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Any attempt at a rational discussion of the economic realities of government-controlled medical care is almost certain to run up against the trump card of the political left: The Poor. The image that is often invoked is that of the elderly poor, forced to choose between food and medical treatment. Who could be so heartless as to abandon them to the vagaries of the free market? This has proved to be a very effective political strategy for extending government power, not only over medical care but also over housing and other sectors of the economy.The phoniness of this argument becomes apparent the moment you suggest that money be set aside specifically for dealing with the special problems of the poor, rather than bringing whole sectors of the economy under the dominance of politicians, bureaucrats and judges. The amount of money needed to take care of the poor is often some minute fraction of what sweeping new government programs cost. But, while big government liberals are willing to use the poor as human shields in their political battles, their more basic strategy is to proclaim that everyone has a right to some basic need that they want the government to provide. As a matter of practical politics, programs for the poor alone do not have as large a constituency as programs to give everybody some benefit, so that we can all have the illusion of getting something for nothing
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