Out of Control Policy Blog

Daschle for Health: Another Bottom of the Barrel

Will Obama hit a hat-trick? After scraping the bottom of the barrel to appoint Janet Torch-Waco Reno's deputy, Eric Holder, as Attorney General, Obama dipped down once again and picked former Democratic Senator from South Dakota, Tom Daschle, as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. (My analysis of great, good and ugly Obama nominees put them both in the "ugly" category.)

If civil libertarians have a reason to be depressed about Holder, economic libertarians have a reason to be super-depressed about Daschle. Daschle's appointment squelches all hope that Obama would look for innovative solutions that empower patients to control escalating health care costs. Expect more regulations, more mandates, more price controls, more command-and-control.

Since voters threw Daschle out of office, he wrote a book, Critical: What We Can Do About America's Health-Care Crisis, in which he recommends creating the equivalent of the Federal Reserve Board for health care to set treatment standards, performance requirements and impose other mandates on the industry. In short, create another layer of bureaucracy on top of the one that he would oversee and hand it even more powers. That's because the Federal Reserve has done such a super job managing the financial markets!!

What's particularly depressing about the Daschle pick is that it's not like Obama didn't have better choices. He did -- in fact right under his nose such as his advisor, Jason Furhman. Furhman wrote an excellent paper pointing out that the best way to cover the uninsured without breaking the federal budget is by making it easier for people to purchase their own coverage – not creating more bureaucracy. "The most promising way to move forward in all three dimensions, coverage, cost, and long-run fiscal situation, is to replace the employer exclusion with a tax credit," he noted. Another good pick would have been former Democratic Louisiana Senator John Breaux.

Breaux, who headed Clinton's Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare, is similarly mindful of keeping a grip on government spending on health care – although he voted for extending Medicare coverage to prescription drugs, vastly increasing the program's liabilities. While on the Commission, he demonstrated a great deal of openness to considering market-based reforms and supported Health Care Savings Accounts.

Now if Obama picks Hillary The-Saber- Rattler for State next, it will be a perfect troika that'll expand the government's power in matters of civil liberties, economics and foreign policy.

Way to go, Obama! Anyone missing Bush yet?

Shikha Dalmia is Senior Analyst


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