-ed mocked any suggestion that a government-financed health care system would result in rationing. But supporters of Obamacare are the ones who grossly misunderstand the idea. Rationing is simply the act of apportioning money or goods.

I know a thing or two about rationing from my military service. In the Army, everything is rationed. We all get a prescribed number of the same uniform items, meals are not unlimited, and every Soldier receives the same equipment, whether he uses it or not.[# More #]

On deployments, Soldiers are even given “ration cards,” to track the purchase of certain items. As a non-smoker, my tobacco rations went unused by anybody.

For supporters of Obamacare, it is utter ignorance to entertain any illusion that the government won’t ration what it has dominion over.

The Congress, for example, appropriates tax dollars. With every spending bill, the public monies are rationed out to various agencies and projects. Rationing is such a basic fact of life that we take it for granted.

There are finite resources in this world. Each day, most of us ration our food. As I type this I am enjoying some Oreo cookies. I don’t have a magical Oreo machine that spits delicious chocolatey-creamy cookies whenever I want, so I only eat a few and save the rest for later.

At work I am constantly encouraged to ration my copies. Paper, I am told, costs trees, of which some people (mistakenly) think there is not a limitless supply. In fact, it is the left, particularly environmentalists, who insist that rationing is a virtue.

As a commuter, I ration my mileage and fuel. If gasoline were unlimited, we may not think twice about driving all over creation when it suits us. Except that we don’t have unlimited time. Each of us rations his/her time every day, choosing how it would be best spent.

So when the Democrats say that the government, now ultimately in charge of the health care system, won’t somehow try to apportion at least some of those dollars or services, they are either lying or stupid.

We are now shackled by a system that, at the direction of various government agencies, will force everybody to buy a health plan, make businesses supply insurance to their workers, and cut benefits from previously-enacted entitlements.

The president himself has touted that a crack down on waste, fraud, and abuse will save billions. Nobody defends waste, but what is wasteful to Mr. Jones might be needful from Mrs. Smith’s point of view. Who cares if the Joneses and Smiths are using their own dollars? Now they are Uncle Sam’s dollars, so he gets to decide what is needful. It may not be a death panel, but few could argue that cutting back on services isn’t a form of rationing.

In the Army, we always had enough uniforms. Meals were filling, and there was always a large enough supply of tobacco because I didn’t need or want any. If, however, new legislation added 30 million Soldiers to the force nearly instantly, then there wouldn’t be enough supplies, and rationing would take on a less bountiful quality. It would be bad enough if the Army did have enough of the bare necessities, but if our entire health care system operated on shortages, the consequences could be disastrous.

Rationing isn’t a dirty word. Nor is it a scare tactic that conservatives are trying to promulgate in order to build opposition to Obamacare. It is the reality of what happens when the government has control over any sector of the economy.

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