11/25/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

You Owe Me 30 Cents for Dinner: Penny Wise and Pound Foolish on Health Care

Much of the debate surrounding the competing health care proposals surrounds the price tag -- whether we'll spend $1 trillion, or $800 billion or somewhere in between over ten years to rein in the worst insurance company abuses, "bend the cost curve" and provide millions of uninsured Americans with affordable coverage.

Republicans are fond of talking about runaway spending and the deficit, and they're doing their best to paint President Obama as a profligate spender for trying to fix health care.

I'd just like to make one point that should be completely obvious: This is insane. If there's a better illustration of the old phrase "penny wise, pound foolish" I can't think of one.

Paul Krugman pointed out in July that even if we spend $1.3 trillion, this is 4% of what we're projected to spend on health care over the next decade.

$200 billion is 15% of that.

So, we're seriously considering leaving millions of Americans without affordable insurance and missing our best chance to force the insurance companies to clean up their acts over 0.6% of what we'll spend anyway?

This is like if you and I went out to dinner together and the bill came to $50 and we spent two hours at the restaurant arguing over who should pay 30 cents. While thousands of people are starving.

If that's not insanity, I don't know what is.