October 23, 2009
The Congressional Scam that FailedBy Robert Knight
A funny thing happened on the way to one of the biggest scam attempts in history. It got ratted out. And Capitol Hill got an earful.
So the U.S. Senate failed by seven votes to invoke cloture on Wednesday and push forward a bill that even had Washington Post editorialists gagging on its duplicity. Thirteen Democrats joined all 40 Republicans to reject 47-53 a free-standing Medicare bill, S. 1776, that would have pushed up the national deficit by a quarter of a trillion dollars over the next 10 years.
The reason it's a scam is that by separating it from the proposed $856 billion Baucus health care bill, Obama could claim that he was keeping his promise not to sign any health care reform that "adds one dime to the federal deficit." Sure, just carve it out, pretend it has nothing to do with health care, and dump it on the taxpayers. That's what passes for "transparency." It's right up there with voting on a bill that hasn't even been written yet, which is what two Senate committees have already done.
To facilitate the latest fraud, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) introduced the "Medicare Physician Fairness Act of 2009." Each year, federal budgeters make a "doc fix," in which they restore scheduled annual Medicare payment cuts to doctors if costs rise too high, which they always do. In January, the docs' Medicare reimbursements are slated to drop by 21.5 percent, and 40 percent over the next five years. Some doctors have stopped taking Medicare patients, and more would do so if no adjustment is made.
Stabenow's bill would have "fixed" the problem for the next 10 years at a cost of $247 billion. This amount, if included honestly in the Senate health bill, would have put the total cost well over a trillion dollars, ending any chance of passing it on "reconciliation" with a mere 50 votes. Over in the House, Rep. Charlie Rangel has introduced a measure to invoke the "budget cutting ‘reconciliation' process, but it would work only if the Senate took out the quarter billion dollar budget buster. So Rep. Rangel may have to go back to the drawing board while fending off multiple investigations of his own financial shenanigans.
At bottom, S. 1776 is a bald-faced attempt to buy off the American Medical Association, which should oppose the federal health care takeover attempt but shows signs of being co-opted despite growing opposition among doctors. The AARP also backs the bill, despite growing opposition among seniors. Both groups have a lot of explaining to do to their members.
It did not help the bill's backers that the liberal Washington Post ran an editorial entitled "2.47 trillion dimes," which said in part, "This latest maneuver only heightens the fiscal irresponsibility of what already was a fiscal sleight of hand. ...Mr. [Harry] Reid proposes ...simply to write a $247 billion IOU." Keep in mind that the federal deficit has already tripled under Obama.
Meanwhile, over in the House, Democrats and a handful of Republicans were punishing the insurance industry for not wholeheartedly embracing "reforms" that would eventually lead to a single-payer system and their own demise. The House Judiciary Committee voted to strip federal antitrust protections from the industry, potentially opening it up to investigations. Congress had exempted the insurance industry 60 years ago to allow them to share information in order to set realistic parameters for policies. Critics say this has led to price fixing and other forms of collusion. But it's curious that some congressmen suddenly want to "fix" the insurance industry, which just released an annoying study showing that the current Democrat health care plans would cost Americans a bundle. In fact, a family of four, the Price Waterhouse Coopers study says, will have to pay $4,000 more annually by 2019. For individuals, the tab will be $1,500 more.
The Judiciary folks are perhaps inspired by the thuggery exercised in September by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Primed by complaints from Sen. Max Baucus that insurance giant Humana had sent a letter to its Medicare Advantage clients warning them of dire consequences if the health bill passes, HHS told Humana not to send any more letters or face cutoff from the program, which supplements Medicare-covered procedures. Would liberals dare use the word "censorship" here, or does that apply only to artists denied government grants to create blasphemous and obscene works?
Even with the Medicare scam going down, the Hill has been rife with talk that Pelosi has the 218 votes to push through the House a "robust public option," the scheme that most lit up the nation during August and led to the town hall rebellion. Now, safely back in the Beltway bubble, insulated legislators are assuring each other that the national outburst was just a bad dream. They are ignoring inconvenient Rasmussen polls that show the public opposing the government takeover, and instead are passing around things like a CBS/New York Times poll that claims, incredibly, that 72 percent of Americans want a government-run "public option" after all.
The ginned up stats with loaded questions in the CBS/Times survey are just what the doctor ordered to breathe life into this Frankenstein's monster. They neglect to mention that 77 percent of respondents report being satisfied with their current coverage, or that when informed of the costs involved, their support for government action drops precipitously.
The memory of those hundreds of thousands of sign-carrying folks on Sept. 12 on the mall west of the Capitol is fading fast. Now, if they could only shut off their Capitol Hill and district office phone lines, e-mails and faxes so they wouldn't be distracted by public pressure.
To show just how out of touch they are, consider this snippet from the Washington Post about the Senate's less severe version with regard to strong-arming employers:
No. We don't guess that punitive fines constitute a "mandate" in the world of Capitol Hill. They're quite used to threatening people financially while avoiding the word "tax."
The unconstitutional right-up-front "mandate" for all Americans to purchase health insurance is still intact in all versions of the bill. Baucus said that senior Democrats are considering reducing the amount of coverage that people would be forced to buy.
Of course, if you don't purchase any, and don't pay the fine, you'll still go to jail.
Perhaps the revolt on S. 1776 may be the shot heard round the world, and the beginning of the rollback so dearly needed to preserve our health care and our liberties.
Robert Knight is Senior Writer/Correspondent for Coral Ridge Ministries and a Senior Fellow for the American Civil Rights Union.