While I certainly don’t overestimate the intelligence of the average politician (something rather easy to do), I generally give them credit, especially at the leadership level, for being clever. And when they do something that seems nonsensical, it usually makes sense to sit back and carefully consider the real motivation, particularly in two areas: 1) Who benefits financially (looking for contributors to politicians who are likely to benefit) and 2) how the measure is likely to increase the power of its supporters.
And with such analysis, if you’re patient and open-minded, you can often find an explanation for what otherwise might seem to be a poorly-conceived bill or policy. For example, while the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill is a fiasco and unlikely to pass the Senate, there’s no doubt that the measure would immensely increase the power of government over the economy, generally something which benefits Democrats, thus explaining why it was proposed and why it passed.
But with Tuesday’s announcement by the House leadership of their 1018-page health care plan (text of bill here
), I can honestly say that Pelosi and friends have been truly stupid.
The bill has zero chance of passing the Senate but an extremely high chance of showing to the few people in America still so smitten with President Obama that they haven’t noticed what he’s doing to the country that the Democrats are dangerous socialist liars. This bill will hammer Democrats’ approval ratings more than anything since the last election and will have Democrats on their heels for months…maybe even all the way until the next election. The Democratic leadership in the Senate is probably secretly furious.
Let’s go over some of the highlights of this bill compiled from a few sources, including the AP
, the San Jose Mercury News
, and The American Spectator
• Imposes income surtaxes as follows: An additional 1% for individuals making over $280,000 or families making over $350,000. 1.5% for family incomes over $500,000 (individuals over $400,000). And an astonishing 5.4% for family incomes over $1,000,000 (individuals earning over $800,000).
• If (when) the government does not find that “Federal health reform savings” have saved at least $150 billion per year by the end of 2012, the first two surtaxes increase to 2% for families making over $350,000 and 3% for families making over $500,000.
• Creates a “tax on individuals without acceptable health care coverage” (Yes, they will decide what is “acceptable”) of 2.5% of income in excess of the filer’s exemptions (essentially $3,300 for a spouse and for each dependent).
• Penalizes employers “8 percent of the average wages paid by the employer” during the relevant time period if the employer does not offer acceptable coverage, with an exemption for companies with annual payroll under $250,000, going up by 2% increments every $50,000 of payroll to reaching 8% at $400,000.
• Subsidizes families with income up to 400% of the Federal Poverty Level, i.e. up to $88,000 of income for a family of four.
• Offers these subsidies to many or most non-citizen legal immigrants
• Create an Advisory Committee of people who have expertise in health care, whether as providers, market analysts, administrators, educators, etc., but which must include at least one representative of a union. Yes, that’s right.
• Is reported as being expected to cost $1 trillion over 10 years, but that cost substantially understates the cost of the bill because spending doesn’t ramp up until 2012. According to the CBO’s initial analysis (text here
), the cost in 2019 is expected to be over $200 billion net of penalties assessed against employers, with an average subsidy of $6,000 per subsidized enrollee. Yes, an AVERAGE $6,000 subsidy.
Nobody will be able to say with a straight face that the Democratic leadership is not socialist. And while people generally like a free lunch, this travesty of a bill is anything but tasty and anything but free. It will simply add to our nation’s impending healthcare cost bankruptcy from out-of-control Medicare. Beyond that, however, this nation is not a nation of beggar-thy-neighbor supporters or class warriors, even among Democrats (outside the Beltway, that is).
Prior to today’s news, support for this plan was polling poorly, with Rasmussen showing 49% of voters “now at least somewhat” opposed
and 46% somewhat in favor. That 3 percent difference with opposition ahead of support represents an 8 percent shift in opinion against the bill in two weeks.
And while a new USA Today/Gallup poll
shows that people still favor some
health care reform bill passing this year, "52% choose controlling costs as more important; 42% cite expanding coverage." Of course, USA Today doesn't mention that part of the poll result until the very last sentence of their article.
Don’t forget, HillaryCare polled well before the details began to become known to the public. Then it didn’t even get a vote in the Senate. That’s fairly likely to happen again. If politicians want to pass a massive tax-and-spend measure that will likely destroy our health care system, they probably need to have extremely high support for their measure at the outset because it can only decline over time.
As if the obvious parts of the bill weren’t bad enough, Philip Klein points out
that it “would add hundreds of billions of dollars of spending to state budgets” – “a bankrupting increase”, according to Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN).
When I say that the Democratic bill is stupid, I’m not implying that you can’t do the analysis as I described at the beginning of this note. Follow the money and the power. And in this case, they go to the same place: Unions.
This bill, as well as the Senate’s likely version, is even a bigger gift to unions than was the bailout of General Motors. First, if the government is involved in health care and the Democrats are running government, they will try to unionize as much of the industry as possible. They will offer benefits to union members and exclude them from costs (such as the Senate bill’s likely attempt to carve unions out of a requirement to have to pay taxes on “gold-plated” health insurance plans). You can see the beginnings in the House bill as well: In the last few pages of the bill is a measure which requires the Secretary of Labor to offer grants for providing education to nurses, but only if the entity that provides the education “is jointly administered by a health care employer and a labor union representing the employees…”
And, most importantly, consider this: The vast majority of the $20 billion going to the United Auto Workers in the GM “reorganization” (i.e. the screwing of the bondholders by Barack Obama) is needed to be spent on retiree health care costs. If socialized medicine becomes the law of the land, the UAW will suddenly have a slush fund of the better part of $20 billion. That can buy a LOT of elections – and you can rest assured that none of those purchases will be to the benefit of Republicans.