Thursday, March 18, 2010

Why are the Democrats having such difficulties passing their bill?

I still think that, in the end, the Democrats will get their bill through. They have the majorities and the will to do whatever they can to push it in. However, it is still somewhat puzzling as to why this has become so difficult that they have had to resort to all sorts of formerly maneuvers to pass it and have had to arrange unsightly payoffs to recalcitrant Democrats to get them on board. Thus we have the stories of three states - Florida, Nevada, and New York, exempted from the cuts in Medicare Advantage simply because their senators inserted those exemptions into the final bill. Why, if what the Democrats were planning was so necessary and so good for people do they have to resort to this last-minute ugly deal-making? Why are the polls showing that the public just doesn't like their plan and wishes they'd start over? Why do they have to rush this through this week rather than let their members go home for Easter and perhaps, gasp, hear from their constituents? Is it just because that is the way politics is always done and we're just seeing behind the veil this time? Or is there something more to it?

I think that the real problem is that Obama, Pelosi, Reid et al are trying to move the country beyond where it is naturally.
IBD is exactly right when they point out
that this entire debate over health care is also a proxy debate over our concept of the role of government. Since the majority of the American populace is skeptical of Washington's role in the economy, that is why we keep getting poll results showing a desire to scrap the plan for ObamaCare and start over with a plan that doesn't put government at the center of everything.

The large majorities that the Democrats have in Congress led them to choose to design their ideal plan themselves and forgo Republican input. That pulled them further to the left in their vision. And they decided that they felt so deeply about abortion that they needed to bypass the understanding that this nation has had since the 1970s that taxpayers should not have to fund abortions. If the Democrats would simply adopt the same policy that we've always had, she wouldn't be straining to find those last few votes since she would have the Stupak Democrats on board just as they were on the original House votes.

And Michael Gerson points to a final revealing aspect of their approach which reveals that they prefer to begin an entirely new entitlement than to reform our existing entitlement crisis.
Third, we have learned that the president and congressional leaders are not serious about entitlement reform. The problem here is not only accounting tricks and the assumption of unprecedented courage on the part of future Congresses when it comes to Medicare cuts -- though these are bad enough. The main source of irresponsibility is that the revenue-gaining measures in the health bill -- particularly Medicare cuts and taxing "Cadillac" health plans -- would be used to create a new entitlement instead of repairing an existing one. The greatest cost of the current reform is its opportunity cost.

The unfunded liability of America's current entitlements is more than $100 trillion. Medicare will eventually require a massive infusion of cash under a congressional entitlement fix. Both the Congressional Budget Office and the Medicare actuary have pressed the point that Medicare savings can be used to pay future Medicare benefits or to finance new spending outside Medicare -- not both. When the entitlement crisis arrives, Obama will have already spent much of the resources required to meet it, leaving growth-killing new taxes as the main remaining option. A value-added tax, anyone?

For some elected Democrats, the prospect of expanding health coverage is a moral goal worth the compromise of any principle and the adoption of any necessary method. But they need to enter their vote with open eyes. The passage of this legislation would decisively confirm an image of the Democratic Party that many have worked to change: partial to big government, pro-abortion and fiscally reckless.
And amazingly enough, the American people, by and large, understand all this and don't want this plan. But the Democrats just don't care. They have been wanting federal control over health care for decades and they're going to ram this through like it or not. And we'll all be paying and paying for their ideological myopia.

And, as Fred Barnes points out, passing ObamaCare will be just the beginning of our battles over health care. The Democrats will want to use this as just as the beginning for a push to even more federal control. But they're going to be running into the financial realities that they're trying to obfuscate now.
If you think the fights over funding of Medicare and Medicaid in recent years have been unpleasant, wait until the funding battles over ObamaCare start. It's all but inevitable that they would occur every year given the way Mr. Obama has proposed to finance his health-care program.

ObamaCare low-balls its cost and exaggerates the means for paying for it. "Our proposal is paid for," the president insisted in a speech in Ohio on Monday. It's not. The financing includes billions that are obligated elsewhere. It claims to cut the budget deficit by $118 billion but achieves this by borrowing hundreds of billions more.

At the same time, Mr. Obama's plan offers a cornucopia of new benefits: free preventive care, coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, guaranteed issue, no lifetime or annual benefit caps, and subsidies for insuring 30 million people now uninsured. All of this would increase the use of health-care services. The tendency is to underestimate just how large this increase might be. This was true with Medicare and Medicaid, whose costs have ballooned far beyond initial projections. The annual struggles in Congress over funding for ObamaCare would be intense.
Of course, the Democrats will say that such acrimony is all the fault of the Republicans, but that will be to ignore how they made their choices at the beginning that have led us to this divisive moment.