31 March 2010

When Resources are scarce ...

What is the best way to distribute them?

Some of us believe that a free market, appropriately regulated, is the best, if still imperfect, mechanism.

One of the "problems" with the market system is that it does create disparities between "haves" and "have nots." I would suggest that this is, in many cases, simply an outcome of a meritocracy. If A has a skill and a work ethic that gets her a job where she gets gold plated health insurance coverage, and B is dependent on charity or government programs for coverage, and therefore receives coverage that is less appealing, then the natural response would be for B to seek to change her circumstances to have the same advantages as A.

(The "progressive" solution is to take the "haves" and "have nots" and equalize them all as "have littles.")

Many who distrust the market believe that the government should be the "neutral" arbitrator of scarce resources, because it is "impartial." Two recent stories belie that suggestion. First, the Chicago Tribune reports

While many Chicago parents took formal routes to land their children in the best schools, the well-connected also sought help through a shadowy appeals system created in recent years under former schools chief Arne Duncan.

Whispers have long swirled that some children get spots in the city's premier schools based on whom their parents know. But a list maintained over several years in Duncan's office and obtained by the Tribune lends further evidence to those charges. Duncan is now secretary of education under President Barack Obama.

The log is a compilation of politicians and influential business people who interceded on behalf of children during Duncan's tenure. It includes 25 aldermen, Mayor Richard Daley's office, House Speaker Michael Madigan, his daughter Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, former White House social secretary Desiree Rogers and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.

Non-connected parents, such as those who sought spots for their special-needs child or who were new to the city, also appear on the log. But the politically connected make up about three-quarters of those making requests in the documents obtained by the Tribune.

Select congressional leadership staffers -- some of whom wrote the health insurance act -- are not governed by new rules governing millions of Americans and the rest of their colleagues on how they buy insurance -- and the special exemption has the Hill hopping mad.

Come 2014, all 100 U.S. senators, all 435 representatives in the House and every one of their personal aides will have to go to the newly formed state exchanges for health insurance -- just like everyone else in the country who isn't covered by their employer.

But select congressional leadership staffers -- some of whom wrote the health insurance act -- won't. And neither will White House staffers and Cabinet members -- nor the president himself. They will be allowed to keep their current plans, which are offered to all other federal employees.

And now many congressional aides who like their current health insurance policies and will be forced to switch are asking: Why?

They want to know: If an exchange is good enough for them, why isn't it good enough for the people who wrote the plan? Why isn't it good enough for the president and his Cabinet?

The answer to these questions is actually very simple. "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

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