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Hogs At the Trough PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Thursday, 24 December 2009
AFF Sentinel Vol.6#39
And Proud of It

There are few rules at the hog trough: get there first, hold your spot by pushing and shoving and squealing and when the feed runs out in front of you, look right or left for more.

In Congress -- as confirmed by Harry Reid -- the rules apparently are little different. But Harry is much more crass about it than the leadership usually is. Part of their current exuberant, bare knuckle style power politics, apparently.

"I don't know if there is a senator that doesn't have something in this bill that was important to them," Reid said, referring to Healthenstein. "And if they don't have something in it important to them, then it doesn't speak well of them." In effect, Harry is complimenting and encouraging senators who forced him into negotiations, much as a heavyweight exhorting a lesser boxer to come after him. Reid is enamored of the process, the fight, the bargaining necessary to cram something through - when lots of Congress and the majority of the people oppose him.

What's good for the country is relegated - with hemorrhoidally serious looks, of course - to patronizing news conferences supposedly revealing deep, sensitive concern for the good of the American people. Meanwhile, the concessions and giveaways, a half billion here, a half billion there, pile up. As one senator said, if this health care bill is so great, why did it take outsize incentives to get 11 Democratic senators to vote for it? How many other smaller deals we don't know about were necessary to get the other 49? As one talk show host said, if you or I offer a grand for a senator's vote, it's called a bribe and jail time looms. But when Harry or Nancy do it - using our money - it's just part of the "game."

Now that the Senate passed its version of the bill, 60-39, without even one Republican vote, we move onto the next stage. At least Republicans, bolstered by the anger of at least a majority of voters, are showing some spine. But pollsters like Frank Luntz and Scott Rasmussen have been measuring significant voter rage at both parties for some time. We particularly noted Rasmussen's recent poll: asked if they had to vote for a candidate that day, what party's candidate would they pick? Much commented on was the "Tea Party" candidate option beating the Republican option. What was more ironic to us was that "I don't know" also beat the Republican option by a good lick. It will take the Tea Party supporters, the Republicans and a chunk of the "I don't knows" to salvage things in 2010.

We do not believe it a coincidence that the lion's share of the new tax burden, under the Senate version of the bill, doesn't kick in until after 2010. Tax increases of merely $1.9 billion combined with $400 million in Medicare cuts would be slated for 2010. Then the real thing begins phasing in. In 2011, $7.1 billion in new taxes and nearly $10 billion in Medicare cuts; 2012, $9.1 billion in new taxes and $16 billion in Medicare cuts. By 2015, each column exceeds $50 billion.

Of course, the prospect of real Medicare cuts becomes problematic and political the moment President Obama's signature dries. The Democrats will immediately begin jockeying for the senior votes they spurned and substantial Medicare cuts may never happen. More likely, add together the columns of tax increases and Medicare cuts into one gigantic tax increase. Then change the sliding scale, and bring the projected combined tax increases and Medicare cuts from 2019, over $200 billion, and move it up to 2015. While people wrangle over the "real" cost, they pretend it is not a government, bureaucratic monstrosity. The real cost will be two or three or ten times their projected numbers, judging by roughly 100 percent of past government catastrophes.

It is still not inevitable. Reid crammed this through now because he feared voter wrath over the Christmas break and psychological proximity of the vote to the elections. The two versions of this bill have seriously different components, including tax mechanisms and abortion language. Democratic members need to hear from the voters. The defection of one Democrat to the Republican party in recent days is a measure of the squirming some House members have been doing since Pelosi's odious squeaker. The more pressure applied and the longer into the year the Conference negotiations string out, the better the chance of crippling or destroying this colossal blunder before it cracks America's foundation.


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