Commentary Magazine


This Is “Reform”?

Sen. Dick Durbin says Democrats will have 60 votes for health-care legislation by next week. This is revealing in two respects. First, they don’t have the votes now. And second, they don’t have the exact bill on which they are voting. Sen. Evan Bayh said plaintively, “We’re all being urged to vote for something and we don’t know the details of what’s in it.” He seems to have a problem with that.

We are, in general terms (we think — since there is no bill yet and no CBO scoring), going to raise huge amounts of taxes from some Americans (including those promised by candidate Obama that they’d see no tax hike), give it to others, force individuals and businesses to buy really expensive insurance plans, and then take a chunk of money out of Medicare, which will squeeze doctors and hospitals, not to mention patients. This legislation has little to recommend it.

Liberals are angry, fearing that the bill will be shoveling massive subsidies to private insurers. As Politico put it, “More than anything else in Barack Obama’s presidency so far, health reform has exposed a get-a-deal-at-any-cost side of Obama that infuriates his party’s progressives.” So Howard Dean wants to kill it. Conservative James Capretta sees their point: “The Democratic party is on the verge of enacting a requirement, enforced with federal tax penalties, which would effectively require hard-working Americans to hand over even more of their wages to profit-hungry, private insurance companies.”

Conservatives point to the hundreds of billions in new taxes, the mandates, the fines, and the heavy hand of government — in short, a huge, fiscally reckless entitlement:

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the party’s leader, said the legislation includes “a half a trillion dollars in cuts in Medicare, $400 billion in higher taxes and higher premiums for everyone else.”

We’re about to spend a trillion dollars we don’t have to force many people to buy insurance they don’t want. So there are 60 votes for this monstrosity? Not yet. But next week, we’re told, there will be. Because, as the president says, we’re on the “precipice” of something really big. Well, we can all agree on that.

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