Government spending not an economic cure-all

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: December 24, 2012

ONE constant in American politics is liberals' blind faith in government spending as an economic cure-all and their unwarranted skepticism of the private sector.

Supporters of Obamacare, particularly its expansion of Medicaid, often claim it will ultimately foster demand for new health care jobs and generate enough associated tax revenue to offset its cost. At the same time, many left-wing groups actively oppose tax breaks for businesses that create jobs in reality, not just in theory.

Earlier this year, Richard Boone, chairman of the Tulsa Metro Chamber's health care task force, was among those touting Obamacare as a pro-health care jobs policy, even calling Obamacare's Medicaid expansion “the best economic development deal the state has seen in decades.”

Yet Massachusetts, the model for Obamacare, struggles with doctor shortages. According to the recent Massachusetts Medical Society Physician Workforce Study, the state has a critical shortage of doctors in neurosurgery, internal medicine, urology and psychiatry, and a severe doctor shortage in family medicine, dermatology and general surgery. Community hospitals reported a 94.1 percent rate of “significant difficulty to fill vacancies.”

Even though 97 percent of Massachusetts citizens had insurance, 32.8 percent indicated a problem obtaining health care. That suggests Boone has it wrong and government spending and associated regulations don't incentivize people to enter a profession the way that free-market forces do.

Health care professionals may not be government employees in the traditional sense, but they depend substantially on government programs for payment — and Medicaid expansion would further crowd out private dollars and market forces in the system. Estimates show that Medicaid expansion will cost Oklahomans at least $789 million in state taxes by 2019 plus our share of $13.4 billion in federal taxes.

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