Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Republican Price Controls

It's easy to forget that the last President to impose wage and price controls on the country was the very Republican Richard Nixon. But for all their talk about the power of markets, there are contexts in which they remain happy to impose price controls:
The University of Florida, the state’s flagship school, has been hit particularly hard [by cuts in state funding]. In an opinion article in The Gainesville Sun, a former university administrator said this year would bring “$38 million in budget cuts, creating an accumulated reduction in state funding to U.F. of 30 percent, or $240 million, since 2006.”

The university has responded to these cuts with tuition increases, although the Legislature has set ceilings on tuition that keep schools from fully offsetting the cutback in state support. This is true in many other states, too.
Similarly, for all their talk about "free markets" in healthcare, you won't find any serious effort by Republican politicians at any level of government to do away with the mechanisms used by Medicare and Medicaid to limit their expenditures through various forms of price control. The pharmaceutical lobby was strong enough to prevent the government from negotiating over the cost of prescription medications, but doctors have a "take it or leave it" choice with Medicare and Medicaid, and the rest of the insurance market often follows Medicare's lead.

To the extent that you want to argue that state-paid or subsidized colleges and insurance are different from their market equivalents, you need to explain why the free market has not displaced them from the market. Or why it's not a good idea to end the subsidies and let the public programs and colleges compete with their private competitors. Public rhetoric aside, Medicare and Medicaid were introduced due to a failure of the markets, and public universities were founded and funded in order to provide higher education to a population that was underserved or excluded by private universities, at a reasonable cost. The principal competition between private colleges and their public counterparts occurs at the bottom of the market, with for-profit diploma mills attempting to peel away students who lack the necessary ability, desire, need and/or resources to attend an elite private university.

1 comment:

  1. The diploma mills don't have the fancy dining halls and sports programs Brooks was talking about. That saves them a lot of money. It's usually the regents, often the Republican regents, who can't stand the thought of killing a public university's money-draining sports programs.

    Republicans are schizophrenic about Medicare - one day trying to kill it or turn it into a voucher program and the next complaining that the Democrats want to cut Medicare spending. They're beholden to seniors.

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