Monday, January 11, 2010

Most Depraved U.S. Congress Ever

The Senate passage of the president's Health care reform bill is a landmark of depravity. Sure, there have been many instances of corruption before; but nothing, to my knowledge, compares to the complicity of the entire majority of the Senate in a scheme of such proportions in bribery, protection money, and dishonesty in a bill itself. Add to this the acceptance of this immorality—even a cavalier defense of it—by none other than the majority leader himself, Senator Harry Reid, with these words: “That's what legislation is all about.”[!] His added explanation, “It's the art of compromise,” seems to include moral compromises. His subsequent statement “It's no different than other pieces of legislation” is an indictment of the Senate as an institution.

The “compromise” negotiated by Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska was the most extravagant and blatant payoff for a vote. It was the final one needed for passage of the bill. He received an exemption in perpetuity—forever—for Nebraska from the future costs of Medicaid expansion, which every other state will have to pay for. He also received a $6.7 billion exemption in health insurance fees for Mutual of Omaha and other insurance companies in Nebraska.

Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, whose vote was also needed for passage but who remained uncommitted for a long time, finally agreed to vote for the bill in return for a $300 million payoff—now referred to as “the Louisiana Purchase”—for damage from Hurricane Katrina.

Senator Chris Dodd, who would surely have backed the bill without a payoff, at the last minute added a $100 million to the bill to construct a new hospital in his home state that would improve his chances of reelection in the tough race he faces.

Massachusetts and Vermont got $500 million and $600 million respectively in higher Medicaid reimbursements. Michigan and Connecticut got higher reimbursements for certain hospitals.

Florida got a clause that exempts Florida residents from losing Medicare Advantage benefits, popular with retirees. Cost: $3 to $5 billion. Arizona, which is also home to many retirees, apparently didn't qualify because its two Senators are Republicans.

Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota will receive higher Medicare payments under a “frontier” provision, where at least half of the counties have low population densities. This will benefit Democratic Senators Max Baucus, Byron Dorgan, and Kent Conrad.

Senator Tom Harkin, a democrat, said Senator Nelson's kickbacks set an example all 50 states will soon follow. Mr. Nelson admitted on the Senate floor that “Three Senators came up to me just now on the [Senate] floor and said, 'Now we understand what you did. We'll be seeking this funding too.'” Senator Reid acknowledged this policy of payoffs to the states for special interest in return for votes—and indicated it was a good thing: “I don't know if there is a Senator that doesn't have something in the bill that was important to them. And if they don't have something in it that is important to them, that doesn't speak well of them.” What a testament to Senate corruption! It doesn't “speak well” of senators if they are not inserting earmarks for special interests!

Those are the deals in the 383 pages of changes that Mr. Reid added to the $871 billion, 2,100-page, 20-pound Senate bill. But there were also hundreds of millions of dollars spent on lobby groups to strike deals for financial protection of their industries and obtain a host of concessions at taxpayer expense. According to the Washington Times, there are at least 166 former congressional officials now registered as Washington lobbyists for at least 338 health industry clients. The industry spent $635 million over the past two years getting Congress to dispense concessions to them at taxpayer expense. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the main drug maker lobbying group, alone employs at least 26 former congressional staffers and lawmakers. It successfully lobbied to protect the industry from a financial hit of larger than $80 billion over ten years from the current health care reform bill.

Now for some of the dishonesties in the health bill itself. Its estimated cost comes in under President Obama's limit of $900 billion over ten years through flagrantly phony numbers. First of all, the program won't have significant payouts until 2014, but taxes begin in 2010. Thus the cost of six years of benefits is compared to 10 years of tax revenue, hardly a fair cost/benefit comparison.

Second, the Senate bill includes a 21.5 percent reduction in doctors' fees, starting next year, with even greater cuts in the future. It is widely expected that once this bill is passed, a separate bill will be passed to redress this issue to prevent its calamitous results. But the doctors' fee cuts are kept in this bill under the pretense of holding the cost below Obama's $900 billion limit. Is that honest?

