Woody Brock on Healthcare Reform and Trade Relations with China

Woody Brock

Dr. Horace "Woody" Brock is the founder Strategic Economic Decisions, an economic research and consulting service. He earned his B.A., M.B.A., and M.S. from Harvard University, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University). He was elected an Andrew Mellon Foundation Bicentennial Fellow in 1976. Dr. Brock studied under Kenneth J. Arrow, and John C. Harsanyi, both winners of the Nobel Prize in Economics.  His recently published book, American Gridlock, is available on Amazon.com or via the link above. For more information, follow Dr. Brock on Twitter (@HWoodyBrock) and on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AmericanGridlock), or visit his website www.AmericanGridlock.com.

I spoke with Dr. Brock on February 14.

This is part two of the interview. Dr. Brock discussed his solutions to America’s fiscal problems in part one, which appeared last week.

The subtitle of your book is “Why the Left and the Right are Both Wrong.” You wrote about a conversation you had with many years ago with Bill Buckley and John Kenneth Galbraith.  Despite their positions at the opposite ends of the political spectrum, they were able to find a common ground on many issues.  That isn’t happening today.  So is this a new phenomenon?

First, a little perspective on today’s Left-Right divide. If you think that bipartisanship is bad today, think about what it was like just before the Civil War. We've had explosive politics before in this country.

I was indeed skiing with those two men in Gstaad Switzerland. Bill was very Right-wing and Ambassador Galbraith was very Left-wing and they were good friends. They listened to each other. They went to the same restaurants.  By contrast, in Washington today, for the first time Republicans and Democrats don't go to the same restaurants. That is unheard-of. It has become very partisan.

There are several reasons for this, including the advent of gerrymandering and redistricting, which is quite an arcane subject to most people. Gerrymandering has brought about a situation where Congressmen who are in the Democratic or Republican Party are pulled to the extreme Right and the extreme Left respectively. It's made today’s Dialogue of the Deaf even more shrill.

Secondly, the advent of short attention spans and of today’s sound-bite level of intelligence makes people want quick answers that can be bantered back and forth in an MSNBC debate. People aren't given the time to reason their way through to the truth; it is just a shouting match. The louder the shouting match, the more ad revenue for the media — yet another problem.

The Pew Foundation polling data show that a majority of citizens believe gridlock paralysis in Washington is a national catastrophe. It is; that is why I wrote the book.

What advice would you offer the next president in terms of dealing with this?

“Mr. President: Demonstrate to the people that we can break gridlock with new win-win policies that don't require either Left-wing or Right-wing solutions.” That is what the book is about.

Let me give an example, because otherwise this point is not clear.

Our biggest future financial burden is Medicare and Medicaid. Estimates range from $35 trillion to $50 trillion in unfunded liabilities for these programs over future decades. Obamacare was an effort to slow the growth of these huge healthcare costs, which are now 18.4% of GDP and are projected to go up to 35% by 2050. Obama also wanted to increase access for the uninsured.

Let’s think this problem through from scratch and use a much higher level of logic in doing so. Let's see if we can have our cake and eat it too – with nothing Left-wing or Right-wing.

Let's put down three goals up front. My first goal is for more health-care access to more people.

Number two, unlike Obamacare, where the focus was on giving more access, I don't want to have a situation where 40 million Americans – with new access and insurance – call the doctor and his phone doesn't answer.  I’m worried because many doctors may stop practicing, because ObamaCare is telling them that we are going to cut their fee for each procedure. They will just get out of the business. I want more people to be covered, and I want more services provided.