Robert Knight: ObamaCare’s Scary October Surprise
This column originally appeared on The American Thinker website on October 31, 2009.
Stung by a rising tide of resistance and a closing window of opportunity, House Democrats have unleashed a new version of ObamaCare, weighing in at 1,990 pages and with a $1 trillion price tag. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promises to ram it through quickly, exhibiting a disdain for her countrymen that makes Marie Antoinette look like a populist.
The Democrats are going for broke, which means we’ll all be broke if this is not stopped. The “Affordable Health Care for America Act” (HR 3962) is so comprehensive that it even micromanages restaurant menus and vending machines. That’s a clear signal that this is not about health care. It’s about whether the people of the United States will allow power-mad Washington politicians to plunge us into the kind of top-down socialism that is strangling Western Europe and has devastated economies and destroyed freedom wherever it is imposed.
President Obama promised “transparency” and that any bill would be written in public. That was a lie. This monstrosity was hatched behind closed doors. Obama further promised that his health care initiative would not “add a dime to the federal deficit,” which he has already tripled since taking office. It was another lie. No one can honestly believe that a gargantuan takeover of the nation’s $2.5 trillion health care industry will save taxpayers money. No government program results in savings. Each one grows exponentially; creates dependent constituencies that lobby for yet more tax dollars; and empowers bureaucrats for whom mission failure ensures more staff, more money, and more power. There is simply no governing restraint such as a profit motive or anxious stockholders. The voters? Surely you jest. They are far, far away and kept in check by a compliant leftist media. At least, so far.
Does anyone really believe that a government plan consisting of nearly two thousand pages will simplify things and leave us a freer people?
Instead, it will saddle us, our children, and our grandchildren with trillions in debt and will make every family in America beholden to the whims of government health bureaucrats. The bill is a true Halloween horror, with scary stuff throughout. Taxpayers will be forced to pay for abortions. Committees in both houses of Congress defeated thirty different amendments barring such funding. Illegal aliens will be covered, since there is no language that would enforce any prohibition against them. Among the thirteen new taxes found in the bill by Americans for Tax Reform is the “medicine cabinet tax,” which bars people from paying for non-prescription medicine with tax-deferred health savings accounts. Senior citizens will bear the brunt of “savings” that are supposed to partially pay for the bill, with $500 billion in Medicare cuts. Liberal pundits continue to ridicule Sarah Palin’s colorful but accurate term “death panels,” but government control, cost-cutting and Medicare penalties against docs who provide “too much” care will lead to bureaucrats literally deciding who lives and who dies. The bill also includes punitive taxes on people earning higher incomes, which epitomizes the Marxist dream of confiscation and redistribution.
Obviously, the Washington elites did not fully get the message when Americans revolted by the millions this summer and early fall. Instead, Pelosi, Reid, and Obama threatened the health insurance industry Chicago-gangster-style, warning them to shut up or else. They’re about to do the same to the rest of us, threatening us with penalties if we don’t buy insurance. If we don’t pay the penalties, we go to jail. They don’t even pretend that this is constitutionally legal. When Pelosi was asked by a reporter exactly what in the Constitution permits the federal government to force people to purchase a service, her answer was, “Are you serious? Are you serious?” before moving on to another question.
ObamaCare supporters were stung when the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation reported that the first House version would add more than $1.5 trillion in new federal spending over the next 10 years. So in the Senate, they went back to the drawing board, wrote the Baucus version, and tried to pretend that splitting off a proposed 10-year, $247 billion Medicare doctors’ fee “fix” would not count in health care reform. This was their way of feigning observation of Obama’s pledge not to “add a dime.” But even the liberal Washington Post editorialized against this sleight-of-hand in a piece entitled “2.47 trillion dimes,” and the proposal went down in flames, with all forty Republicans, twelve Democrats and one Independent voting against it on October 21.
In the House, they continued to scribble. The Congressional Budget Office came out with its report on October 29 and concluded that the new bill would cost a bit over $1 trillion over 10 years but that collecting “penalties paid by individuals and employers” would bring the cost down to a mere $894 billion and reduce the federal deficit by $104 billion. The House also came up with a separate “doc fix” bill that would suspend cuts in Medicare payments to doctors. Like the “doc fix” defeated in the Senate, it wouldn’t add to the actual costs in the health care bill, thus preserving the illusion that the big bill will cost less than $1 trillion.
The ongoing takeover attempt of our health care system is proof that Congressman have regrown their tin ears now that they’re back in the Beltway bubble, insulated from constituents. But they are not immune to pressure in the form of phone calls, faxes and e-mails, at least not if they arrive by the boatload.
Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, the lone Republican in the Senate Finance Committee to vote for the Baucus bill, has said she will oppose any plan that emerges with a “public option.” That’s because although Obama, Pelosi, and Reid say it would merely create a competitor for private insurance and bring down costs, a public option would actually cause the collapse of the private insurance market. Employers would jump ship, opting to pay a fine rather than provide insurance. A study by the Lewin Group estimates that 88 million Americans would lose their private insurance if a government competitor is created.
Over the next few days, don’t be surprised if the “public option” is dropped or amended to buy off Blue Dog Democrats and perhaps even some Republicans. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi put it back in with a nod and a wink as if to appease the far-left liberals who were making lots of noise. But quietly dropping it would be a small price to pay to get something — anything — into the law that can then be expanded until it crushes private care and morphs into truly socialized medicine.
Watch what they do, not what they say.