Middleman as Bogeyman

During last night’s presidential debate with Mitt Romney, President Obama explained his theory of economics in two nutshells: student loans and healthcare. Let’s look first at student loans. The problem with private lending institutions, you see, is that they must make a profit to survive. This profit is paid for by the students in the form of higher rates. He explains his solution:

“And we said, ‘Why not cut out the middleman?’ And as a consequence, what we’ve been able to do is to provide millions more students assistance, lower or keep low interest rates on student loans.”

Do you see what he did there? Simply cut out that unnecessary waste we call profit by eliminating the middleman and let the federal government issue the loans directly. It’s all about efficiency, right?

His solution for healthcare is similar:

“And private insurers have to make a profit. Nothing wrong with that. That’s what they do. And so you’ve got higher administrative costs, plus profit on top of that. And if you are going to save any money through what Governor Romney’s proposing, what has to happen is, is that the money has to come from somewhere.”

He’s told us before that he wants to cut out the “middleman” of private health insurance http://bit.ly/QuZ3u9. This was a bit too ambitious even for him, so he had to settle for plan B. If you can’t eliminate the profiteers, just tell them how much profit they are allowed to make.

“And let me tell you exactly what Obamacare did. Number one, if you’ve got health insurance, it doesn’t mean a government takeover. You keep your own insurance. You keep your own doctor. But it does say insurance companies can’t jerk you around. They can’t impose arbitrary lifetime limits. They have to let you keep your kid on their insurance — your insurance plan until you’re 26 years old. And it also says that you’re going to have to get rebates if insurance companies are spending more on administrative costs and profits than they are on actual care.” 

So there it is. In his view of the world, private companies who earn profits aren’t necessarily evil, but their very presence makes “the system” inefficient. The poor consumer gets saddled with the cost of those middleman profits, so if we could just find more ways to eliminate them, costs would go down, and consumers would benefit, right? Just let the government provide the products and services we need, and everything would be just hunky-dory.

Here’s my question to President Obama: Why stop there? Are college loans and health insurance more vital to our lives than food or shelter? What about all those middleman farmers, middleman truckers, and middleman grocery stores? Surely all that profit and overhead could be eliminated by just letting the United States government provide our food! Let’s cut the fat out of the housing industry and just bypass the contractors and raw materials manufacturers, not to mention all those pesky salespeople skimming profits off the top of each and every transaction.

Oh, Americans are not ready for that yet, you say? No problem. We don’t need to jump straight into full socialism all at once (although in a second term, you would admittedly have more flexibility).  Just pass the “Affordable Food and Housing Act”, appoint a board of, let’s say, 15 people to decide how much profit the private companies can make, and the good old USA will be fundamentally transformed, through hope and change, into your vision of how an economy should work.

It’s not a secret conspiracy. Obama keeps telling us plainly what he wants for America. As a middleman, I’m listening closely.

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