Using the auto bailout to warn against a “public option” in healthcare

By Caitlin Taylor

Jun 3, 2009 12:28pm

ABC’s Z. Byron Wolf reports: As auto dealers ditched by their bankrupt auto brands prepare to complain to a Senate panel about the secret criteria by which GM and Chrysler selected dealers to ditch, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, said in a speech on the Senate floor, that the government-steered bankruptcies and bailouts of GM and Chrysler are themselves unfair. Just ask Ford, said McConnell. “Now that government runs general motors and has provided billions to its financing arm, GMAC, the company is offering interest rates that Ford, which hasn't taken any government money, and other companies, which haven't taken any government money, just can't compete with,” McConnell said at about. “What this means is that one American auto company that actually made the tough decisions so that it wouldn't need a government bailout is now at a competitive disadvantage to a company that's being propped up by billions of dollars of borrowed tax money. This is how the government subsidizes failure at taxpayers' expense and can unfairly undercut good companies. and this is precisely why so many Americans are worried about the trend of increased government involvement in the economy.” McConnell was making a larger point about government intervention as negotiators in the Senate spar over whether healthcare reform should include a publicly-run healthcare option. “A government-run plan would set artificially low prices that private insurers would have no way of competing with,” McConnell said. “Rates for private health plans would either skyrocket, leaving companies and individuals unable to afford it or private health plans would just be simply forced out of business. Either way, the government-run plan would take over the health care system, radically change the way Americans choose and receive their care from routine checkups to lifesaving surgeries. No safeguard could prevent this crowd-out from happening. and no safeguard could therefore keep the millions of Americans who currently like the health care they have from being forced off of their plans and onto a government-run plan instead. now, this isn't some fantasy scenario,” he said, pointing to the auto industry bailout as a harbinger of a public healthcare system. McConnell’s now-daily speeches on the specter of a public plan could be a bad sign for ongoing healthcare negotiations, which remain for now behind closed doors on Capitol Hill. With the top Republican off the sidelines with rhetorical warnings about healthcare foreshadows the tough debate Senators will have later this summer on the sweeping healthcare reform President Obama  has promised to tackle the ever-inflating cost of healthcare and the ever-inflating number of Americans without insurance of any kind. The specter of a public option has replaced Guantanamo Bay as the subject of McConnell’s daily warning. For weeks this Spring he argued in a near-daily speech on the Senate floor that the importation of detainees held by the military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the US for trial, would be unacceptable. His persistence paid off when Senators, in May, overwhelmingly voted to restrict funding for moving the detainees.

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