I’ve spent a good portion of my life working to measure and improve health care quality, so I was very interested to hear what Sarah Palin had to say about the McCain-Palin solution to our health care crisis. It seems that she and her running mate have developed a perfect solution not only for our too costly health care system, but also for all those other financial crises with which our nation is beset. It’s called the budget neutral tax credit, and it puts financial derivatives to shame.

According to Governor Palin, Senator McCain is

“proposing a $5,000 tax credit for families so that they can get out there and they can purchase their own health care coverage. That’s a smart thing to do. That’s budget neutral. That doesn’t cost the government anything . . .”

If families can use budget neutral tax credits to purchase health insurance, why can’t we also use them to buy up those little old toxic derivatives Warren Buffet condemned as “financial weapons of mass destruction” in 2002? I know some accounting geniuses at the Congressional Budget Office will insist we have to borrow $700,000,000,000 to pay for the Wall Street bailout, but why raise the national debt and pay all that interest when we can purchase that undervalued paper with budget neutral tax credits. And if the Saudi’s will buy into this novel concept, viola, the energy crisis will be solved, at least through the next generation.

Leave it to a Democratic spoilsport like Joe Biden to point out that the McCain-Palin plan achieves budget neutrality by repealing the tax deduction employers receive on their contributions to their workers’ health insurance. According to John McCain and Sarah Palin, allowing temporary tax reductions to expire is a massive tax increase but repealing a long-standing tax deduction is not. After Wall Street’s derivative ponzi scheme, the McCain-Palin health reform package begins with an interesting shell game in which the right hand giveth and the left hand taketh away. And somehow, when the game is over, it’s always hardworking American taxpayers who are left holding the bag.

Which leads us to the first rule of practical decision making: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”