Monday, December 14, 2009

On Entitlements (part IV)

In the last post I laid down some general principles of balancing the benefits of social mandates with their economic costs. In order to understand my opposition even to some relatively reasonable policies of the Obama Administration we need to explore the "dayenu principle."

"Deyenu" is a Hebrew term and title of a Passover song which translates into "it would have been enough for us." This refers to the multiple miracles that G-d performed for the Jewish people during the Exodus from Egypt. If G-d had simply performed one of the miracles, such as the parting of the red sea, it would have been enough for the Jewish people, but the multiple miracles demonstrates his overflowing magnanimity.

In the context of the Obama Administration, "dayenu" takes on a negative connotation. We can debate the benefits of each initiative, but not the fact that each one imposed a fiscal burden on the American public. Perhaps more importantly, each one consumed a little more of the American public's dwindling faith and Obama's dwindling political capital. So, if it had just been the bailouts, "dayenu" and if it had just been the stimulus plan, "dayenu" and if it had just been the expanded war in Afghanistan, "dayenu," but taken together all of this "change" is too much for the American public to bear.

So, by the time we arrived at Obama's push for health care reform, cap-and-trade, many Americans who would otherwise have supported these initiatives are weary and skeptical of the wisdom of further ballooning our national debt. If Obama had presented the American public a choice between directing our limited resources towards cap-and-trade or expanding health care coverage to millions of Americans or escalating the war in Afghanistan, I may not have agreed with him, but I would have respected his candor and fiscal responsibility. But to simultaneously pursue all three is an irresponsible attempt to please multiple constituencies that may earn him political points among the fiscally illiterate, but will surely leave our country bankrupt, exhausted and unable to deal with the challenges that the future holds. Mr. Obama please heed our cry "Day Dayenu!"


  1. Is Health Care an entitlement?

    In a country this wealthy and this wasteful, why is there anyone without healthcare?

  2. 1. Not having health insurance does not mean not having access to health care. Hospitals have to serve everyone. And then many people are covered by medicare, medicaid etc.

    2. Then there is a subset of people who don't have insurance out of their own choice. At one time I was a stupid 22 year old who thought that I couldn't get sick and chose to direct my resources elsewhere. Also, my section-8 tenants who "couldn't afford health insurance," somehow were able to afford a flat screen tv, an x-box and 2 cars.

    3. This may sound rhetorical, but it's an important point. I am for taking steps to expanding health care, but you can't label a finite resource that is derived from the labor(money) of another person a right (entitlement).

    4. But, ultimately I would be for a comprehensive plan to expand health coverage if it was in the context of making tough choices and cutting other programs so we would live within our collective means.