Free Markets, Free People
A few points about the status of health care reform. First, if the votes were there for passage in the House, the bill would now be law. That should tell you all you need to know about the present status of the bill. The votes aren’t there. The bottom line, however, is if the House manages to pass it, health care reform becomes law. At that point, reconciliation is moot. It will be part of the deal, but with or without reconciliation in the Senate, the bill is law.
President Obama has said he wants to sign the bill into law by March 18th – prior to his trip to Indonesia and Australia. Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer refuse to sign on to that timeline. That should give you a good indication of the level of DEMOCRAT resistance to this bill. Again, I want to make the point that there are enough Democrats in the House right now to pass this bill into law without a single solitary Republican vote (and it appears if it does pass it will be without any GOP votes – something which also scares House Democrats, especially with November looming).
Yesterday the President was reduced to begging Congressional Democrats to pass the bill. He appealed to emotion claiming the fate of 31 million uninsured was in their hands and this bill was their only chance to get insurance (it’s not). And, of course, placing the future of his presidency second, claimed that it too was in their hands.
Heh … no pressure. And it is the sort of appeal that many former “no” votes will have difficulty resisting (calling Mr. Stupak).
But here’s what you should take away from those meetings with liberal members of Congress, because it is important:
[Rep. Barbara] Lee said Obama said he still “strongly supports” a public option, but “the votes aren’t there.”
But, she said, Obama said the current healthcare legislation is a “foundation,” adding he “would work with us on the next effort.”
“I am going to keep hop[ing] for a public option,” Lee said. “And he said he’s going to work with us.”
The term “foundation” is the key. From this bill the plan is to morph it into something that more closely resembles a single-payer system – something Obama has said any number of times he supports (prior to becoming president, of course, where he now claims it’s just not possible in America). The public option is step in that direction and, as Lee is pointing out, passage of this bill allows them to build on the “foundation” at a later date with things like a public option.
One other point I want to make – the dog and pony show the President had the other day where he used doctors in white coats as props (you remember his health care summit rant about Republicans using the actual bill they were talking about as “props”?) was nothing more than propaganda. There is no “Obama bill”. His claim that all of those things that both sides agree on are in the bill is just not true. It was an attempt to claim bipartisanship and paint the GOP as unreasonable if they didn’t help pass the Senate version of the bill. There isn’t nor has there ever been any real attempt to include Republican ideas or at bipartisanship. The speech was transparent propaganda designed for a specific purpose – to justify ramming the bill through by any means necessary. It is the only thing which has been transparent in the entire process.
The next two weeks are going to be among the most interesting politically that I’ve seen in a while. The arm-twisting will be brutal and you can also expect the deals and pay-offs to be monumental (and all done with your money – in the real world we’d call them attempts to bribe a public official and jail those offering the bribe. In Congress, it’s business as usual.).
Will the administration win out in the end or will the people be properly served by the eventual defeat of the bloated, intrusive and costly monstrosity? Stay tuned.
Forget reconciliation for the moment, if the Senate version of the Health Care Reform bill doesn’t make it out of the House, reconciliation is moot. As we talked about on last night’s podcast, the action to be watched is in the House where Nancy Peolosi is trying to gather enough votes to pass the bill into law. If and when that should happen, and that is an extremely iffy prosepect at best, then reconciliation comes into play, with the Senate promising to pass “fixes” to the Senate bill/law to satisfy House Democrats.
So the effort in the House is two-fold: 1) put a legislative package together that will be passed after the Senate bill is signed into law that will satisfy wavering House Democrats and 2) then get enough votes among Democrats (remember they don’t need a single Republican vote to pass this bill in the House) to pass the Senate bill.
As of this writing, Pelosi doesn’t have enough votes to pass the bill. So, in the face of increasing public disapproval and skitish House Democrats, she’s reduced to calling on Democrats to become political kamakazis in order to pass this monstrosity of a bill into law.
“Our members, every one of them, wants health care,” Ms. Pelosi said. “They know that this will take courage. It took courage to pass Social Security. It took courage to pass Medicare. And many of the same forces that were at work decades ago are at work again against this bill.”
“But,” Ms. Pelosi continued, “the American people need it. Why are we here? We’re not here just to self-perpetuate our service in Congress. We’re here to do the job for the American people, to get them results that give them not only health security, but economic security.”
