National health care ("government-run health care") became a popular political topic in the early 1990s ("Hillarycare," after First Lady Hillary Clinton) and in 2009 ("Obamacare," after President Barack Obama). Critics of the plans claimed that government-run health care would have “the efficiency of the post office” and “the compassion of the Internal Revenue Service” (that is, government healthcare would be inefficient and without compassion). A 1979 bumper sticker protesting Senator Ted Kennedy’s proposed government healthcare plans was: “If you like the postal service you’ll love socialized medicine.” The 1990s slogan (which added the IRS to the postal service) was revived in 2009—especially after President Barack Obama, in a health care town hall meeting, described the post office as less efficient than FedEx and UPS.
Post office inefficiency has long been known; the IRS had been described as without compassion by at least 1984. An Iowa Congressman wrote this in an Iowa newspaper on April 4, 1991: “Someone characterized a national health care plan as having the compassion of the IRS, the efficiency of the Postal Service and the pricing structure of a Pentagon toilet seat.” Constance Horner, a deputy secretary of Health and Human Services, was given credit for the saying in November 1991, but the full saying’s exact origin (and author) is unclear.
Google News Archive
21 July 1979, Kentucky New Era (Hopkinsville, KY), “Ted Kennedy’s Health Plan” by Paul Harvey, pg. 4, cols. 5-6:
A contemporary bumper sticker appropriate to the subject reads: “If you like the postal service you’ll love socialized medicine.”
2 December 1984, Elyria (OH) Chronicle-Telegram, “IRS gets a hot cup of its own medicine” by Mike Royko, pg. D5, col. 4:
But you can expect as much compassion from the IRS as from a hooded hangman. Their professional lives are devoted to one goal—catching you in the foul act of trying to keep some of your own money.
28 October 1987, Rock Valley (IA) Bee, “Staying in Touch” by Iowa Congressman Fred Grandy, pg. 3, col. 3:
The Internal Revenue Service is not an agency known for its compassion.
18 December 1989, Washington (DC) Post, “The Man in The Postmaster’s Hot Seat; Anthony Frank, Using Charm to Defuse the Criticism” by Jacqueline Trescott, pg. D1:
The efficiency of the post office is often the brunt of jokes, but the postmaster has become skillful at turning the tables
Health Management Quarterly: HMQ
By American Hospital Supply Corporation Foundation, Baxter Foundation
v. 12-13 - 1990
“Americans don’t want a health-care system run with the compassion of the IRS and the efficiency of the post office” is a standard one-line put-down of Canada’s system.
4 April 1991, Hamburg (IA) Reporter, “News from Congressman Jim Lightfoot” (Fifth District, Iowa), pg. 2, cols. 4-5:
Someone characterized a national health care plan as having the compassion of the IRS, the efficiency of the Postal Service and the pricing structure of a Pentagon toilet seat. We have excellent health care professionals in this country. A more prudent choice would be to get the government off their backs, out of micro managing their business and let them do what they do best, provide the highest level of health care on the face of the earth. WIthout all the government red tape we could actually see the cost of health care go down. That would be a great help to everyone.
19 September 1991, Hamburg (IA)
History tells us that a government mandated and operated program will have the compassion of the IRS, the efficiency of the Postal Service and the cost of the Pentagon.
11 November 1991, Boston (MA) Herald, “Canada-style care would be bad for Ashley’s health” by Don Feder:
As Constance Horner, former deputy secretary of HHS, so aptly put it: “We should be careful before we adopt a system with the compassion of the IRS, the efficiency of the Post Office, and Pentagon pricing.”
New York (NY) Times
Its Eye on Election, White House To Propose Health Care Changes
By ROBERT PEAR,
Published: Tuesday, November 12, 1991
Rather than propose any grand, sweeping plan, Administration officials say, President Bush would attack Democrats on the ground that their proposals would lead to Government price controls, the rationing of health care, a deterioration in the quality of care and an increase in taxes. ‘At Pentagon Prices’
Constance Horner, who studied the issue as Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services from May 1989 to September of this year, came up with one of the Republicans’ favorite lines. A program of national health insurance run by the Federal Government, she has warned, would have “all the compassion of the Internal Revenue Service and the efficiency of the Postal Service, at Pentagon prices.”
15 January 1992, Marysville (OH) Journal-Tribune, “Americans Want Affordable Health Care” by the Associated Press, pg. 9, col. 8:
“If you want a system with the compassion of the IRS, the efficiency of the post office and the fiscal responsibility of the Pentagon, vote for national health care,” said Mark Schoemaker in Atlanta.
