Commentary Magazine


Topic: Robert J. Samuelson

The Corrective Election of 2010

On Fox News Sunday, Dana Perino provided a useful summary of what health-care “reform” now looks like. In short, it’s not reform at all:

Well, I think that at the end of the day this is a massive entitlement expansion that’s going to subsidize a lot of people without the reform that was needed. So you look at the CBO report — if you actually tease it out, they’re basically saying, “We don’t know really what’s going to happen.” It says that 23 million people are going to remain uninsured, so I don’t know how to break out those numbers. In addition to that, it does say that in 2010 they assume that doctors will be reduced in their reimbursements by 21 percent. This called “doc fix” up on Capitol Hill. It never happens.

The non-reform health-care bill does, to the disgust of liberals, make insurance companies very happy. The government is coercing customers to buy the companies’ products under penalty of prosecution and fine. The non-reform health-care bill does, to the horror of seniors, slash $500B out of Medicare with no conceivable alternative other than rationing to meet its new budget. The non-reform health-care bill does, to the delight of trial lawyers, do nothing to reform the tort system or the problem of defensive medicine. And the non-reform health-care bill does, to the chagrin of deficit hawks, do nothing to bend the cost-curve or cut the deficit. (James Capretta explains: “For starters, as CBO notes, the bill presumes that Medicare fees for physician services will get cut by more than 20 percent in 2011, and then stay at the reduced level indefinitely. There is strong bipartisan opposition to such cuts. Fixing that problem alone will cost more than $200 billion over a decade, pushing the Reid plan from the black and into a deep red.”) Finally, the non-reform health-care bill will, to the embarrassment of good-government types, in all likelihood get passed through a combination of bribery and secrecy, with virtually no time for thoughtful consideration.

On every level it’s a policy train wreck. As Robert J. Samuelson summed up:

It will not control costs. It will worsen the budget outlook. It will lead to higher taxes. It will disrupt how, or whether, companies provide insurance for their workers. As the real-life (as opposed to rhetorical) consequences unfold, they will rebut Obama’s claim that he has “solved” the health-care problem. His reputation will suffer.

Its noxious impact and the manner by which it was passed will annoy voters and motivate already enraged conservatives and skeptical independents in 2010. The Democrats have no cover on this one, just as they lacked one on the stimulus plan, which was passed on a near party-line vote. (The final vote on the non-reform health-care bill will be even more partisan.) If, as with the stimulus, voters cannot be lulled into believing that atrocious legislation is really a marvelous thing, the consequences will be significant and the 2010 election will make 1994 look like a mere ripple on the political landscape.

Elections have consequences, certainly. That’s how we wound up with huge congressional majorities in both houses and an ultra-liberal president. But there’s always another election coming up to correct the missteps and excesses of those who won last time. If ObamaCare manages to be passed into law, as is almost certain, and the voters slowly learn what the non-reform bill does, then be prepared for one of the great corrective elections in American history.

On Fox News Sunday, Dana Perino provided a useful summary of what health-care “reform” now looks like. In short, it’s not reform at all:

Well, I think that at the end of the day this is a massive entitlement expansion that’s going to subsidize a lot of people without the reform that was needed. So you look at the CBO report — if you actually tease it out, they’re basically saying, “We don’t know really what’s going to happen.” It says that 23 million people are going to remain uninsured, so I don’t know how to break out those numbers. In addition to that, it does say that in 2010 they assume that doctors will be reduced in their reimbursements by 21 percent. This called “doc fix” up on Capitol Hill. It never happens.

The non-reform health-care bill does, to the disgust of liberals, make insurance companies very happy. The government is coercing customers to buy the companies’ products under penalty of prosecution and fine. The non-reform health-care bill does, to the horror of seniors, slash $500B out of Medicare with no conceivable alternative other than rationing to meet its new budget. The non-reform health-care bill does, to the delight of trial lawyers, do nothing to reform the tort system or the problem of defensive medicine. And the non-reform health-care bill does, to the chagrin of deficit hawks, do nothing to bend the cost-curve or cut the deficit. (James Capretta explains: “For starters, as CBO notes, the bill presumes that Medicare fees for physician services will get cut by more than 20 percent in 2011, and then stay at the reduced level indefinitely. There is strong bipartisan opposition to such cuts. Fixing that problem alone will cost more than $200 billion over a decade, pushing the Reid plan from the black and into a deep red.”) Finally, the non-reform health-care bill will, to the embarrassment of good-government types, in all likelihood get passed through a combination of bribery and secrecy, with virtually no time for thoughtful consideration.

On every level it’s a policy train wreck. As Robert J. Samuelson summed up:

It will not control costs. It will worsen the budget outlook. It will lead to higher taxes. It will disrupt how, or whether, companies provide insurance for their workers. As the real-life (as opposed to rhetorical) consequences unfold, they will rebut Obama’s claim that he has “solved” the health-care problem. His reputation will suffer.

Its noxious impact and the manner by which it was passed will annoy voters and motivate already enraged conservatives and skeptical independents in 2010. The Democrats have no cover on this one, just as they lacked one on the stimulus plan, which was passed on a near party-line vote. (The final vote on the non-reform health-care bill will be even more partisan.) If, as with the stimulus, voters cannot be lulled into believing that atrocious legislation is really a marvelous thing, the consequences will be significant and the 2010 election will make 1994 look like a mere ripple on the political landscape.

Elections have consequences, certainly. That’s how we wound up with huge congressional majorities in both houses and an ultra-liberal president. But there’s always another election coming up to correct the missteps and excesses of those who won last time. If ObamaCare manages to be passed into law, as is almost certain, and the voters slowly learn what the non-reform bill does, then be prepared for one of the great corrective elections in American history.

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