Democrats Put Party, Vanity Above Country

Wednesday, 16 Dec 2009 09:17 AM

By Ernest Istook

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Like a desperate last-minute Christmas shopper who will grab any gift at any price, Congress may rush through a hasty and ill-conceived rewrite of healthcare legislation.

President Obama’s message to senators seems focused more on party loyal and an appeal to desires for glory than on what Americans want or need.

With public support collapsing all about them — 61percent in opposition, according to CNN’s December polling — Democrats may be motivated by a feeling that they’ve gone too far to turn back now, even if it’s in the wrong direction.

They could invoke Benjamin Franklin’s aphorism: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Franklin, however, had a much nobler purpose in mind: independence from government tyranny.

What’s in the final bill may become immaterial in this Christmas rush. That’s dangerous because the ultimate language remains a mystery after earlier efforts ran afoul of multitudes of objections. The 11th-hour rewrite of the bill will be major version No. 9 since varying editions began surfacing during the summer.

With or without a so-called “public option,” it’s certain that the bill will displace millions of Americans from their private insurance, put Washington in charge of all healthcare and insurance, and expand the number of people who depend on taxpayers to pay for their coverage.

Bureaucrats such as the new “health choices commissioner” would be granted czar-like powers to impose what would function as a federally controlled, single-payer system. That power would extend over everyone, even those who think they still have private insurance.

“It’s now or never” sums up the White House message as President Obama asks his fellow Democrats to disregard the public opposition and pass Obamacare anyway. White House operatives told Politico this is the “last chance” and “last train leaving the station” as time runs out for the Senate to act before Christmas.

Previewing the message, Vice President Joe Biden said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe": "If healthcare does not pass in this Congress . . . it's going to be kicked back for a generation."

The appeal to unity and glory is an echo of the argument Obama used to rally final votes for the House version of the legislation. As ABC News said about that House meeting, Obama used an argument based on political calculation: "At the end of his speech, Obama got a rousing ovation for saying, "I am absolutely confident that, when I sign this bill in the Rose Garden, each and every one of you will be able to look back and say, 'This was my finest moment in politics.'"

This appeal to political vanity is very different from the claims the president makes about his proposals in public meetings. So it’s no wonder that Obama has abandoned his campaign pledge to conduct healthcare negotiations publicly and on C-SPAN.

As he said in 2008, "I'm going to have all the negotiations around a big table. We'll have doctors and nurses and hospital administrators. Insurance companies, drug companies — they'll get a seat at the table, they just won't be able to buy every chair. But what we will do is, we'll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN."

As Byron York writes, the fact that they’ve already overreached is “why Democrats continue to push healthcare, even if it kills them.”

Those who want to commit political suicide will suffer the consequences at the hands of the voters. The problem is that damage won’t end there. Dramatic new costs will be imposed on 160 million Americans who already have health insurance. Unfair adverse consequences will abound, such as a $3,000 penalty on businesses that hire low-income workers. It will be costlier than ever to create new jobs or to buy insurance (except for those who are granted new government subsidies at the expense of taxpayers).

Rather than appealing to party loyalty and political vanity, President Obama and others need to slow down and consider the best interests of the country. But they show no signs of doing that.

Ernest Istook, who was a congressman from Oklahoma for 14 years, now is a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

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