Tonight I did something crazy. I "attempted" to win the nomination to complete the late John Murtha's term as Congressman from PA's 12 Congressional District. Having no money and no popular support, I knew I didn't stand a chance. But the reason I did this was to talk about issues that few people are discussing.
First, a quick note on the format. Each candidate was permitted to speak for 5 minutes, followed by a 10 minute Q&A.
I chose to speak about two issues that I feel are important, but due to the current political climate and the overwhelming air taken by the healthcare debate, aren't put out there by anyone:
1. The negative influence of public sector unions in the federal government. Quite simply, everything the federal government does costs more to us, the taxpayers. I outlined three pieces of legislation that need to be repealed/reversed in order to mitigate the additional costs.
a. The Davis-Bacon Act - which mandates prevailing wages/fringe benefits be paid to any contractors on federal projects in excess of $2,500. (And if there are any federal project that cost less than that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.)
b. The McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act - which mandates the same for service employees employed by the federal govt.
c. President Kennedy's Executive Order 10988 - this allowed collective bargaining for federal employees. Something FDR was actually opposed to during his time in office.
The economic impact of these changes are pretty obvious. Reducing personnel costs and the cost of federal projects can play a substantial part in reducing our deficit. In addition, there is a moral impact in that federal employees can negotiate with elected officials who, in turn, receive campaign contributions and support from unions representing those same federal employees. Ending this incestuous relationship will increase efficiencies and decrease costs.
2. Ending the employer tax credit for health care benefits and transferring the credit to individuals. During WWII, FDR put this in place to prevent wage inflation from hampering the war effort. This distorted the market for healthcare by removing the enduser from the cost/benefit analysis on healthcare decisions. Health insurers are also accountable to human resource managers rather than individuals. Instead it's time to think about healthcare like we think about any other product or service. I'll start with the demand side of the economic equation.
a. Sever the connection between employment and health insurance by ending the tax-favored status for employers by transferring it to individuals via Health Savings Accounts. This will drive down prices by making health insurers accountable to individual consumers not just a relatively paltry number of HR managers.
b. End most state and federal mandates on what health insurers must provide. This will enable insurers to provide lower cost options to consumers.
Now on to the supply side...i.e. number of insurers.
c. Allow consumers to purchase health insurance across state lines. This will increase competition in the health insurance market, further driving down prices.
Reducing regulation and eliminating state barriers could also bring more competitors into the market, further driving down costs.
In the end, these are things that are not being discussed or seriously considered at this time. On healthcare, instead of viewing it as a right or a necessity, we need to allow consumers to make their own decisions and bring more competitors into all 50 states.
I realize that passing any of this, even with a substantial Republican majority and a Republican in the White House will be difficult. And that there are more pressing issues at hand. But, I truly believe things are going to turn around very quickly. And the right-center coalition that's starting to form in the country will have to be ready to enact reforms that will have substantive impact, both in fixing past mistakes and in enhancing our strengths as a nation.
If anyone I met this evening is reading this; thank you for the encouragement and kind words. I'll talk a little more about the evening itself sometime tomorrow.