April 29, 2009 in Opinion

Smart Bombs: Getting the business

By The Spokesman-Review

From what I gather, the mantra “run government like a business” is a call for efficiency. It assumes that pushing government functions into the private sector will save money. Not always. Sometimes it just means a smoking deal for businesses.

For instance, Medicare Advantage is a collection of private plans within Medicare, and the government pays on average 14 percent more per patient under those plans than under traditional Medicare. The big winners are the insurance companies. Another example is student loans. The feds give money to banks, which lend it to students. The government bears the risks; the banks take the profits.

To save billions of dollars, the Obama administration wants to rein in Medicare Advantage payments and have the feds directly loan money to college students. Strangely, the current waste is being defended by some conservatives.

“The Department of Education should not be a $500 billion national bank,” thundered U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., about the proposed student loan change.

Sure it should. Just because it takes more government to run government like a business doesn’t mean it’s a deal-breaker.

None of our business. The Washington Legislature recently passed an “everything-but-marriage” law, which means that all statutes will be interpreted to give same-sex couples the same rights as opposite-sex couples. The only special right left for a man and a woman is marriage, but the state just removed its interest in that. Wouldn’t it make more sense for all couples to sign a government registry to satisfy the legal concerns and then head off to a church if they still wanted to get married?

It’s odd that many of the same people who tout limited government want some bureaucrat to endorse their marriage.

Bunker mentality. An Ohio State University study offers further proof that liberals and conservatives will continue to talk past each other. The researchers studied respondents’ reactions to the “The Colbert Report,” a television comedy in which Stephen Colbert satirizes bombastic, right-leaning TV pundits. But that’s just my opinion. One of the researchers noted that:

“Liberals will see him as an over-the-top satire of Bill O’Reilly-type pundit and think that he is making fun of a conservative pundit. But conservatives will say, yes, he is an over-the-top satire of Bill O’Reilly, but by being funny he gets to make really good points and make fun of liberals. So they think the joke is on liberals.”

This reminds me of cultural studies in the 1970s that found that many viewers considered Archie Bunker, the bigoted father on “All in the Family,” to be a hero, because his rants against gays, lesbians, minorities and liberals made sense to them.

Smart Bombs is written by Associate Editor Gary Crooks and appears Wednesdays and Sundays on the Opinion page. Crooks can be reached at garyc@spokesman.com or at (509) 459-5026.

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