Ms. Pelosi, holding a fairly safe seat from the liberal San Francisco area, is willing to spend the careers of every Democrat in the House to get her way. The question is, are enough of the Democratic members of the House willing to go along?
My sense is the answer is no (if they were, the bill would be law right now, wouldn’t it?) and she’s going to have a very tough time selling her “package” to Democrats – especially those among a group of 40 headed by Bart Stupak who are pro-life Democrats and don’t at all like the abortion language in the Senate bill. Reconciliation can’t fix that. And even if only half the Blue-Dogs go for her package, that leaves more than enough to defeat the bill.
As every day passes and we get closer to the mid-term elections I think it becomes less and less likely that Pelosi will get the votes she needs. There are few “courageous” politicians when it comes to jeopardizing their careers. This is one time that actually works for the people’s best interests. And I’d also guess that once the members of the House understand what reconciliation can and won’t fix, the bill’s fate is sealed.
I’m saying the bill won’t pass. That’s a guess. But it is a guess as valid as any other out there since it factors in the vast differences between the two bills in the first place, the fact that reconcilation is a very poor substitute for a normal congessional markup session and the belief that human nature will win out over party kamakazi politics with the desire to retain their jobs winning out over what Nancy Pelosi wants.
How desperate is this bit of pretzel logic?
“But let me say this,” Pelosi continues, “The bill can be bipartisan, even though the votes might not be bipartisan, because they [Republicans] have made their imprint on this.”
By George, Queen Nancy will make this bill bipartisan even if she has to redefine bipartisan.
Does that now make the GOP the party of “yes” since they supposedly imprinted themselves on that “bipartisan” bill?
Talk about whatever strikes your fancy.
Some things that have caught my eye:
Is the Obama administration trying to unionize the government procurement process?
Speaking of unions, what is SEIU’s president, Andy Stern, doing on a Obama’s “deficit reduction” panel. Does that say “I’m serious about this” to you?
Anyone else see the irony in the Hillary Clinton claim that domestic political infighting is hurting America’s image abroad?
Brits aren’t buying the “January was the warmest month ever” nonsense.
Speaking of the Brits, is there a reason we won’t back their claim to the Falklands in a drilling-rights dispute?
Apparently some Dems are calling for Charles Rangel to step down from his House committee chairmanship because of ethics violations. Why isn’t Nancy “the most ethical Congress in history” Pelosi doing the same?
Paul Ryan was the rock star in the health care summit. To date no one has refuted his fiscal points.
The Obama administration has consistently talked about the Bush administration not counting the cost of war in its deficits. Well, it isn’t a war, but the Obama administration continues to nrefuse to cout the hundreds of billions going to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae – primarily because it would bump this year’s 1.4 trillion deficit by another 300 billion.
And finally there’s some relatively good news. Jeremy Lott says there have been quite a few “quiet libertarian victories” here lately.
Despite all the rumors of back-room deals already agreed upon by the Democrats the House may be short of the votes necessary to pass the Senate version of the Health Care Reform bill.
Of course the rumored plan is to have the House pass the Senate bill without change and then have the Senate amend it to the House’s liking through the reconciliation process which only requires 51 votes to pass.
Not so fast.
First the House has to pass it – and, according to at least one source, they may be as many as 100 votes short. Michael Barone explains why House Democrats may be less than enthusiastic about voting for this bill:
Why are House Democratic leaders having such trouble getting the 217 votes needed for a majority (because there are vacancies now in two Democratic-held seats)? Look at it this way. Imagine you’re a Democratic congressman from a not entirely safe district. The leadership comes to you and says, We’d like you to vote for the Senate bill. Oh, and by the way, we can’t change a word in it. You’ve got to vote for the Cornhusker Hustle and the Louisiana Purchase and all that other garbage.
But hey, the leadership guy will go on, there’s no risk, because the Senate will fix everything through the reconciliation process. You will be suspicious of this. You will note that using the reconciliation process requires favorable rulings from the Senate parliamentarian, rulings over which you have no more leverage than you have over phases of the moon. It requires 50 Democratic senators willing to go along with reconciliation, and given the poll numbers that have been coming out lately that’s not a sure thing. And it requires steady leadership from Harry Reid—who just last week, without notice to the White House, the House leadership or the senators involved, yanked a Baucus-Grassely bipartisan “jobs” bill and substituted a much smaller one of his own.
