On my TV right now, the president is announcing that Eric Shinseki, the VA secretary, is out as a result of the scandal surrounding that agency’s killing of dozens of our veterans through neglect.
This is a purely political move, and it’s totally meaningless.
Eric Shinseki obviously wasn’t any good at his job, and Eric Shinseki obviously needs to go. But anybody who thinks Shinseki caused the problems at the VA or that his ouster will fix anything is a fool.
The VA is a bureaucratic disaster which has more employees than the U.S. Army does. Think about that for a second, and then consider that the reason the VA has secret waiting lists the entries on which are dropping dead through neglect is that the VA doesn’t have enough medical staff to treat all the people they need to.
Does anybody really believe getting rid of Eric Shinseki will change that backlog?
Even if Obama were the best manager in the world, the problems with efficient service delivery by government would continue — because the government is too large, too unwieldy, and too lacking in incentives for efficiency to yield much, if at all, to management. A business that fails to deliver services will be crushed by its competitors. Government can never go out of business.
At the Department of Veterans Affairs, bureaucrats lied and cooked the books regarding the care they were providing veterans. Eight cardiologists at the Albuquerque facility, the Daily Beastreports, saw the same number of patients in a week that a single cardiologist in private practice sees in two days. According to the inspector general’s report, long wait times, poor service, and deceit are “systemic” throughout the system. Some veterans may have died for lack of timely treatment.
Care for another headline guaranteed to recur? “Senate Chair: Fix Dysfunctional Indian Health.” That’s an AP story about the Indian Health Service, tasked since 1955 with delivering free medical care to 2 million Native Americans. Former senator Byron Dorgan found that a “chronic state of crisis” plagued the service, featuring “a lack of providers, hospitals at risk of losing their accreditation, improperly licensed staff, and missing or stolen narcotics.” A spokesman for the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of northeast Montana’s Fort Peck Indian Reservation told the AP: “All too often, tribal members complain of ailments but get sent home from the Indian Health Service with cough medicine or pain killers. Later we learn the situation is much more serious, like cancer.”
Progressives respond that the IHS is simply underfunded — as they regard every federal program except the military. But even Democratic senator Jon Tester (Mont.) found when he examined problems with the IHS that at least one provider was seeing only one patient per day.
It isn’t management. It’s a matter of incentives. No central authority can make a system like the VA or the IHS or Britain’s National Health Service run efficiently. Competition is the only system that gives the power to consumers to reward good service and punish bad. But progressives cannot shed their faith that more government is the answer to bad government, so this story is sure to be repeated.
Today’s Quote Of The Day is an infamously stupid statement by New York Times moron Paul Krugman, who said that the VA was an example of socialism at work. The lesson there is that Krugman looks stupid even when he’s right – because the VA is a socialist enterprise, and the results it generates are exactly what can be expected. Long waiting lists, pathetic productivity, crappy customer service, death and destruction. Nothing that’s wrong at the VA is any different from, as Charen notes, government health care for the Indians on the reservations – or for that matter, the atrocious National Health Service in Great Britain.
Somebody smart in the Republican Party needs to start screaming at the top of their lungs that the VA needs to start giving out vouchers for private health care services or private health insurance coverage RIGHT NOW to veterans on their waiting lists, or for that matter any veteran who isn’t satisfied with the VA’s service. Let the market fix the problem if it can – and RIGHT NOW. No more delays, no more dead veterans out of bureaucratic neglect, no more politics. Put out the money RIGHT NOW to outsource the care these people need to solve their problems. The politics and the long-term shakeout of this mess can wait.
That might resolve the VA scandal. Eric Shinseki’s head on a plate is a band-aid on lung cancer.