Off the Charts
Republicans hope to defeat Obamacare with a visual aid.


Jim Geraghty

Steve King (R., Iowa) with the infamous anti-Hillarycare chart.


There’s little doubt that the chart next to Rep. Steve King (R., Iowa) above was the most famous illustration to come out of Congress’s Joint Economic Committee.

Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey wrote, “I take a certain satisfaction in the role a certain chart played in that victory — the chart I created with my staff, depicting the plan’s dozens of new bureaucracies. We captioned it: ‘Simplicity Defined.’ One of Mrs. Clinton’s comments after the defeat of Clinton Care was, ‘We never overcame the chart.’ Bob Dole showcased the memorable spaghetti-like visualization during his 1994 response to President Clinton’s State of the Union address, a powerful cautionary symbol of the sales pitch that preceded it.”

Today, King refers to the old Hillarycare chart regularly in his floor statements, declaring that it “hung on the office in my construction office throughout that entire decade and probably past the change of the millennium. It hung there because it scared the living daylights out of me, as an employer who was providing health insurance for my employees and, of course, my family as well.  . . . [This chart] sunk Hillarycare, because the people in this country did not want to create all of this bureaucracy and give all of this control and authority over to the government.”

But the Clintoncare chart may soon be surpassed by the Obamacare chart in attention, scrutiny, and controversy.

When it became clear that another effort would be made at overhauling the nation’s health-care system, House Minority Leader John Boehner and other Republicans asked the Joint Economic Committee to draw up another chart, depicting how the system would work under House Democrats’ draft legislation. Each staff economist was directed to go through the bill, spotlighting new agencies, mandates, and regulations. Then the bill was dissected a second time, line by line, to ensure that all the parts were accurately represented. The result was this:

The 2009 health-care chart.

Needless to say, this panorama of jelly beans on top of a computer’s circuit board isn’t pretty; to the average American, it looks like a labyrinth to navigate before receiving care. Some Obamacare backers claimed that the myriad colors make it seem unnecessarily complex, but there is a method to the seeming madness: The parts in white already exist, and the colored boxes are the new entities, offices, requirements, reports, and subsidies the Democrats’ bill would create.


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

NRO Polls on LockerDome

Subscribe to National Review