This year’s budget impasse centers on the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. Defunding, delaying, or otherwise sabotaging the Act was the original goal of Tea Party Republicans. Meanwhile, we read that implementing Obamacare is a disaster, from website to database. If the Republicans were smart, they would sit back and watch it fail.
“It wasn’t designed well, it wasn’t implemented well, and it looks like nobody tested it,” said Luke Chung, an online database programmer.
If you’re responsible for this system, the impasse is a gift from God. The president can “compromise,” buying you an extra year to fix it – and he can look statesmanlike in the process. In fairness to the programmers, the Act is large, complex, and unsettled.
“We have to pass the [health care] bill so that you can find out what’s in it.”
It’s hard to write code when nobody knows for sure what the system is supposed to do – which brings us to another irony. According to The Economist, the law is a shambles because Ted Kennedy’s death forced the House to pass a draft bill that wasn’t quite ready. This is cruel fate. Not only did the liberal lion not live to see his dream fulfilled, but his very passing maimed the nascent reform.
Well, that was a partisan debacle. Speaker Pelosi put too much energy into “making history” and not enough into reading it. Johnson-era lawmakers could not predict that their programs would later drag America toward bankruptcy. Today, we can, and House Democrats have pretended not to see the consequences.
So you pass a very unpopular bill. You shove it down the throats of the American people and you lose your majority. How smart is that? – Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)
In fairness, not all Democrats are profligates. A list of the thirty-four who voted against the bill is posted here. The other 219 have to go. America desperately needs to stop spending, or we will be the next Greece.
Democrats in Congress need a fallback plan, to save their health-care bill in case they lose a Senate seat in today’s election. Here’s a plan they seem to have overlooked: work with the Republicans. Jeremiah wrote back in October that the only responsible way to draft this bill was to engage both parties.
Now, it is the “Democratic Health Bill” only because certain Democrats, notably House Speaker Pelosi, were too arrogant to work with the other side. Ms. Pelosi famously declared, “We won the election, and we’ll write the bill.” Memo to Ms. Pelosi: you didn’t win the election. Barack Obama won the election, and he promised bi-partisan cooperation.
“Let’s remove all doubt,” she says. “We will have health care one way or another.”
That hardly sounds like the formula for sound legislation. Democrats are now in the position of supporting just any health bill – at any cost – and this will hurt them in November.
President Obama can put an end to the madness. He can declare that he will not sign the bill unless it passes both chambers with bipartisan support. With this one gesture, he can prove who really leads the Democratic Party – and save it from the likes of Ms. Pelosi. Better to have a clean health-care bill next year, than a partisan disaster this year.
John F. Kennedy has been quoted lately in the press. The Economist has compared his “pay any price, bear any burden” to President Obama’s (rather less inspiring) speech at West Point. Citations regarding the end of the space program include “we do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Then, of course, there is the immortal “ask not what your country can do for you, but rather what you can do for your country.”
Kennedy was a Democrat, and no friend of big business, but neither did he espouse the doctrine of dependency common among Democrats today. In fact, his vision of America was closer to Ronald Reagan’s than to modern Democrats. Both men spoke of America having a great purpose, demanding courage and sacrifice.
The notion that government can somehow support the people is not only wrong economically, it is wrong morally. Government is supported by the citizens, not vice-versa. Democrats in Congress would like us to believe in a magical, off-balance-sheet source of funding for their programs.
It is easy to see how this fiction helps the lazy and dishonest in Congress. The greater danger, though, is its demoralizing effect on the public. Those who are poorly educated – and the education system is a disaster – come to believe that, indeed, the government has unlimited resources. Sacrifice? Courage? If only we can protest loudly enough, the government will give us what we desire.
Secretary Geithner can’t print money fast enough. He has yet to resist a spending request. Speaker Pelosi balanced her health bill using a 50% surtax. Kennedy would not recognize his party today. Where he spoke proudly of Americans pulling together, they have added a qualification – someone else will pay.
There is no good reason to pass costly healthcare legislation this year, with the economy in recession and the federal budget in a record deficit. The only reason is a craven, partisan one. House Democrats, led by Speaker Pelosi, have the votes to push the bill through despite conservative objections.
Ms. Pelosi, furthermore, refuses to let go the “public option.” She and her followers are committed to this idea because they fundamentally mistrust the free enterprise system. Senator Joe Lieberman – an independent – said it best:
I don’t remember another case where our answer to a concern about fairness in the marketplace — in this case whether there is real competition in the health insurance business, whether the health insurance companies are being fair in their rates, et cetera, et cetera, all important, reasonable questions — I don’t remember another case where the answer to that was to create a government-owned corporation to compete with the private sector.
Right now, the only brake on the House – and their statist approach – is the Senate. Many Senators, including Democrats, do not support “public option.” But the House thinks President Obama is desperate, and will sign anything. He needs to show America that they are wrong. A responsible leader does not sign landmark legislation without bi-partisan support. President Obama should send Ms. Pelosi back to the drawing board.
See also: Jeremiah’s four laws of public spending.