A. First you have to trust Nancy Pelosi enough to vote on it.
B. Then you have to trust Harry Reid to do what he says he’ll do – i.e. initiate the reconciliation process and address the specific points the House wants changed.
C. You have to hope there are enough Democratic Senators (not in tight races) who’ll go along with reconciliation. And finally,
D. You have to hope that the process is favorably ruled upon by the Senate parlimentarian.
If all of that doesn’t come to pass and the Senate bill passes unchanged, the Democratic member of the House has handed his political opponents in this year’s midterms some ready made ammunition. He or she will have voted for the Louisiana Purchase, Cornhusker Kickback and all manner of other other objectionable portions of the bill. Concludes Barone:
The only protection you have against this is the assurance that the Senate parliamentarian and scared incumbent senators will come through for you, and that Harry Reid will pursue a steady course.
So your response to the leadership is either, I gotta think about this, or, Hell no. The House Democratic leadership’s problem is that it cannot credibly promise that the Senate will keep its part of the bargain.
In terms of trust, my guess is Senate Democrats rank somewhere below used car salesmen and lawyers.
Nancy Pelosi, not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, explains why the 60 vote majority in the Senate is “unconstitutional”:
“A constitutional majority is 51 votes,” Pelosi said in an interview Tuesday with Roll Call. “If in fact the Republicans are going to say nothing can be done except by 60 percent, then maybe we all should be elected with 60 percent. It isn’t legitimate in terms of passing legislation.”
Conveniently missing in this romp through the illogical is the fact that a “majority” in the Senate is whatever the Senate rules say it is – and that’s a power left to them by the Constitution. In fact, to change this rule, the Senate requires 67 votes or a 2/3rds majority. I assume Ms. Pelosi would find that “unconstitutional” as well. Just another, albeit a fairly pathetic one, in an increasing number of assaults on the filibuster by Democrats who understand that they either have to actually be bi-partisan now or change the rules.
Guess which they opt for?
Isn’t also ironic when “Justice” Pelosi cites the Constitution incorrectly as a means to push a blatantly unconstitutional health care bill through?
Anyway, remember to wish long lives and good health to Barack Obama and Joe Biden. As bad as they are, Pelosi being 3 heartbeats away from the Oval Office necessitates those good wishes.
It’s over. And it has been over long enough so my gag reflex doesn’t automatically kick in when I think about it. Democrats managed a close “victory” (I don’t consider it a victory for the American people at all, thus the scare quotes) which included one misguided Republican (what a surprise).
Before I talk about it further, there’s an “Irony Alert” in full swing for the irony-impaired leftists who took great joy in touting NY-23 as a Republican civil-war and party purge. They’re are now doing the same sort of thing concerning the 39 Democrats who voted “no” on Pelosi’s monstrosity (and those that voted for the Stupak amendment).
Back to the bill: I make no bones about it – it is a bureaucratic, bank-breaking monstrosity that still will leave millions uninsured and put those who don’t want to play Pelosi’s game in jail – literally.
Additionally, it will cost much more than the Pelosi smoke-and-mirror act is claiming. Sen. Judd Gregg says it will be about 3 trillion over 10 years. I’ve seen reports from other organizations saying 2 to 2.5 trillion. Donald Marron lays out his argument with a handy dandy chart for 1.3 trillion. Once caveat to his analysis – his chart shows the “doc fix” at “$0″ dollars. That’s because they plan to pass the $250 billion dollar doctor buy off in a separate bill so it’s not included in the 894 billion faux cost they’re trying to sell. That brings his 1.3 up to 1.6 trillion. The point, of course, is no one is buying the Pelosi figure.
Bottom line – it won’t be anywhere near the supposed deficit reducing 894 billion they claim. And when the front-loaded 500 billion in new taxes begin to hit (well before the program takes effect) there’s going to be a whole lot of political hell to pay especially if it kills the recovery.
That said, the Senate still has to pass its version for this to go anywhere, and with a vote that close in the House, the preliminary betting is against passage in the Senate. And besides, Harry Reid couldn’t organize a one-man parade.
But I think Doug Mataconis, borrowing a line from Star Wars, summed up last night’s vote on the bill and then applause that followed the best – “So this is how freedom dies – to thunderous applause.”
