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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Daschle at HHS: Serious Budget Clout

President-Elect Barack Obama officially announces his appointment of former South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle to head the Department of Health and Human Services. [Photo by Jim Wilson, New York Times, 2008.12.11]
If we measure the power of a government official by the amount of money that official is in charge of, we could argue that President-Elect Obama just officially appointed South Dakota boy Tom Daschle the most powerful man in the Cabinet. Dsachle's soon-to-be bailiwick, the Department of Health and Human Services, spends just about one out of every four federal dollars.

Compare the budgets for HHS with Defense, State, Commerce, and everything else run from DC, and you'll see HHS actually takes the biggest single chunk of the federal budget. So by raw dollars, Secretary Daschle will have more power than Secretary Robert Gates at Defense. He'll be much more powerful than Secretaries Clinton, Richardson, and Napolitano combined. The only Cabinet position with more dollar oomph might be Secretary Geithner at Treasury, although all those bailout dollars are just figments of bookkeepers' imaginations, right? (Random note: maybe it's time to just give up on bailouts and let the economy sort things out?)

That's a lot of money, Tom, and a lot of responsibility. Use it well... and get us a single-payer system!

Speaking of which, my correspondents often claim that America's health care system is great because we don't ration health care the way those socialists in Canada and Europe do. Ah, but Daschle says America does ration health care:

Mr. Daschle brings a kind of moral passion to the campaign for universal coverage. Health care, he says, is rationed on “the worst possible criteria: one’s ability to pay or one’s health condition" [emphasis mine; Robert Pear, "Daschle Will Lead Health Care Overhaul," New York Times, 2008.12.11].

Looks like Daschle will overhaul health care as well as the rhetoric the right uses to defend our failing private health coverage system. You tell 'em Tom!

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