The Healthcare Debacle Comes Home for Christmas

We can expect that today, along strict party lines (with Lieberman and Sanders voting as they caucus) the Democratic Party will pass a pretty shameful health bill. It’s shameful for a number of reasons, but here are a few. They’re more or less in their order of importance:

  • First, it pays for abortions. Turns out that Ben Nelson played the pro-life card, not out of principle, but to get more pork for his state. We’ll see if Stupak and his gang in the House have any more of a spine.
  • Second, it’s unconstitutional, now that they bought Sen. Nelson’s vote for forty pieces of silver a special exemption for Nebraska. It doesn’t take a Constitutional law professor (as the president who brokered this deal once was) to know that you can’t tax the states separately, with explicit provisions for specially-favored states.
  • Third, it’s an enormous amount of spending during one of the worst economic crises in US history, and the benefits of the bill won’t go into effect for some while: it’s the equivalent of putting a down payment on a house after finding out you’ve lost your job.
  • Fourth, it’s being hurried through for two reasons, neither of them good. One is so the Dems won’t have to pay for this during the midterms, which suggests that they’re aware that barely a third of Americans support this plan (it’s 36% for, 53% against), particularly its abortion coverage. A mere 23% of Americans support this part of the bill, with a whopping 72% opposed. So the Dems think that Americans aren’t smart enough to know what’s best for their own health, and that they’re not smart enough to remember a year from now who charged them a boatload of money for something they didn’t want. The other was to avoid CBO numbers. They’re starting to come out now, and they’re showing that Obama (amongst others) has been playing fast and loose with the numbers, lying about the impact on Medicare, etc. The Dems hope to ramrod this through today so that most people won’t have read the thing (including the Senators voting on it – it’s going on three thousand pages now), the hard numbers won’t be out (just both sides’ claims, and who’s going to trust those?), and the American people will be so tired of hearing about healthcare by the next election that they’ll be fixated on something else instead.
  • Fifth, it’s blatantly political. I just mentioned that the timing (which couldn’t be much worse, from an economic standpoint) is tuned to the political cycle, not the economic cycle or, say, any pressing healthcare need. But it’s more than that. The Democrats know that the likely outcome of this bill will be that they lose out short-term (people are mad about this, and rightfully so), but that it’ll be immensely helpful long-term. Think about it. If $1 billion of taxpayer money gets dumped into this, who’s going to want to nix it? We’ll want to see something for our money, and switching from government-run care back to a free market model will cost a lot at first. Once in place, no matter how terrible the Dem’s plan is, it’ll be so expensive that any fiscal conservative saying “let’s ax the billion we’ve spent on government care to do private care” will be as successful as someone who campaigns at a senior center to eliminate Medicare. To the extent that the Bush Administration hasn’t already murdered fiscal conservatism at a federal level, this may well be the finishing touch.

The fact that this bill eviscerates the Hyde Amendment is depressing, and it’s all the worse that it comes on Christmas Eve. In a way, though, the timing is incredibly apt. The Dems are trying to paint this as a Christmas gift to the American people (paid for with their own money), but I’m reminded of nothing so much as the Massacre of the Innocents:

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet: “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.” (Matthew 2:16-18, quoting Jeremiah 31:15)

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