Saturday, September 26, 2009

A letter to the editor in today's Post Dispatch arguing for government involvement in health care used the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) as an example of a government entity that actually was successful and did what it set out to do when it was created in 1935. True, within a decade or so the REA had brought electricity to almost all of rural America, something the utility companies had been unwilling to do since it would not have been cost effective for a private sector company to attempt.

So, its founding mission achieved, the REA was shut down and its employees dispersed to jobs in the private sector or other government agencies where they could provide their real world insights on how to set and accomplish goals while providing wise oversight of taxpayer dollars. Well, not exactly. Outside of Greek mythology the only example of actual immortality can be found in federal government agencies. They never die.

Once the REA didn't have power lines to run out to the barns of America any longer it added telephone service to its mandate and even today, as the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) it carries on with a multi-billion dollar budget to provide funding for, among other things, broadband internet service so that rural Americans won't have to wait more than a few seconds for their porn to download. The RUS has also expanded its definition of "rural" to include towns of 20,000 people, which would apparently include my hometown of Bay Village, Ohio, in the hinterlands of suburban Cleveland.

So just understand that if the federal government gets involved in providing or managing health care in this country the law of unintended consequences will be passed along with the rest of the legislation that creates the National Health Service (NHS), the Department of Motor Vehicles and Surgery (DMVS), or the Office of Universal Care Hospitals (OUCH). It won't have any sunset provisions either, because unlike prosperity, government agencies last forever.

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