And it has a number of Democrats more than a little nervous (including 40 Dems who’ve signed a letter stating they won’t sign on as long as the abortion provisions in the bill remain). Why are they nervous? Well, 2010 is right around the corner, Republicans has just won some key special elections and Nancy Pelosi has said she’d be ok with losing a few seats if she could get this bill passed. Here’s a summary:
For starters, the bill is a lot more expensive than advertised. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) pegs its cost at $1.055 trillion over 10 years, not the $894 billion Mrs. Pelosi claims. Politico reports that “the legislation is projected to create deficits over the second five years” by front-loading revenue and benefit cuts and back-loading costs. The real cost, according to a Republican House Budget Committee report, could be $2.4 trillion for its first decade of operation.
In its first 10 years, the bill calls for $572 billion in new taxes (including a 5.4% income surtax on anyone making more than $500,000 a year), and $426 billion in Medicare and Medicaid cuts, which will hurt seniors and the poor and could lead to rationing of care.
The Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation reported recently that the House’s legislation will whack small businesses because they would pay $153.5 billion of the surtax. Small businesses unable to provide health coverage to their workers would also pay up to 8% in new payroll taxes. This would cost them $135 billion more over the next decade, thereby diminishing their ability to create jobs.
In the House bill there is a $2 billion tax on those who already have health insurance, $20 billion in taxes on medical devices, $8 billion in taxes on anyone who buys over-the-counter drugs with money from their health-savings accounts, and $140 billion in higher taxes on drugs.
Mrs. Pelosi’s bill will drive up premiums. A family of four with an income of $78,000 would pay $13,800 for insurance a year by 2016, according to CBO. Their tab would average $11,000 without the bill.
Every American would be required to buy health insurance or be fined up to 2.5% of their income.
If they vote “yes” this albatross will be hung around the neck of every Democrat in the House – the blue dogs are particularly squeamish about it. Adding those who don’t like the abortion provision (among Democrats) and you have more than enough to defeat it. So why is Pelosi pushing it now? Like Reid, she isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to pure intelligence, but unlike Reid, she knows here domain and how to count votes.
How will she pull this off without some major changes or major concessions? I’m not sure, but right now, experts who are just as adept at counting votes as the whip say there aren’t enough to pass it. Watch and listen carefully as the week finishes with a scheduled vote on Saturday. If she figures out she doesn’t have the votes, we should see a delay. But if she thinks she has them, she’ll be pushing like hell to have the vote this weekend.
I think this is one of those “gift horses” one would really want to look in the mouth. It has a whole lot of government, but very little in the way of health care improvement. I can’t wait to see the hokey name they dream up for the bill. Whatever it is, the opposite will most likely be true. And, as noted in other posts, it will leave a significant portion of the uninsured, well, uninsured, even though that was supposely the entire reason for all of this nonsense.
The final product in the House, reflecting many of President Barack Obama’s priorities, includes new requirements for employers to offer insurance to their workers or face penalties, fines on Americans who don’t purchase coverage and subsidies to help lower-income people do so. Insurance companies would face new prohibitions against charging much more to older people or denying coverage to people with health conditions.
The price tag, topping $1 trillion over 10 years, would be paid for by taxing high-income people and cutting some $500 billion in payments to Medicare providers. The legislation would extend health coverage to around 95 percent of Americans.
What do you get for your trillion dollars? Higher debt, fines and penalties galore, cuts in Medicare, etc. etc.
Of course this is the House version, and the Senate version would include prison time for those who “choose” not to participate and a hefty tax on those “cadillac” plans which dare to offer those paying for them better benefits than average.
Both, of course, will offer a form of the “public option”, aka, government health insurance, with the House bill making it a mandatory part of the bill while the Senate version has an opt-out clause for the states (but, of course, no “opt-out” clause for the individual).
I’m sure the House vote will be very close because a number of blue-dogs are going to be seeking cover in a “no” vote. So Pelosi will be closely counting noses before a vote is taken. In the Senate, it is more problematic for the Democrats. The usually dependable Olympia Snowe (dependable for the Dems) has said she won’t vote for a bill with a public option and that has been seconded by Joe Lieberman (who, as usual, is being called everything but a child of God by the left). Mary Landreau and Ben Nelson are also not in favor of such a provision. So Reid is short of the 60 votes he needs to end debate.
That leaves the Senate with the nuclear option – reconciliation. But that too has its perils and pitfalls for them. Bottom line though is your future is being determined by a bunch of people who have no interest or desire in anything but gathering power for themselves. They’re about to vote in a costly and bureaucratic nightmare which will, by all indications, make health care worse for the vast majority of Americans.
And, unfortunately, there isn’t much that can stop them.
It is a dream all central planners have – the ability to change the laws of economics to the extent that the planner can decide on what a “fair price” might be and market dynamics will adjust themselves to the price and all will be unicorns and rainbows.
Of course we know from our experience with that application in various areas that the market doesn’t adjust to price and it is never unicorns and rainbows when price controls are applied. In fact price controls consistently spawn pretty predictable market reactions and, depending on how vast the price controls are, have the ability to bring down whole economies, or at least put them into a shambles. The latest price control paradise is Zimbabwe where a wheelbarrow full of Zimbabwean currency may be enough to buy an egg in the morning but not in the afternoon.
I bring this up because there’s a growing call for lawmakers to consider price controls for health care insurance, as demonstrated yesterday in the LA Times.
In the drive to bring health coverage to almost every American, lawmakers have largely rejected restrictions on how much insurers can charge, sparking fears that consumers will continue to face the skyrocketing premium increases of recent years.
The legislators’ reluctance to control premium costs comes despite the fact that they intend to require virtually all Americans to get health insurance, an unprecedented mandate — long sought by insurance companies — that would mark the first time the federal government has compelled consumers to buy a single industry’s product, effectively creating a captive market.
Nancy Pelosi has articulated the price control “dream” for health insurance – “a cap on what you pay and no limit on what you get back” if I recall correctly. Of course what she doesn’t say is not even Medicare does that and it has about 43 trillion in unfunded liabilities at this point. But understand that at the bottom of Pelosi’s statement is the reality of imposing price controls – you can’t have a “cap” on what you pay without them.
Thomas Sowell touches on the real intent that sort of Pelosi-talk:
Liberals especially tend to think up all sorts of good things we want — a “living wage,” “affordable housing,” “universal health care,” and an ever-expanding wish-list of things that everyone should receive as “rights” — with little or no awareness of the economic repercussions of turning that wish list into laws.
He then provides a little primer about price control:
Prices are perhaps the most misunderstood thing in economics. Whenever prices are “too high” — whether these are prices of medicines or of gasoline or all sorts of other things — many people think the answer is for the government to force those prices down.
Prices are not just arbitrary numbers plucked out of the air or numbers dependent on whether sellers are “greedy” or not. In the competition of the marketplace, prices are signals that convey underlying realities about relative scarcities and relative costs of production.
Those underlying realities are not changed in the slightest by price controls. You might as well try to deal with someone’s fever by putting the thermometer in cold water to lower the reading.
What most who believe they can thwart the laws of economics and use price controls never seem to understand is that economic law requires the price mechanism in order to properly allocate goods. Without it, some other mechanism must take its place. Those are usually found in forms of evasion. One evasion is deterioration of quality. The old saw “you get what you pay for” is never more true than under price controls. The time allocated to a doctor visit might get shorter and shorter in order for the doctor to see enough patients to meet his and his practice’s financial needs. That could also mean he can’t afford the newest equipment or diagnostic tools. Consider what price controls would mean to a pharmaceutical company and its incentive to create new and better drugs. Or a medical implements company, etc.
Another evasion may be alternate markets – you pay a physician a yearly fee and don’t use the price controlled system in place – that has already begun in anticipation of this. Doctor’s networks are springing up all over the country. Of course with a mandatory insurance requirement, you’d still have to pay into the price controlled system. But that sort of evasion takes doctors out of the price controlled market and creates another shortage with which that market has to contend.
And, of course, there’s queuing. If the price imposed is low, the tendency for those paying is to use it more frequently. There’s no penalty for doing so. That leads to a shortage (in the case of medicine, doctors still only have 24 hours in a day and can still see only a finite number of patients during that time) of available appointments and thus it extends the time before you can see a physician.
Some would call these “unintended consequences” of price controls. But they’re certainly not unknown consequences. They’re consequences on display all over the world in systems which do, in fact, impose such price controls.
Costs don’t go away because you refuse to pay them, any more than gravity goes away if you refuse to acknowledge it. You usually pay more in different ways, through taxes as well as prices, and by deterioration in quality when political processes replace economic process.
But the lure of the free lunch goes on.
With the same disastrous results it has always had. Yet our would-be central planners seem obvious to the fact. That’s one reason government debt is at the horrendous level it is today and headed for even higher levels.