Death panels

The much-maligned and divisive "death panels" are back. But this time the term is being uttered by a liberal New York Times columnist who seems to be embracing the concept as a means of stanching the bleeding of the federal budget.

While discussing the president's deficit reduction commission this past week, Timesman Paul Krugman offered:

"OK look, Medicare is going to have to decide what it is going to pay for, and at least for starters it is going to have to decide which medical procedures are not effective at all and should not be paid for at all. … Some years down the pike we are going to get the real solution, which is going to be a combination of death panels and sales taxes. We're actually going to take Medicare under control."

When the blogosphere lit up with told-you-so recriminations, Mr. Krugman felt obliged to blog himself on the Times website to explain, saying he meant health care costs will have to be controlled. "At some point," he said, we have to decide "how much we're willing to spend for extreme care."

What might be "extreme care" to Mr. Krugman might be the difference between life and death on the receiving, or not receiving, end.

In 2009, Mr. Krugman belittled as smearmongers and liars those who used the term "death panels," people like Sarah Palin who said, "The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil."

Mr. Krugman's response was, "Right now, the charge that's gaining the most traction is the claim that health care reform will create 'death panels' (in Sarah Palin's words) that will shuffle the elderly and others off to an early grave. It's a complete fabrication, of course."

It's not merely a matter of semantics.

It doesn't get any more fundamental than this clash of philosophical views on the role of man and society. To the Krugmans of the world, man is but a drone who exists for the furtherance of the objectives of the hive. Contribute or die. To the conservative, society and government exist to protect the rights and liberties and property of the individual, who is free to contract privately with others for goods and services, including health insurance.

When you are thrown into the ObamaCare risk pool, you no longer are free to decide whether you sink or swim.