Liddick: A question for Congress: Are you kidding? (column)
March 13, 2017
A question for the right side of the miasmatic morass that calls itself Congress: Are you kidding?
From Speaker Ryan, driver of the clown car trying to pass itself off as the Republican House Majority, to Senator McConnell, leader of 52 Republican Senators, each of whom is convinced he or she's in charge, to the lowliest first-term representative from Papillion, Nebraska: Are you kidding?
Please tell us that the current formless chaos swirling around the party's "repeal and replace" plans for Obamacare is an enormous jape; a stratagem to throw Democrats off-guard; a Kabuki play. Anything but party leadership's abject failure to follow through on six straight years of solemn promises. Because that's how it looks from here.
"Give us the House," you said, "and we'll defund it." We did, but you didn't. "Give us the Senate," you said, "and we'll repeal it." We did, but you didn't. Pointing to the veto, you said, "Give us the White House." We did. Now it's your turn. And the current bucket of sludge you've brought forth doesn't make it.
Republican leadership had six years to come up with a replacement plan. Enough time to negotiate, agree on what would be acceptable and even to develop financial analyses. There's already enough evidence of what doesn't work — and more coming in every day. Six years might even have been enough time to have plans scored by the Congressional Budget Office. But instead, Republicans cast show votes: voting to repeal Obamacare time after time, secure in the knowledge that as long as Barack Obama was in the White House, such votes were meaningless. Now, however… We haven't even seen a recrudescence of last year's successful joint effort at repeal legislation. Because it would now be signed and those squealing about repeal would be responsible for replacing it. There are words to describe this sort of behavior, and none of them are complimentary.
Conflict now seems to abound about Obamacare and its replacement, which is odd considering the simplicity of the matter. Health care is a rare commodity: More want it than can be readily supplied. So like it or not, access can be regulated economically by supply, demand and cost; by regulation and mandate; or though some amalgam of both. There is no other solution in the real world.
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Intellectual purity is a hindrance, not an aid, here. Those who embrace tax rebates to help pay for insurance, but criticize "entitlements" should understand that, while a government payment totaling less than one's tax bill can be considered a "rebate," any greater amount is a subsidy since it is taken from another source. So facile charlatans like Senator Paul who blithely wave away the problem of non-payers with "Well, the poor get Medicaid…" should at least admit that Medicaid is a taxpayer-funded entitlement. Conversely, those calling for guaranteed issuance better be first to sign up for "death panels" when the supply of hospital beds runs out.
One shouldn't mix irreconcilable goals. No mandate to buy insurance, universal acceptance and continued insurer and provider solvency are economically incompatible. If people are allowed to buy insurance on the way to the hospital after a lifetime of having none, either rates and treatment costs will soar to the stratosphere or insurance companies and providers will go bankrupt. The effect of either will be to drastically disrupt available health care.
Nor, in a brief aside to the other side of the argument, would "single payer" solve the above problems. It would simply bankrupt the nation rather than private entities, transferring the burden of today's medical care to the taxpayers of tomorrow and the generations to come.
So to all of you on Capitol Hill who based part of your argument for being there on some iteration of replacing Obamacare, remember: You are there because voters believed you, agreed with you and supported you. Now they want results; not the petty squabbling, posturing about intellectual purity, catfighting over consultation and pouting about preferred verbiage that has been the spectacle du jour for weeks. The clock is ticking, ladies and gentlemen. Time to set aside the three-day workweek and start to labor as hard as those who put you where you are — lest voters begin to think they could do better. Because after this hurdle, there's tax reform. And immigration reform. And regulatory reform. And all the rest you promised. This time, we want to see those promises kept.
No more pathetic excuses. Get to it.
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.