Monday, March 22, 2010

In Your Eagerness, Please Plan Ahead

It's done. The unfathomable has happened. Jesus wept. Okay that last part is a bit of an exaggeration, but the year long debate seems to be at an end, and the House of Representatives has passed the Senate version of the health care reform and sent it on its (I can only assume) merry way to the Oval Office. So what now?

"Cherish the's over in November..." says one commenter. Hell yeah!!
"Those Democrats signed their death wish. There is little chance they will get re-elected." Yeah, okay. Alright.
"The Democrats had better be ready for a blood bath at the polls! I can hardly wait..." Wait... WHAT???

It's great to see so many people charged up over this situation, and if they can hang on to that enthusiasm until November, then even better. (Typically, that isn't the case, although there are precedents) But voters need to come to terms with why the incumbents (specifically Democrats in this case) need to be voted out in the next set of elections.

Much of the outrage towards the House of Representatives right now is directed towards these 219 Democrats. And rightly so. They have enacted one of the most overbearing pieces of social legislation in our country's 234 year history. FDR wanted to establish more social welfare than just the Social Security Act, but most of his legislation was struck down as unconstitutional. That being the first major socialized health care legislation passed by the United States Congress, the second came about twenty years later with the passage of the Social Security Act of 1965. This established the program now known as Medicare. Medicare was the first real attempt at single-payer health care in the United States (which was something that was left out of the just passed legislation), albeit for only a designated group of people. But that still wasn't far-reaching enough, as evidenced by the continued fight over the years by such stalwarts as the late Ted Kennedy.

So now we have the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This legislation extends coverage to 31 million (give or take) uninsured Americans, through government vouchers and insurer tax subsidies. It prohibits denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. It only "[a]llows premium rates to vary only by individual or family coverage, rating area, age, or tobacco use." So far, it doesn't sound too objectionable.

The problem has always been the money. The bill "impose[s] an excise tax of 40% of the excess benefit from certain high cost employer-sponsored health coverage." There are numerous other penalties and taxes for failure to comply with the new codes, or even by simply crunching the numbers wrong. Oh by the way, did you know that the bill "impose[s] a 10% excise tax on any amount paid for indoor tanning services on or after July 1, 2010." So all you northerners who can't enjoy the Florida sunshine year round, think about that the next time you want to go get a tan.

One of the grossest liberties taken by the writers of this bill is to "Requires individuals to maintain minimal essential health care coverage beginning in 2014." Should an individual fail to do so, the bill "[i]mposes a penalty for failure to maintain such coverage beginning in 2014, except for certain low-income individuals who cannot afford coverage, members of Indian tribes, and individuals who suffer hardship." Not only are individuals required by government mandate to purchase something they may have no interest in buying, but the penalty doesn't even affect all citizens equally, which flies in the face of the 14th amendment. Equal protection of the law means one group should not be less punishable than another.

But perhaps the biggest outrage to this entire healthcare overhaul stems back to the birth of the Tea Party movement, for it was they who were fed up with the growth of government and out of control budgets. The Patient Protection Act is estimated to cost about $940 billion ($940,000,000,000) over the next 10 years. But that's okay, says the Democrats in Congress, because the plan will also reduce the federal deficit by $138 billion over those same ten years, and up to $2.1 trillion ($2,100,000,000,000) in the decade after that. Oh great, then. Why are we arguing against this again?

Well, it could have something to do with the fact that most of the taxes proposed to handle the increased spending don't take effect for at least another 4 years, even though the bill itself starts up later this year. A large part of the budget for the bill takes into account proposed taxes that aren't even declared yet, but have simply been talked about. As Donald Marron, a former CBO manager writes:

"In order to make the long-term budget impacts look better while limiting political opposition in the near term, the original Senate bill adopted a strategy in which many of the most promising savings measures—e.g., reductions in Medicare payment rates and an excise tax on “Cadillac” health insurance plans—would ramp up substantially in later years... The Cadillac tax, for example, has been essentially gutted over the next ten years, but is designed to grow rapidly in the decade after that. That helps the second decade look good, budget-wise. But it raises an obvious question: Will future presidents and Congresses try to back out of these budget savings, just as President Obama and the current Congress want to back out of paying for more than $300 billion in Medicare spending for physicians?"

Do we really trust Congress to vote to increase taxes further as time reveals that this health reform costs way more than everyone originally thought?

So what is the point of this long-winded recap of the health care bill? My point is, when it comes to the November elections, remember why you want to vote out the incumbents, but more importantly, remember why you hated what they did. Do you really want to see them kicked out of office because they are Democrats, or because they voted for an unpopular piece of legislation? Or do you want to vote them out because they seemed to have little regard for the country's future by increasing the amount of money we spend and growing the government even further?

If you are like me, than you care about shrinking government and the deficit, and limiting spending until we get our house back in order. Think about the issues and which candidate represents them best. Look for the candidate who has freedom at the top of his priorities. And when you go to the polls over the next eight months for the primaries, and then for the general election in November, remember this: The Democrats voted on March 21, 2010 to increase entitlement programs and spending in our country to a level that had never been seen. But, they aren't the only ones who know how to grow government and increase spending.

No comments: