Free Markets, Free People

Tom Harkin

Lame ducks, last hurrahs, Congress and card check

It appears that Congressional Democrats are finally at the “acceptance” stage of the grieving process over their upcoming losses in Congress.  And the reality of those losses is propelling some to look at the lame duck session of Congress as the last opportunity to pass some of their and their clientel’s most desired legislation.

For instance:

In the House, Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters last month that for bills like "card check"—the measure to curb secret-ballot union elections—"the lame duck would be the last chance, quite honestly, for the foreseeable future."

And you can count on them pulling out all the stops to do so.  The same goes for the Senate:

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, chair of the Senate committee overseeing labor issues, told the Bill Press radio show in June that "to those who think [card check] is dead, I say think again." He told Mr. Press "we’re still trying to maneuver" a way to pass some parts of the bill before the next Congress is sworn in.

Of course they are – the handwriting on the wall is in seemingly permanent marker.  What they’re doing, frankly, isn’t surprising or unusual.  But it could be very damaging.  John Fund quotes Jay Rockefeller as saying, “I’ve got lots of things I want to get done”.   The lame duck also said:

"It could be a huge deal," he told Roll Call last month. "We could get the country on a sound long-term fiscal path."

Which Fund opines, undoubtedly means new taxes in exchange for extending some (but not all) of the Bush tax cuts.

But wait there’s more.  Fund lists a few probable lame duck priorities for the Democrats:

Senate ratification of the New Start nuclear treaty, a federally mandated universal voter registration system to override state laws, and a budget resolution to lock in increased agency spending.

Then there is pork. A Senate aide told me that "some of the biggest porkers on both sides of the aisle are leaving office this year, and a lame-duck session would be their last hurrah for spending." Likely suspects include key members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Congress’s "favor factory," such as Pennsylvania Democrat Arlen Specter and Utah Republican Bob Bennett.

And finally:

President Obama failed to mention climate change legislation during his recent, Oval Office speech on the Gulf oil spill was that he wants to pass a modest energy bill this summer, then add carbon taxes or regulations in a conference committee with the House, most likely during a lame-duck session.

That’s a very ambitious and, frankly costly and destructive lame duck legislative agenda.

Whether or not they can get all those balls in the air remains to be seen. Blue Dog Democrats, who face the toughest races of all, may not be as easily gulled into supporting any of these items given the fallout from health care reform.

But that probably won’t stop Pelosi and Reid – of Obama – from pushing the agenda since they have to be aware this is likely their last chance to do so.  And they proved with health care that they’ll throw anyone under the bus to get what they want.

To include the American people.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

[tweetmeme only_single="false"]

Senate seeks to have federal government control private health care premiums

Apparently the fear of increased premiums in reaction to the new Health Care Reform law recently passed by Congress is prompting Senate Democrats to propose a bill that would
give the federal government the power to regulate health insurance premiums.

Of course, you never saw this coming, right?

It appears our overlords simply do not trust those greedy insurance companies to not raise their premiums in reaction to the new law.  Or as Sen Tom Harkin explains it:

“Rate review authority is needed to protect consumers from insurance companies’ jacking up premiums simply because they can. Protections must be in place to ensure that companies do not take advantage of current market conditions before health reform fundamentally changes the way they do business in 2014.”

You have to laugh (or throw up a little) at the economic naiveté and pure hypocrisy contained in that statement.  Naive because it totally discounts the market and opts for central (and populist) top-down control (and we know how well that works) and hypocritical because the federal government is presently raising taxes before 2014 to “pay” for the health care monstrosity they’ve foisted upon us. 

Care for a little more sanctimonious drivel intended to justify this power grab? Diane Feinstein:

“Water and power are essential for life,” Mrs. Feinstein said. “So they are heavily regulated, and rate increases must be approved. Health insurance is also vital for life. It too should be strictly regulated so that people can afford this basic need.”

Really? Is that why it has to be “strictly regulated”? Or is it because if the market actually begins to react  properly to the artificial pressure brought by the legislation Democrats passed it will be shown up for the fiscal black hole and legislative piece of garbage it is?

Sen. Lamar Alexander brings a little context to the debate:

“Health insurance companies’ profits for one year equal about two days of health care spending in the United States. So even if we were to take away all the profits of the so-called greedy insurance companies, that would still leave 363 days a year when health care costs are expanding at a rate our country cannot afford.”

Let’s also remember that the 4 major health insurance companies in Massachusetts – all non-profit organizations – requested over 200 premium increases and were denied all but a few. Was it greed that drove them to request those increases?

Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, a research center that advocates free-market health policies, said the Democrats’ proposal was unlikely to succeed in lowering insurance costs.

“Capping premiums without recognizing the forces that are driving up costs would be like tightening the lid on a pressure cooker while the heat is being turned up,” Mrs. Turner said.

Instead, it gives single-payer types (like Harkin and Feinstein) a way to hurry along the failure of the private health insurance market and eventually, by fiat, usher in government health care.

Mr. Harkin praised a bill introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, that would give the secretary of health and human services the power to review premiums and block “any rate increase found to be unreasonable.” Under the bill, the federal government could regulate rates in states where state officials did not have “sufficient authority and capability” to do so.

Arbitrary, capricious and, if passed, eventually deadly. Just hide and watch.

~McQ

[ad] Empty ad slot (#1)!

More Fairness Doctrine Talk

The rent-seekers find another ally:

BILL PRESS: …And, thanks for your leadership, thanks for your good work, it’s great to have you there Senator. And, great to have you on the show. Appreciate it.

SENATOR TOM HARKIN (D-IA): Well, anytime – just let me know Bill. I love being with you, and thanks again for all you do to get the truth and the facts out there. By the way, I read your Op-Ed in the Washington Post the other day. I ripped it out, I took it into my office and said ‘there you go, we gotta get the Fairness Doctrine back in law again.’

BILL PRESS:  Alright, well good for you. You know, we gotta work on that, because they are just shutting down progressive talk from one city after another. All we want is, you know, some balance on the airwaves, that’s all. You know, we’re not going to take any of the conservative voices off the airwaves, but just make sure that there are a few progressives and liberals out there, right?

SENATOR TOM HARKIN (D-IA): Exactly, and that’s why we need the fair—that’s why we need the Fairness Doctrine back.

BILL PRESS: We’ll work on that together. Hey, thanks, Senator! Always good to talk to you.

SENATOR TOM HARKIN (D-IA): Thanks Bill, see you, bye.

BILL PRESS: There it is – you heard it here on the Bill Press Show. Senator Tom Harkin: bring back the Fairness Doctrine!

If you can’t make it on your own merit, get the government to step in and grant you what you haven’t earned.

Good work there, Billy.

~McQ