The story of the day is certainly Sen. Ben Nelson’s shameless perfidy — giving up his pro-life principles in return for swindling taxpayers in the other 49 states into paying all of Nebraska’s future new Medicaid costs. The deal he struck would undermine both the logic underlying the Hyde Amendment and the logic underlying the Medicaid system. There is no conceivable policy argument for the way the new bill treats Nebraska, it’s simply a case of a senator’s vote being purchased with taxpayer dollars.
But the bigger and more significant story is what Nelson’s decision now enables — that is, the larger Reid health-care bill, which now looks far more likely to pass the Senate (though it still faces a tough road after that). It’s easy to get caught up in the daily tactics and forget what we’re getting ourselves into here. The Reid bill is the embodiment of the Democrats’ attitude that they just have to pass something, whatever it is. About the only thing that can be said in favor of this bill is that it is something. Otherwise, everything that can be said about it redounds in its disfavor.
The CBO assessment of the bill tells the appalling story. We are going to raise taxes by half a trillion dollars over the next ten years, increase spending by more than a trillion dollars, cut Medicare by $470 billion but use that money to fund a new entitlement rather than to fix Medicare itself, bend the health-care cost curve up rather than down, insert layers of bureaucracy between doctors and patients, and compel and subsidize universal participation in a failed system of health insurance rather than reform or improve it. Indeed, this bill will make it exceedingly difficult to fix our health-insurance financing system in the future, since it sucks dry the potential means of such reform but leaves the fundamental cost problem essentially untouched (and, in some respects, worsened.) After all the back and forth, pulling and tugging, it is hard to see what is left in this bill that any member of Congress, liberal or conservative, would want to support.
The public seems to see that, and is increasingly opposed to the bill, but for now Democrats in congress still persist. It’s no wonder Obama, Reid, and Pelosi want to rush this process through before their rank and file members can grasp what they’re doing. But it’s a bit of a wonder that those rank and file members so far seem to be playing along. Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, and a few others have been bought with taxpayer-funded favors for their states. What’s everyone else’s excuse?