Third, the bill will divert almost $500 billion ($470 billion in the Senate bill, somewhat less in the House version) from Medicare. It is absurdly dishonest to claim that Medicare services will not be adversely affected, will not be reduced or rationed, or require additional taxes or funding—when Medicare is already going broke in seven years. Medicare's unfunded liabilities are already about 2.6 times larger than the entire U.S. economy in 2008! The claim that the bill will not adversely affect Medicare (and ultimately even reduce it's cost!) is simply another outrageous fiction that is being maintained to quell objections until the bill is passed into law. The goal is to ram the bill through while the political window is still open, and let future Congresses be the ones to raise taxes when—surprise!—the lies about future costs are exposed. And rationing and reductions in the quality of care, which are common in other government-run health systems all over the world, will also be expanded to meet the unavoidable shortcomings of the law.

President Obama and other advocates of health care “reform” continue to claim the bill will reduce health insurance costs for individuals and businesses. As the Wall Street Journal notes, “This is so utterly disingenuous that we doubt the President really believes it.

“The best and most rigorous cost analysis was released recently by the insurer WellPoint, which mined its actuarial data in various regional markets to model the Senate bill. WellPoint found that a healthy 25-year old in Milwaukee buying coverage on the individual market will see his cost rise by 178%. A small business in Richmond with eight employees will see a 23% increase. Insurance costs for a 40-year old family with two kids living in Indianapolis will pay 106% more. And on and on.”

Senator Tom Coburn, a physician and Republican senator from Oklahoma, has it in writing from his state's insurance commissioner, a Democrat, that “the result will be higher insurance rates due to a higher percentage of insured being higher risk/expense individuals.” Yet Obama and the Democratic majority in the Senate continue the lie that the legislation will reduce insurance costs.

They also deny that it will result in rationing or result in a denial of treatment based on cost. What liars! Sections 3403 and 2021 of the Senate bill explicitly empower Medicare to deny treatment based on cost. The bill creates an Independent Medical Advisory Board (of permanent, unelected—and therefore unaccountable members) that Senator Coburn says “will greatly expand the rationing practices that already occur in the program....Section 6301 of the Reid bill creates new comparative effectiveness research (CER) programs. CER panels have been used in other countries such as the U.K., where 15,000 cancer patients die prematurely every year according to the National Cancer Intelligence Network.”

If only a single Democratic senator had voted against the bill, it could not have passed. Of the sixty who voted for the bill, there was not even one with the integrity to say, even to himself: I will not be a party to this fraud. I will not endorse this packet of lies by voting for it. I will not mislead the people of my state and others with the lie that this bill will reduce costs of health insurance and not reduce the quality of health care when there is every indication it will do just the opposite. I will not vote to have the people of my state pay for the future expansion of Medicaid in Nebraska and for the political payoffs to special interests in other states. Those payoffs are blatantly unfair to the taxpayers of my state as well as immoral, and I will not be so immoral as to condone them by voting for this bill. I will not vote for a bill that robs the unborn, that “redistributes” the wealth of the next generation to us by imposing colossal debt on them. Coming generations, as well as those of us alive today, have unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those rights are supreme: “unalienable” means “not transferable or capable of being repudiated.” We shouldn't bargain them away for newly created “rights” to health insurance and health care that favor some people over others' rights. People's lives are to be lived for their own sake; that is what the right to pursuit of happiness means. That is what liberty allows them to do. I will not vote for a bill that is unconstitutional: there is nothing in the Constitution that empowers the government to force people to buy health insurance, and this bill violates the Constitution in various other respects as well.

Not a single Democratic senator—not one—could be found with the integrity to vote against the health care bill for any of the reasons just cited. The rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” do not matter. Truth doesn't matter. Morality doesn't matter. They, too, are to be sacrificed to a health care “reform” that is simply a raw exercise of political power for the single purpose of permanently expanding the American welfare state.

1 comment:

Ranman said...

Well, as Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post, but reported in the On the Left column of Investor's Business Daily (12-23-09) said, when you have the opportunity to provide health care for all, "…you take it—even if it means winning ugly." This is another example of how the morality of need triumphs over every other moral idea.