Is ObamaCare Inevitable?
"It ain't over till it's over," said the philosopher Yogi Berra. As every sports fan knows, momentum can change in a hurry. The opponent can make a costly mistake that opens the door, a key play can give your team the edge, or you may simply catch a lucky break that changes the course of the game.
In what has become the defining issue of the moment, President Obama and the Democrats are attempting to paint passage of ObamaCare as inevitable, and survey ratings that many Americans expect some form of ObamaCare to pass. There are many hurdles to be scaled, however, before the Democrats' health care utopia is reached.
Since the President has issued only platitudes and misstatements regarding health care reform, let us begin by defining ObamaCare as any government takeover of health care that passes Congress. The President himself may be the biggest impediment to passage of a bill. The President boxed himself into a corner by saying he wanted a bill from Congress before the August recess. He saturated the airwaves flogging health care and demonizing opposition, with the result that polls are trending down, and Obama is losing his luster.
Rahm Emanuel, in his haste not to waste a crisis, used huge portions of Obama's political capital on the stimulus bill and on the now stalled attempt at cap and trade, with many in Congress asked to make difficult votes to support those bills. Emanuel and Obama made a critical mistake by not going for the kill on health care earlier in the game. At this point Americans have seen the non-results of the stimulus bill and are questioning Obama's ability to lead on the economy.
On Afghanistan the President has dithered and stalled on his hand-picked field commander's request for more troops. The result, according to ABC News, is:
Barack Obama's ratings for handling the war in Afghanistan have dropped sharply. Forty-five percent now approve of the president's handling of the situation, down by 10 points in a month, 15 points since August and 18 points from its peak last spring. His approval rating on Afghanistan has fallen farther than on any other issue in ABC News/Washington Post polls this year.
It would appear that the President is deferring taking any action on Afghanistan for fear of roiling the Congressional waters for health care reform. And so the President continues to vote "present," as Commander-In-Chief, neglecting his constitutional duty. This lack of leadership is not lost on the American people, particularly when the lives of those defending our freedom and way of life are on the line, nor is it lost on Americans that Obama is appeasing and befriending dictators around the world who are in reality enemies of our way of life.
In the meantime, the President has been focused on a campaign to demonize Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, a campaign that Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has characterized as "street-brawling" and a "latter-day 'enemies list,' " a reference to President Nixon's enemies list. The candidate of transparency and hope has morphed into a divisive and mean-spirited figure who runs the country like a Chicago ward.
The latest Rasmussen Daily Presidential Tracking Poll shows the President with a 30% strongly approve rating and a 40% strongly disapprove rating, continuing a string of double-digit differences over the past week. With Obama's failure of leadership in war and on the economy, what are we to make of his promises to create a new world of government-run health care?
Congressional Democrats are battling among themselves over health care:
- Majority Leader Harry Reid intends to use the"nuclear option" if necessary.
- Reid supports the public option, and is working behind closed doors on a combined Senate bill
- Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) said this week he "would not support a bill that does not have a public option."
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is also strongly pushing a robust, or medicare-like, public option.
- Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) has said that the President "can't get 218 without a public option."
- The Senate Finance Committee voted against a public option.
- The House bill includes a tax on high incomes, which is opposed in the Senate.
- The Senate Finance bill includes a tax on high-end insurance plans, which is opposed by organized labor.
On the other side, all Republican Senators outside of Maine appear to oppose the public option, and among moderate Senate Democrats, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) appears to favor a state public option, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) today announced she will oppose the public option, and Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) has said she is opposed to a public option. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), a strong supporter of the public option, has said she wants to see a full CBO cost analysis before voting.
Mike Ross (D-Ark.), a leader of the House Blue Dogs, returned from getting an earful during the August recess to say that he now opposes the public option. Whether that will hold for all 52 House Blue Dogs remains to be seen. The Democrats are at odds with one another over the public option, but the fact is that the entire Democrat approach is a government takeover of the health care system.
Then there are the unintended consequences.
- The Democrats blocked amendments to prevent taxpayer-funded coverage for abortion and for illegals.
- The Catholic bishops will oppose any bill that does not preclude using taxpayer funds forabortion.
- It has been reported on CNN that illegals could be required to have insurance but not receive subsidies
- Some businesses may avoid hiring poor people altogether, to avoid having to pay for subsidized insurance.
- Colorado insurance execs" are warning that current proposals could cause a 'system collapse.' "
- An insurance company study by Price Waterhouse released last week indicates that under the Baucus bill costs will increase dramatically, with family premiums going up by $4,000 by 2019. A Baucus spokesman calls the study a "hatchet job."
- Insurance companies are now targeted by Obama, and have begun running ads against ObamaCare.
- Seniors, a major factor in mid-term elections, will bear the brunt of Medicare cost reductions.
