Obamacare Financially Unsustainable

Wednesday, 07 Apr 2010 10:36 AM

By Ernest Istook

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President Obama is blitzing the media again, saying America will grow to love his healthcare agenda. He’s banking on his charm offensive because, judging from recent polls, we don’t love that agenda at all.

His message resembles the show-stopping song belted out by Effie in “Dreamgirls.” Obama is channeling those defiant and clinging lyrics, “I’m staying and you . . . you’re gonna love me!”

The defiant approach didn’t work for Effie in the movie, but Jennifer Hudson won an Oscar for her incredible performance. Obama may likewise win awards for effort, but a great performance doesn’t fix the problems with his agenda anymore than it fixed Effie’s woes.

To millions of Americans, Obama’s message reminds them more of George Orwell’s “1984,” where everyone must love Big Brother — or else.

All through the healthcare bill’s ups and downs in Congress, reluctant Democrats were told that the unpopularity of the bill would evaporate. “History suggests that passions fade” was a theme picked up by media such as Politico.

The thesis is that other major social programs such as Medicare and Social Security, no matter how costly, become popular and impossible to repeal. But this ignores experience such as the 1989 repeal of 1988’s Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act. As The Heritage Foundation’s Ed Haislmaier wrote at the time: “To fund expanded Medicare benefits, many Americans aged 65 or older must now pay a surtax of $22.50 added to every $150 they owe in regular income taxes.

"As a result they are paying 15 percent higher income tax rates than non-elderly Americans, in addition to a $4 hike for all retirees in their monthly $27.90 Medicare premiums. Lawmakers received plenty of warning, but Congress consistently ignored critics who predicted that the new taxes would trigger a backlash among senior citizens . . . Meanwhile, the handful of congressmen who voted against the bill are winning applause.”

A long-remembered video moment from 1989 was House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski being pursued by angry senior citizens.

Then it was only seniors who faced a government mandate and extra expense. Now, all Americans face a federal dictate: Buy health insurance — or pay penalties.

Like a salesman whose clients feel cheated after their checks are cashed, Obama is trying to justify things after the fact. “Obama hits the road to sell healthcare overhaul,” headlined CNN. Visits to Iowa, Virginia, and Ohio were just for starters.

The Wall Street Journal reports, “President Barack Obama, after a year of fitfully searching for compromise, is taking a more aggressive tack with his Republican adversaries, hoping to energize Democratic voters.”

On the Iowa trip, Obama told repeal advocates to “go for it” and CNN noted, “Obama's speech is part of a White House plan to begin aggressively selling the benefits of his healthcare overhaul and give some political cover to Democratic lawmakers jittery about their political futures.”

Obama’s series of campaign-style stops seeks to convince us that he knows what’s best for us, even though most Americans disagree. As USA Today reports, “Almost two-thirds of Americans believe the new healthcare law is too expensive and gives too much authority to the government for healthcare, according to a USA Today/Gallup Poll.”

No amount of oratory and blame-shifting can repair the problems such as the immediate $14-billion charge against company profits — taking away earnings that could have been invested in new jobs. That’s only one among many side effects that The Heritage Foundation is cataloguing as they develop.

But to Obama’s left-of-center perspective, his work is mainstream. As he told NBC, "I will say any objective observer looking at this bill would say that this is a middle-of-the-road, centrist approach [that] is providing coverage to people and makes sure we are reducing costs."

So Obama turns to distortion by pretending that even conservatives support his leftist ideas.

The Heritage Foundation’s president, Dr. Edwin Feulner, rebuked Obama for claiming that one segment of the new bill tracks a Heritage proposal. Actually, the similarity stops at the label when Obama simply used the same label in his plan (“insurance exchange”) as Heritage had used for a very different approach.

As Dr. Feulner responded, “Let’s be very clear: We oppose this new law because it is a radical new intrusion into the daily lives of all Americans and a massive takeover of one-sixth of the U.S. economy.” Feulner also described Obamacare as “financially unsustainable” and announced that Heritage “will do all within its power to keep this issue alive in the public square and make the intellectual case for the repeal of this act.”

Will America learn to love what Obama and Congress enacted? Obama’s message also tracks another tune by Diana Ross and The Supremes, who sang, “I’m gonna make you love me.” But big-spending ways are no cinch to succeed. The Beatles had a much bigger hit than any of these others with a refrain that still resonates today. The title? “Can’t Buy Me Love.”


Former Congressman Ernest Istook is a Distinguished Fellow at The Heritage Foundation (www.heritage.org).

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