Monday, March 22, 2010

On the morning after Obamacare passed the House

The Channel 9 news at 9:00 cut to the C-Span feed at the end of the newscast last night to show the first of the votes on Obamacare. But the station couldn't stay with the count; there was a Sunday sports show to air.

I flipped over to C-Span to keep watching.

I watched to vote carry -- with a couple of votes to spare -- then I watched the Republicans try to resurrect the anti-abortion Stupak amendment -- then I watched Rep. Hoyer rise in opposition to the motion and cede time to Rep. Stupak, who argued against the amendment that had once been his (winning great applause from fellow Democrats) because President Obama has promised to issue an Executive Order that will preserve the status quo established by the Hyde Amendment some years ago. All this happened fairly quickly and without identifying captions on the speakers but this is what I perceived and I think I perceived accurately. It was hard to follow, because the actors in this drama were following a script written in procedural gibberish. Youngest Son, who was watching also, kept asking for "English, please," but I could not translate and follow the proceedings at the same time. I do know that one of President Obama's first acts as president was to repeal an Executive Order entered by George Bush -- that revived an order first implemented by Ronald Reagan, then reversed by Bill Clinton -- the so-called "Mexico City Policy" which prohibited American funding of family planning services to groups that "offered abortion-related services overseas, even if funding for those activities came from non-government sources. It essentially barred recipients of U.S. foreign aid from promoting abortion as a method of family planning."

Given President Obama's documented opposition to pro-life causes, it is hardly surprising that some were skeptical that his promise for a pro-life Executive Order implementing Obamacare would be redeemed. But it is significant that Rep. Stupak believed: The small number of Democrats who would have supported his amendment switched sides -- and these were the margin of the Democrats' victory last night. There is reason to believe that the Republicans who raised the banner that Stupak laid down were doing so not from pro-life convictions, but to try and bury the overall bill.

The whole thing was a disgusting spectacle and I could only bear to watch for a little while. The last straw, for me, was when C-Span began taking calls from viewers, all of whom had strong opinions, pro and con, about the legislation, with no clue about what the bills actually provide.

This morning, the markets will react to the inevitability of Obamacare. Pharmaceutical and health care stocks will go up or down based on the wild speculations of committed proponents and opponents of the legislation alike. But the speculators will, for the most part, not have read, and certainly not have understood, the bill.

Neither have I. Neither have you. I would bet that most of the congressmen who voted for and against the bills last night have not read the bill either. I wonder if most even have someone on their staffs who claims to have read it all.

Part of the blame for this must rest with the administration and congressional leadership: The negotiations of the final bill were secret -- and the final provisions were not made public until the middle of last week -- and, by "public" I mean public only in the loosest sense because in the muddle of the Internet I am unable to locate what I can authoritatively link to as the exact text of the bill passed last night. It was at least claimed that the final bill was released in the middle of last week. I can find a million news stories telling me what others think is in it, good and bad, but not the bill itself. I can't even tell you how long the bill is -- I've heard 3,000 pages, but that may be an exaggeration.

It is certainly more than 1,000 pages. Various versions clocked in at more than 2,000. So, whatever the actual number, hundreds and perhaps thousands of pages of legislative sludge will be inserted into the statute books, probably this week, allegedly affecting one-sixth of the American economy. The Congressional Budget Office, which has studied the actual bill, believes it will reduce deficits even as nearly a trillion new government dollars are poured into health care.

There's only one way that can happen: The bill must raise taxes.

The Republicans who oppose the bill have done a poor job of pointing this out. The Democrats who supported the bill may not even know that they have supported a massive tax increase.

Court challenges will follow as details of the final plan emerge. Some 38 states are considering -- and one has passed -- laws refusing to participate in Obamacare. There will be challenges to these as well, perhaps even a constitutional crisis as the national government asserts new powers in areas formerly governed by state law only.

If courts strike down all or some of the Obamacare provisions as unconstitutional, will respect for our courts be increased or diminished further? (I'd make book upon the latter, assuming the Obamacrats remain in office when the court challenges are finally resolved.)

The administration and the Congressional Democrats were bound and determined to get health care "reform" at any price. A bill -- any bill -- had to be passed. The Republicans were equally insistent that the bill -- any bill -- must be defeated. In both camps, truth was the first casualty of the ideological war. But, eventually, the details of the price we will all pay will emerge as people begin to obtain and read through and study the actual new law.

Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have performed admirably in these events. Each blames the other, but both are to blame. And we the people will reap the consequences.


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

i understand idaho and virginia have said they won't participate. sarge says it's a states rights issue. i agree. the whole thing makes me feel sick. i have tried to ignore it as the only thing i know that i can do is vote them out with my one vote, and i will, but still...

smiles, bee

The Curmudgeon said...

Well, the whole concept of "state's rights" took on a bad odor because of the South's many, many invocations of the principle to prevent enactment of even the most basic civil rights legislation (even anti-lynching legislation!) following the end of Reconstruction right on up through the 1960's.

But, yes, there is a valid question of whether this remains a federal republic, with a national government of limited, enumerated powers or whether we have, by some unknown metamorphosis, become like France, with our states and counties and municipalities merely becoming administrative units for the expression of the will of the national government.

Shelby said...

Yes. This is maddening.. on all fronts really.