What happened to Obamacare? Rhetoric met reality. As both candidate and president, the master rhetorician could conjure a world in which he bestows upon you health-care nirvana: more coverage, less cost.As Krauthammer goes on to discuss, one cost-saving device that the Democrats refuse to consider would be tort reform so that doctors wouldn't feel so constrained to practice defensive medicine in order to forestall malpractice suits. But of course, the lawyers, like unions, have purchased their own insurance through their campaign contributions to Democrats.
But you can't fake it in legislation. Once you commit your fantasies to words and numbers, the Congressional Budget Office comes along and declares that the emperor has no clothes.
President Obama premised the need for reform on the claim that medical costs are destroying the economy. True. But now we learn -- surprise! -- that universal coverage increases costs. The congressional Democrats' health-care plans, says the CBO, increase costs on the order of $1 trillion plus.
In response, the president retreated to a demand that any bill he sign be revenue-neutral. But that's classic misdirection: If the fierce urgency of health-care reform is to radically reduce costs that are producing budget-destroying deficits, revenue neutrality (by definition) leaves us on precisely the same path to insolvency that Obama himself declares unsustainable.
The Democratic proposals are worse still. Because they do increase costs, revenue neutrality means countervailing tax increases. It's not just that it is crazily anti-stimulatory to saddle a deeply depressed economy with an income tax surcharge that falls squarely on small business and the investor class. It's that health-care reform ends up diverting for its own purposes a source of revenue that might otherwise be used to close the yawning structural budget deficit that is such a threat to the economy and to the dollar.
Since the Democrats totally control Congress and could pass a bill without any Republican votes at all, there had to be some serious political mismanagement to mess up the President's top priority. As Kimberly Strassel points out, the first mistake was to pass a pork-laden stimulus bill that added to the deficit but did nothing to stimulate the economy. Also, Obama embraced presidential passivity by yielding to Democratic congressional leaders in crafting the stimulus, cap and trade, and health care. That made him hostage to the most liberal elements of each bill and ensured that the more moderate members would be hearing from angry constituents.
Not wanting to repeat Hillary Clinton’s mistaken attempt to micromanage Congress, the administration took the equally dangerous path of no management at all. Left to wild impulses, Nancy Pelosi, Henry Waxman and Ted Kennedy took the most radical of Mr. Obama’s proposals (a public option entitlement) as a starting point, and ran left with new mandates, income tax surcharges, and business penalties. The House bill stirred a Blue Dog rebellion and mired the bill in committee. Mrs. Pelosi failed to include enticements for susceptible Republicans, leaving her hard-pressed to poach GOP votes.The stimulus bill that the Democrats merrily crafted and loaded up with all their favorite proposals and then stuffed through Congress without much debate or study has turned out to be a ticking bomb destroying public confidence that the Democrats have gone beyond politics as usual. Byron York describes how the Democrats and Obama are reaping what they sowed when they passed that awful stimulus bill.
The White House’s decision to let Mrs. Pelosi charge ahead with her climate bill has also been a disaster. To get that unpopular energy tax through, Mrs. Pelosi had to strip conservative Democrats of their committee rights and then arm-twist them into votes. Their egos and poll ratings bruised, this crew is balking at taking a second one for the team. “If you’re a member who voted for cap and trade and had a bad experience back home, you’re probably not looking forward to a bad vote on a health-care bill that’s not going to go anywhere in the Senate,” says Pennsylvania Blue Dog Jason Altmire.
That diminished trust can be traced directly to the stimulus. When Obama and his Democratic allies pushed it through Congress, they spoke constantly of "crisis" and warned of "catastrophe" if their bill was not passed. So the public, ready to give the new president a chance, supported him, even though the stimulus spent billions on the pet projects of Democratic lawmakers.No matter what signs we see of the economy having hit bottom, that insecurity is going to continue as long as unemployment remains so high. Everyone knows someone who has lost his or her job. Those who haven't lost a job are worried that they might. People are indeed skittish about the economy and not enthusiastic about turning over more money to the government, especially after the stimulus helped to decrease confidence in the government right at this critical moment. When the President came into office, there was a feeling of crisis that led the Democrats to tee up the stimulus bill first. And once Obama let Pelosi and her pals craft that bill, they set in motion the skeptical environment for their health care ideas.
Now, to judge by the polls, a lot of people view things differently. In the latest Gallup survey, 64 percent say the stimulus has had no effect at all on their family's financial situation. Twenty-two percent say it has made their financial situation worse. Just 14 percent say it has made their situation better. Even when asked to predict the long term, more people say the stimulus will have no effect or make the economy worse than say it will make the economy better.
The stimulus has also pushed the issue of the deficit near the top of the public's concerns at precisely the time the Congressional Budget Office has concluded that Obamacare would make the nation's rising debt worse, not better. "Our annual deficit this year [is bigger] than all of the previous five years combined," says Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. "We saw what happened when some rushed and spent a trillion dollars on an artificial deadline with the stimulus. The American people don't want the same mistake to be made again."