- Johnson & Johnson executives said the tax on medical devices is "too high and could cost jobs."
Recent poll results are trending against ObamaCare. The latest Rasmussen poll finds 54% opposed to and 42% in favor of ObamaCare, with 42% strongly opposed and just 24% strongly in favor.
Polling on the public option is the one anomaly that remains: a Washington Post/ABC poll finds 57% support a "new health insurance plan," aka public option, while Rasmussen finds 2 to 1 against a public option. The difference, which has been reflected in other polls as well, appears to result from the way the question is asked, as analyzed in an American Thinker piece on Wednesday. The framing of the question as a choice and competition matter alone, without calling it a public option that would encourage employers to drop their insurance coverage is patently dishonest, as are the President's exhortations on choice and competition when his ultimate goal is a single payer program for all.
There will be immense pressures brought to bear in both the Senate and the House that will make for some very difficult choices in the Reid-Pelosi health care crucible. The Democrats have tried to paint Republican opposition as nothing more than politics, while ignoring voter opposition to another runaway Federal entitlement, higher taxes, higher premiums, and rationing and deterioration of services for the sick and the elderly, which eventually includes all of us.
Common sense solutions favored by Republicans include tort reform, allowing the 1,300 health insurance companies to compete across state lines, portability of plans, health savings accounts, and refundable tax credits. Personal responsibility, competition, and reduced malpractice costs can achieve major improvements in cost control and health care coverage, without sacrificing what works for most people.
A good health care bill would address areas of improvement in a simple manner. Anyone who has filled out the myriad forms and paperwork required to work within the current system can only look on in trepidation at 1,500 pages of a health care bill and the thousands of regulations that will be generated.
As for the voting schedule, Politico reports that Sen. Olympia Snow (R-Maine) said on Wednesday that she thinks finishing debate during November is "optimistic":
"Snowe is echoing the GOP line that Democrats are rushing reform, a charge Dems usually answer by accusing Republicans of trying to slow-walk reform to the gallows. But the criticism will likely hold more weight coming from swing-vote Snowe, who Democrats have gone out of their way to accommodate throughout the process."
Most critically for the Democrats, who view this as a once in a generation opportunity to reach their long sought ideal, the window is rapidly closing:
And on the House side, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer raised the prospect that the bill might slip past Christmas and into 2010 - which could be politically disastrous for President Barack Obama, who is trying to pass health reform this year to put some distance between the vote and the midterm elections.
The November third elections are also exerting pressure on the ObamaCare Democrats. The President has done a new ad for Creigh Deeds in the Virginia Governor's race, but at the same time, stories are running that Democrats are already making excuses for a potential big loss in that race, with the Republican up by eight points. Deeds tried to keep his distance from Obama's issues, and now the finger-pointing has begun.
Obama appeared in New Jersey this week for incumbent Governor Corzine in what remains a very close race, but there are signs there too that the polls are not good news for the Democrat. On top of that, a political ally whose organization Corzine had allegedly donated $400,000 to, was convicted on Thursday in a federal corruption trial, following an indictment brought by Corzine's Republican opponent last year. The President also campaigned this week for Democrat Bill Thompson in the New York City Mayoral race, where popular incumbent Michael Bloomberg has a sixteen point lead in the latest poll. The result there will likely not be good for Obama. Democrat defeats will put further pressure on the House Blue Dogs and other Democrats in the health care debate. In Massachusetts on Friday, he faced a partially-empty hotel ballroom at a fundraiser, and indicated uncertainty of victory.
Polls are tracking increasingly against the Democrat health care plans, and the electoral tide appears to be running against Obama. The legislative process, as the Democrats battle one another in their attempt to bring the health care Frankenstein to life, will surely be arduous and protracted, and is likely to further focus public attention on the details and the consequences.
A Friday column in The American Spectator, by Quin Hillyer, points out that the Obama administration will continue to put up distractions from the health care issue wherever possible, and that it is critical that while we fight off their attacks we also remain focused on defeating ObamaCare. To borrow the Alinsky phrase mentioned by Hillyer, the opponents of ObamaCare (the supporters of limited government, individual liberty and market-based reforms) need to "pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it" in order to expose the faults of ObamaCare and the devastating consequences it would bring to all Americans.
If Congress does pass an ObamaCare bill, it will be in spite of the will of a majority of Americans, and it is unlikely that the voters will roll over and play dead. A government takeover will only exacerbate the backlash that is building across the country, at the electoral peril of the Democrats. Obama won by attracting independents and on the strength of strong votes from the young and from black voters. With independents deserting Obama in the polls, expected lower numbers of young and black voters without Obama on the ticket, and the normally high numbers of senior voters in the mid-term elections, the Democrats are likely to feel the backlash in 2010.
Hell hath no fury like a voter scorned.