Critical Condition

Reconciliation

The Obama administration’s apparent intention to use the “budget reconciliation” process to try to advance its proposed health-care overhaul has shined the spotlight on why it, and the federal government as a whole, should not control what will soon be one-fifth of our economy. Simply put, the president has repeatedly emphasized three problems that must be addressed, while pursuing a course of action that would exacerbate all three. 

 

Lack of bipartisanship: As President Obama said last month in his State of the Union address, the government can’t pass needed reforms “if we don’t also reform how we work with one another.” His “health-care summit” is supposedly an attempt to bring Republicans and Democrats together. The president has said, “Well I think that what I want to do is to look at the Republican ideas that are out there.” “Bipartisanship” has been a theme of nearly all of his recent health-care remarks.

 

Now, Politico reports that the president, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Sen. Harry Reid plan to try to use the “budget reconciliation” process after next week’s bipartisan summit to jam through elements of their proposed health-care overhaul over widespread opposition. Politico quotes one Democratic insider as saying, “They are coming out of the summit guns-a-blazing, and they’re committed to reconciliation.” 

 

“Budget reconciliation” prevents use of the filibuster, a feature of the Senate since the early 19th century. The arcane process is designed to help the Senate pass bills that would balance the budget. President Obama would use it to try to pass portions of a $2.5 trillion health-care overhaul without having to get any Republican (or even all Democratic) votes. This is the new era of bipartisanship?

 

Political cronyism: Interviewing President Obama before the Super Bowl, Katie Couric asked about “all these special deals that were given to certain senators,” which, she said, made the American people “pretty sick to their stomachs.” He replied, “They did not help. They frustrate me.” 

 

Now, Politico reports that part of why the president wants to use the “budget reconciliation” process is to exempt union workers from the tax on “Cadillac” insurance plans. In other words, Americans would pay a 40-percent tax on health benefits above a certain point — unless they belong to a union, a core constituent of the Democratic party. This is the remedy for cronyism?

 

Health costs: The President and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius have been highlighting recent increases in insurance premiums. These increases are almost entirely the result of two things: rising hospital and drug costs, which Obamacare would do essentially nothing about; and the poor economy, which causes some healthier people to take the calculated risk of dropping their insurance for the short-term, leaving a mix of unhealthier people in insurance pools and raising average costs accordingly. President Obama is willing to blame the economy for the fact that he will run up more deficit spending in just two years than President Bush did in eight, but he’s reluctant to admit that this same economy affects entities run by somebody other than the government. 

 

In any event, both the Congressional Budget Office and the Medicare Chief Actuary have said that, under Obamacare, insurance premiums would be higher than under current law. So, the solution to high premiums is to pass legislation that would raise them?

 

In each of these ways, the disconnect between cause and effect, problem and solution, rhetoric and reality, is astounding. 

 

Of course, the biggest disconnect is between the Obama administration and the American people. Americans have made it abundantly clear that they don’t want Obamacare. President Obama has made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t care.

 

But House and Senate Democrats are unlikely to continue to turn such a deaf ear toward their constituents.

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