Saturday, August 25, 2012

"Shop Around?" Puh-lease!

   Recently, a college student asked Mitt Romney for advice on paying for college.  Romney told the young man that the best advice he could give him was to "shop around, get a good price" for a college he could afford.  The Obama campaign immediately pounced on the comment, along with "borrow money from your parents" as evidence Romney is out of touch.  The Student Loan reform page on the Obama website contrasts Romney's words with the president's declaration that “Higher education cannot be a luxury reserved for the privileged few. It is an economic necessity.”  The Democratic National Committee has even produced an web video ad called "Shop Around" mocking Romney for the advice:

    However, Romney is not the first politician to use the phrase "shop around" when discussing an area of policy affecting the American people.  Consider these words on...
 Housing: Third, there's going to be more competition so that consumers can shop around for the best rates.  Right now, some underwater homeowners have no choice but to refinance with their original lender -- and some lenders, frankly, just refuse to refinance.  So these changes are going to encourage other lenders to compete for that business by offering better terms and rates, and eligible homeowners are going to be able to shop around for the best rates and the best terms.
Medical Care:  I also think that we should -- hospitals should publish the cost of their basic procedures, what's an appendectomy or a colonoscopy or whatnot, to enable consumers to shop around, where's the best price.  We all know that there's a wide disparity in what hospitals charge for the same procedures.  I think the disinfectant of sunshine helps -- it helps consumers, it helps our people.
Health Insurance:  And you'll eventually see lower costs. And, if you lose your insurance for some reason or you're underinsured or you work for a small business that can't afford to provide you health insurance, you can shop around for a plan on the Insurance Exchange, which will have many, many options, many affordable options, and that's a choice that you absolutely don't have today. So you will have many more choices, not fewer choices. 
So who are these radicals, these out-of-touch elites who don't understand that competition chews up and spits out regular Americans?  Who are these people suggesting that top-of-the-line housing, medical care, and health insurance apparently are "luxuries reserved for the privileged few"?  How about, in order, Barack Obama, Democratic Senator Max Baucus, and Linda Douglass of the White House Office of Health Reform.

    Granted, in each case, these statements are accompanied by explanations of why government must be heavily involved in housing, medical care, and health insurance to ensure fair competition and affordability.  But when it comes to higher education, not only must the government be heavily involved (you can't expect the students themselves or their families to handle it, after all,) but price is no object.  As I wrote about earlier this week, even the Obama campaign seemed to realize perhaps they overdid it on their endorsement of educational extravagance.  But apparently in this case, they were unable to contain their disgust for that Walmartian-sounding advice "shop around."  Puh-lease.

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