Critical Condition

State of the Union Address: Will the Rhetoric Match the Policy?

Tomorrow night, President Obama will head to the Capitol to deliver his State of the Union address to the nation. While it is sure to include the rhetorical flourishes and impeccable delivery that President Obama is renowned for, I fear it will unfortunately be dominated by populist rhetoric instead of the actual policies the administration is pushing behind closed doors — away from the scrutiny of the American people. Health care is a prime example.

I won’t be surprised if the president lays the blame for all the nation’s problems on everyone else, going after the insurance industry for all our health-care problems, the Republicans for so-called obstructionism, and the special interests for working to protect the status quo. This, of course, overlooks some basic facts: Democrats control every lever of power in Washington; they wrote a health-care bill behind closed doors, hand-in-glove with these very same special interests; and they failed to draft a bill with Republican input.

One of the most important reasons why bipartisan consensus on health-care reform is so important is that there is a real need to contain out-of-control costs. Unfortunately, instead of building on this bipartisan concern and working together on a fiscally responsible package, the administration and the Democrats who control Congress decided to use their dominant position as an opportunity to further expand the role of the federal government by spending an additional $2.5 trillion over the next 10 years on a system that already costs $2.3 trillion a year.

And how would the Democrats finance this risky $2.5 trillion health-care experiment? They use specious budget gimmicks to hide the bill’s true cost. They start the tax hikes right away, but wait until 2014 to begin all the big-government spending. As if that weren’t enough, they increase taxes by more than half a trillion dollars at a time when our economy continues to struggle and the unemployment rate stagnates in double digits. Of course, let’s not forget that they also take close to a half trillion dollars from our bankrupt Medicare program.

The president ran a campaign of change — a pledge to bring a new era of bipartisanship, honest leadership, and transparency to Washington. But this health-care bill has been antithetical to those pledges. Crafted behind bolted doors in the dark corners of the Capitol, away from the scrutiny of the American people, despite pledges of a televised conference on C-SPAN, this bill is filled with special-interest giveaways needed to lock in votes, rather than the right policies for American families — from the Cornhusker Kickback and the Louisiana Purchase to the sweetheart exemption for big unions from the new health-plan tax.

Our nation’s deficit for 2009 alone stood at an astounding $1.4 trillion — three times the size of the previous year’s deficit, and the highest since World War II. Our national debt is set to double in the next five years and triple in the next ten years. Over the course of last year, Americans made it clear to Congress that another big federal spending bill that will raise taxes, stifle job creation, reduce choices, and expand unsustainable entitlement programs is the wrong solution. The current proposals coming out of Washington will not lower costs and will not help Americans keep the coverage they have today, which is why the people don’t want them. That was the message sent with the stunning Republican victory in the Massachusetts special senatorial election.

Americans expect Congress to act. But more important, Americans expect Congress to pass a reform that is responsible and affordable. No major health-care legislation has ever passed on a purely partisan vote, and this is the most important one of them all, a bill that will impact every American life and business. The president can truly make this a historic address by pressing the reset button — starting from scratch to ensure that we work together not as Democrats and Republicans, but as Americans, to achieve responsible health-care reform.

 

– Orrin Hatch is a Republican United States senator from Utah.

Orrin Hatch — Orrin G. Hatch is the chairman emeritus of the Orrin G. Hatch Foundation. A Utah Republican, he served on the Senate Judiciary Committee from 1977–2019.

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