Congress is getting an earful about Barack Obama’s health care “reform,” but before August is out, nobody’s ears will be big enough to hold it all. Not even the president’s.
The congressional poodles, soon to be fanning out across the country to sample down-home sentiment, will hide out as much as they can. Nobody likes to be shouted down or risk receiving his daily serving of fruit and vegetables served on the fly. Some congressmen will handpick their crowds, hiring smaller auditoriums to keep the numbers down. One Web site dedicated to defeating Obamacare warns congressional constituents to give their congressmen a taste of cold anger, but be nice, if only to avoid inviting sympathy for the undeserving.
An aide to one Democratic congressman likens his boss’ vacation to a hopeless campaign to “sell the Edsel.” The Edsel, as only old-timers recall, was a new car introduced by Ford five decades ago. The car arrived with lots of weirdly shaped sheet metal and expensive bells and whistles, only to become the enduring metaphor for humiliating failure.
The Republicans hold advantages as the monthlong congressional recess begins. The Democrats’ only pitch is that Obamacare will “save” money - nobody believes that - and provide coverage for the 47 million Americans who have no insurance, all at the expense of Americans who do. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office calculates that Obamacare would cost far more than the president and his friends say it would. President Obama’s famous promise to the middle class that “you will not see any of your taxes increase one single dime” will soon be gone with the wind. That was the word Monday from the Treasury secretary.
The president’s scheme might survive the assault of the accountants; once the argument descends from billions to trillions, we’re talking about the kind of money nobody really understands. That’s the stuff of op-ed page wonkery. But everybody understands what the dead hand of government does to the living.
“In addition to being fiscally unsustainable,” says Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, a Republican, “the health care reform plan emerging from Democrats in Congress raises disturbing questions for our nation’s seniors. One particular provision in the Democratic bill has seniors worried, and rightly so. A new Center for Health Outcomes and Evaluation could ration access to medicines and treatments based on the government’s assessment of the value of a human life and the ‘cost-effectiveness’ of treatment.”
The bland, lifeless language of the legislation hides the eventual purpose of the authors, which is to authorize rationing of health care for the sick, the elderly and the hopelessly ill. The sponsors of the legislation insist that only paranoid geezers are dumb enough to believe stuff like this, but when Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, a Republican, introduced an amendment specifically insuring that the Center for Health Outcomes and Evaluation (obviously named by the ghost of Orwell) could never put a value on a life by measuring it against bureaucratic “quality of life” and “cost-effectiveness” standards, it was rejected by a party-line vote. Such end-of-life measurements are routinely employed in European countries with socialized medicine, observes Sen. Brownback, where “elderly, disabled and medically dependent patients would be at greatest risk of being denied necessary care.”
The prospect of defending provisions like this, which betray the true nature of the “reform,” terrify Democrats and even melt the practiced cool of Barack Obama. The whole campaign to “reform” health care is built on lies, evasions and not-so-clever misrepresentations. Videos now circulating on the Internet betray in plain language the president’s ultimate game. “I don’t think we can eliminate employer coverage immediately,” Mr. Obama tells a campaign audience. “[There will be] some transition process.” In another video, Rep. Barney Frank is out of the closet and up on the rooftop: “I think if we can get a good public option,” he says, “it would lead to single-payer - that’s the way to get single payer.”
So far, the campaign against health care “reform” is an unorganized movement from the grass roots, fueled by common sense. The insurance companies are playing “the inside game,” spending a million dollars a day on lobbying and spreading money around. That’s the kind of argument Congress finds persuasive, but more powerful stuff is on the way. Fear of the angry voter is the ultimate argument clincher on Capitol Hill.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.