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Now we know the enemy in the health-care debate, the really, truly despicable people, the worms who ought to be stuffed back in the dirt they crawled out of. It’s ordinary citizens who have had the temerity to show up at meetings of their representatives in Congress, asking in so many words — "What in the name of heaven are you planning to do with our lives?"
Happy enough to be cheerleaders when Cindy Sheehan and her ragtag followers were out and about calling George W. Bush a mass murderer, Democrats, the left generally, some pretend journalists and a number of big-name commentators are aghast at a lack of respect for the Washington malefactors, fearful that someone will think everyday Americans actually know what they’re talking about and worried about how hard it will be to set the record straight if their critiques are widely circulated.
Nancy Pelosi goes further. She asserts swastikas had been spotted at these protests, as if that is comment enough. Listen, speaker of the House: There are kooks out there. No matter what the event, kooks show up. I have no idea whether someone with a swastika actually was at some health-care protest or two or three, but that would hardly mean what Pelosi implied, that what we have here is just a bunch of neo-Nazis. What we have are people who have been following developments and very well may grasp what is at stake in the rush-job "reform" proposals better than poor Pelosi ever could or even more than some gullible, non-sequitur-plagued, exaggerating writers in big-time media.
Here’s the deal. The Democrats contend health care is a "right," which is to say they think health insurance should be an entitlement provided free if necessary to every single American resident, including people who simply don’t want it and illegal aliens who are likely to be given plenty of opportunity to obtain government handouts without fear of detection. One device to accomplish universal insurance would be a so-called public plan, which is to say a government-run alternative that sooner or later might well be the only show in town, even though all but the very tiniest businesses would be required to either provide health insurance or pay a penalty.
According to the most trustworthy non-partisan people in D.C. — the staff of the Congressional Budget Office — the cost of current Democratic bills would be enormous, at least another trillion dollars over the next decade. This will come on top of the tens of trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities already owed to Medicare, money that will be due to beneficiaries beyond what will be available from tax revenues or any means other than higher taxes or deficit borrowing. At some point, and not all that much further down the pike, we will have annual, economy-wrecking obligations making this year’s stimulus package and bailout billions look like pipsqueak stuff, and meanwhile count on higher premiums caused by still more mandates on insurance companies.
Something will have to give, and a hint of what that will be is contained in the idea of President Obama to have a Medicare panel making sweeping decisions on fees and advisable care. Severe rationing could eventually become the way of things, no matter what dodges you are told about new efficiencies or preventive health practices doing the money-saving job. Given how much we’ve recently been hearing about how old people really don’t need as much care as they are now getting, I’d say they should keep a keen eye on the formulas Obama and friends have in mind.
The short of it is that while incremental, gradual, market-based reform is certainly needed along with a careful restructuring of Medicare, a really, really big, all-at-once, statist, semi-socialist transition will have even bigger unintended consequences, and ordinary citizens will pay dearly unless their insights can help forestall the hubris.
(Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)aol.com.)