4 February 1992, Kerrville (TX) Times, “Sullivan promotes health care reform plan,” pg. 3, col. 3:
Other proposals rely too heavily on the government, he said. “What we would have is a combination of the compassion of the IRS and the efficiency of the post office in a government-run bureaucracy,” Sullivan said.
(Louis Sullivan, Secretary of Health and Human Services—ed.)
v. 10 - 1992
HHS Secretary Louis Sullivan quips that socialized medicine would combine “the compassion of the IRS and the efficiency of the post office.”
Weekly compilation of Presidential documents, Volume 28, Issues 27-39
v. 28, nos. 27-39 - 1992
Our health care system will combine the efficiency of the House post office with the compassion of the KGB. I am not going to let that happen.
Managed Care and National Health Care Reform:
Nurses can make it work
By Robert B. Giffin, American Academy of Nursing
Developed by Robert B. Giffin for the Managed Care/Managed Competition Workshop on March 23, 1993—T.p. verso.
Washington, DC: The Academy
As one expert quipped, a federally controlled system would result in the efficiency of the Post Office, the cost management of the Defense Department, and the compassion of the IRS.
American Health Policy:
Critical issues for reform
By Robert B. Helms
Washington, D.C. : AEI Press
As Constance Horner has said, a national health care system would have the efficiency of the post office, the compassion of the IRS, and the cost-control of Pentagon purchasing.
The Executive’s Book of Quotations
By Julia Vitullo-Martin and J Robert Moskin
New York, NY: Oxford University Press
“What we would have is a combination of the compassion of the IRS and the efficiency of the post office.”
LOUIS SULLIVAN, Secretary of Health and Human Services, on how health care would work if it were nationalized (Newsweek, February 1992)
New America Foundation
Bigger and Better
Broad-Based Insurance, After All, is Not Like Widgets
By Jacob Hacker, New America Foundation
The American Prospect | May 5, 2005
Remember those bumper stickers during the early-1990s fight over the Clinton health plan? “National Health Care? The Compassion of the IRS! The Efficiency of the Post Office! All at Pentagon Prices!” In American policy debates, it’s a fixed article of faith that the federal government is woefully bumbling and expensive in comparison with the well-oiled efficiency of the private sector. Former Congressman Dick Armey even elevated this skepticism into a pithy maxim: “The market is rational; government is dumb.”
Hillary Rodham Clinton: polarizing first lady
By Gil Troy
Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas
“NATIONAL HEALTH CARE: THE COMPASSION OF THE IRS! THE EFFICIENCY OF THE POST OFFICE! ALL AT PENTAGON PRICES!” one bumper sticker seen in 1994 proclaimed.
Obama Care: The efficiency of the post office, cost effectiveness of govskols, fraud prevention of welfare, desirability of government housing, competency of FEMA, cost controls of Amtrak, rationality of TSA, and the compassion of the IRS – THINK ABOUT IT!
Published in July 28th, 2009 Posted by Gary Shumway in Health Care, Homeland (In)Security, Insanity in Government, Subversion
The Art of Whimsy
August 17, 2009...1:37 am
The Government Option
I read a shirt the other day that said, “Government healthcare is healthcare with IRS compassion and Post Office efficiency”. Now, that’s pretty funny; but everything else I’ve been hearing and reading about Obamacare is anything but humorous.
From Andrew Koenig:
The efficiency of the Post Office
The compassion of the IRS
The frugality of Amtrak
What’s not to like?
This entry was posted on Monday, August 17th, 2009 at 1:00 pm
August 18, 2009 6:15 PM
Post Office Union Irked by Obama’s Diss
Posted by Stephanie Condon
President Obama at a recent town hall meeting picked on the U.S. Postal Service for not being able to keep up with its private competitors—and representatives of the post office are not too thrilled at becoming the target of the president’s mockery.
A union representing postal supervisors, managers and postmasters sent a letter to the White House late last week, the Washington Post reports, asking Mr. Obama to reconsider some recent comments he made comparing the Postal Service with UPS and FedEx.
The president has invoked the Postal Service to prove that a government-run program will not necessarily drive private competitors out of business—a common argument against a government-run health insurance plan.
“I mean, if you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine, right? No, they are,” Mr. Obama said at a recent town hall meeting in New Hampshire. “It’s the post office that’s always having problems.”
In the letter, National Association of Postal Supervisors President Ted Keating reportedly said there was “collective disappointment that you chose the Postal Service as a scapegoat and an example of inefficiency.”
New York City • Government/Law/Military/Religion /Health • (0) Comments • Tuesday, August 18, 2009 • Permalink