Thursday, March 18, 2010

Healthcare Saga Just Gets Worse

Day 30 of 46 c Lenten Season 2010

Amazing. Doesn’t that adequately describe the sudden resurrection of President Obama’s healthcare bill that seemed dead in the water only a couple of weeks ago?

Actually, some people might call it downright petrifying, especially if you consider there’s more unknown about this bill than known. It’s not even written yet, and House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi wants a vote by this coming Sunday. Sunday, of all days!

Hardly anybody thinks Pelosi and Obama have the votes they need to win with an ordinary roll call, so they’re rumored to be considering some parliamentary tricks to run an end game around Democratic holdouts and score from the bleachers - or in this case, the parking lot. “Budget reconciliation” has become the newest term in the American political lexicon, even though it’s been around for ages and used by both parties for far less significant votes on far less significant bills.

OK, I've tipped my hand - I'm against the current healthcare bill.

But no matter where you stand in the healthcare debate, you have to admit that any bill’s legitimacy gets significantly murky if such tactical maneuvers provide the only means for passage.

They Said It: Quotes from the Times

Assuming Pelosi and Obama have completely altruistic motivations for - by any standard - stuffing this bill down America’s throat, what about it so enthralls liberals? For help in understanding the mentality behind the healthcare juggernaut’s surprising surge, what better resource to consult than a primer for the liberal agenda, the New York Times?

Ever willing to oblige, today’s issue of the Times contains a bubbly update* on the pending healthcare overhaul vote in the House of Representatives. Entitled “Democrats Cheer Budget Forecast on Health Care Bill” and written by David Herszenhorn and Robert Pear, the Times’ latest article raises several red flags that not only fail to bolster the liberal claims in this debate, but significantly weaken them.

Here are just a few highlights from the Times piece, followed by my observations:

1. “In the first ten years, the legislation would reduce deficits by $130 billion, Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the House majority whip, said after a meeting of the party’s caucus. The effect on deficits over the following decade would be much greater, a total of $1.2 trillion, he said. The savings would come largely from reductions in the growth of Medicare spending, with new fees and tax increases also contributing.”

Will the government actually be saving any money? Won’t money saved by the alleged reduction in Medicare spending actually be spent somewhere else in Obama’s plan? People aren’t just going to stop aging or getting sick. The government has a woeful track record of trumpeting savings in one area, only to see costs rise in another area where the costs have secretly been transferred. It’s one big game of whack-a-mole.

Also, won't deficit reductions a further decade removed mostly come from attrition in the Medicare program? Twenty years from now, the massive Boomer generation will be passing away in droves, automatically reducing Medicare costs as their number shrinks. Isn’t it disingenuous to credit Obama’s bill with saving money when the actual savings will come as millions of patients simply die of old age?

2. “The endorsement from Mr. Kucinich suggested that Democrats who have been pushing for more ambitious legislation might put aside their reservations and unite behind the bill as their best opportunity to secure health insurance for millions of Americans who now lack it. The backing from Mr. Kildee — and new support from nuns who lead major Roman Catholic religious orders — indicated that Democrats were having some success in addressing an issue that has cost the votes of some Democrats who oppose abortion rights.”

By now, we all know that Ohio congressman Dennis Kucinich was strong-armed by Obama during a private round-trip flight on Air Force One from Washington to Ohio and back. Considering the staggering amount of pork already stuffed into the healthcare legislation, I suppose the approximately $113,036** it cost to fly Air Force One to and from suburban Cleveland is mere pocket change for politicians.

Michigan’s Dale Kildee has been a holdout on the legislation because of concerns over expanded abortion coverage, but apparently (as the article goes on to state) some liberal groups of nuns have been jumping through hoops trying to justify increased abortions with the promise of broader coverage for all – which makes sense, I guess, if you consider that Obama’s bill would make abortions available for more women. That’s still not progress, though, is it?

Perhaps more telling is the casual mention towards the end of the article that the powerful and scholarly US Conference of Catholic Bishops remains firmly opposed to the current wording of the Senate bill. How can the same bill be seen as both pro-abortion and anti-abortion?

What a mess.

3. “In an interview with Fox News, Mr. Obama dismissed Republican criticisms of the parliamentary tactics, saying he does not ‘spend a lot of time worrying about what the procedural rules are.’”

Now, former president Bush may have been able to get away with saying something like that, considering what some believed to be his weak grasp of Washington power plays (something his supporters viewed as a positive trait). But Obama, who campaigned on the promise to change the way business gets done in Washington, actually exposes the central fallacy of his administration when he relies on the old “whatever works” ethos of politics. Sure, the “budget reconciliation” trick Democrats have proposed works for smaller bills, but not for issues like the sweeping government overhaul of healthcare.

People elect their representatives for a reason, even if they’re the wrong ones. Once they’re in office, their vote should be respected - not coerced - by the president. The Executive Branch should not run roughshod over the Legislative Branch like this. If something as crucial as Obama’s plan can’t pass through a conventional vote, then in a way, the people have spoken.

4. “Mr. Obama likened the measure to fixing the financial system or passing the economic recovery act. ‘I knew these things might not be popular, but I was absolutely positive that it was the right thing to do,’ he said.”

Continuing my point from #3, consider the arrogance of this statement. Popularity? For better or worse, a democratic republic is all about popularity, isn’t it? That’s why we elect people to represent us, to act on our behalf. Of course, Congress has a popularity rating which is flat-lining at the moment, but that doesn’t give Obama the right to plow through with his agenda without securing the will of the people – something he has failed to do. We’ve yet to see a final bill, and the vote is four days away. That’s appalling leadership in anybody’s book, and a stunning display of snubbing a citizenry overwhelmingly opposed to his plan.

Referencing the financial system “fix” and the economic recovery act as legitimate leadership decisions hardly supports Obama’s claim to be acting on precedent. Banks and Wall Street have made a killing this past year at the expense of taxpayers – two boondoggles Bush and Obama were warned about before they threw away so many tax dollars.

With this statement, doesn't Obama continue to demonstrate a naivete regarding capitalism and economic reality?

5. “Explaining factors he had considered in making his decision, Mr. Kucinich said, ‘We have to be very careful that the potential of President Obama’s presidency not be destroyed by this debate.’”

Where do you begin to refute everything that’s wrong with this statement? The only way debate – a keystone of democracy – can destroy a presidency is when the content of the debate proves the fallacy of the subject president. So is Kucinich admitting that Democrats had better go ahead and get this vote over with because the stuffing is falling out of Obama’s hastily-stitched-together program?

And to succumb to pressure from a sitting president who obviously painted a dire future for himself if this bill doesn’t pass reveals the spineless side of Kucinich. Granted, he’s never been a conventional congressman, but such a statement is a new low for this presidential also-ran.

Add it all up, and doesn't it look like we’ve got a bunch of people lobbying for and being pressured to support a bill nobody really likes and doesn’t really solve anything?

This report in the New York Times gives that impression.

* The original article in the online version of the New York Times has since been updated, with some of the content quoted in this essay removed. For an exact iteration of this article, please consult today's print edition.
** Calculated at $56,518 per hour for two hours; distance is less than 300 nautical miles.

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