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Posted at 2:56 PM ET, 02/10/2011

What the federal government actually does

By Ezra Klein

On Jan. 27, Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) headed to Harvard University and delivered a pretty good speech (PDF) on why government is broken. In particular, I like this bit:

The core business of federal government is insurance, namely the giant entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and VA that few people want to understand. You often hear people say, “Keep the government’s hands off my Medicare!” These programs are so large that national defense and homeland security are sidelines; the rest of federal government – interstate highways, national parks, scientific research, agriculture, etc. – is fading in importance. Yet, despite insurance’s dominance, Congress has no committee on insurance; we spend all our time on other things. Tax expenditures exceed all appropriations, but rarely does Congress hold hearings on the annual $1.3 trillion drain on the nation’s finances.

To put it a bit differently, the federal government has become a large insurance company protected by an extremely well-armed security force. It does some other things, as well, but that's primarily where the money is going.

By Ezra Klein  | February 10, 2011; 2:56 PM ET
 
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Comments

"the federal government has become a large insurance company protected by an extremely well-armed security force. It does some other things, as well, but that's primarily where the money is going. "

I've heard this before... I'm going to try to find where.

Posted by: will12 | February 10, 2011 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Found it! http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/08/fiscal-fantasies/

Posted by: will12 | February 10, 2011 4:02 PM | Report abuse

"[D]espite insurance’s dominance, Congress has no committee on insurance; we spend all our time on other things. Tax expenditures exceed all appropriations, but rarely does Congress hold hearings on the annual $1.3 trillion drain on the nation’s finances."

He left out the part about how the federal government has promised to pay far more insurance than it can afford. The long and short of it is that the federal government does a horrible job at its "core business" of "insurance," and yet you'd have me believe that expanding the federal government's role in the medical insurance industry will make us better off.

Posted by: ostap666 | February 10, 2011 4:57 PM | Report abuse

I don't see how the government does a horrible job as an insurance agency.
Medicare being 45% less expensive then private health insurance sounds like a their doing a good job. But maybe the reason you think they are doing a bad job is because they aren't enriching insurance companies while killing patients.
Not to mention that Social security returns have been 20% higher then anything the stock market could provide.

Posted by: Hamtree | February 10, 2011 6:52 PM | Report abuse

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