Thursday, December 24, 2009

Final Pre-Christmas DemCare Update

I had a huge stack of links to summarize and pass along to you, but by the time you read this the Senate will be in the process of passing DemCare, probably by a vote of 60-40. Here are the ones that haven't now become irrelevant:

Dems vote to continue bribing each other
Dems vote down amendment to strip state bribes from DemCare
White House attempts to bribe Stupak into caving on abortion
Senate bill will eliminate private insurance
Hopium Den: White House Declares Public So Wild for Comprehensive Piece of S*** Their Approval Will Rocket to 60%
Blue Dogs in heat
Establishment Republicans don't get it
DemCare is unconstitutional
Young, Invincible, and Now Forced to Shell-Out for Health Care
Health care and immigration
Nothing voluntary about DemCare mandate
CBO Reponds to Republican Inquiry: After Careful Research and Analysis, We Conclude There Is No Such Thing as Magic Beans
Speaking of Magic Beans and the Doc-Fix...
Palin: I told you so!
The Senate needs Martian gold, unicorns, and alien slaves to make the Healthcare Rationing bill work financially
Joker outbreak!

Now, here are a few links that still very much apply.

Ben Nelson was caught voting against the cash-for-cloture amendment before voting for it. Not surprising, unless you consider the sheer brazenness of someone trying to hide their desire to be bought.

Heritage reports on the 6 key things on which the House Dems will have to cave if they are to pass the Senate version of the bill. These are not small things, either, including the public option and Medicare expansion. It should be interesting to see how this stuff works out. If nothing else, the conflict between the Senate and the House is likely to cause some fireworks, though they're desperate enough to go to extreme measures to pass something. And, of course, the Democrats, which means they each have a price. We'll see.

It is probably at least partly for this reason that one of the top Dems in the House is saying that she'd rather see them scrap the Senate version and start over.

For a glimpse of the future under DemCare, we need to look at the tanning industry:
What did the tanning industry ever do to deserve being singled out for a new 10% surtax on all indoor tanning services in Harry Reid's Manager's Amendment?

The tanning tax was a substitute for the cosmetic surgery tax (a/k/a Botax) in the prior bill.

This may seem inconsequential, and to some extent it is. The revenues raised will be insignificant in terms of the overall cost of health care. It also is unlikely that the tanning industry will be able to defend itself. And there doesn't seem to be a pro-tanning political movement.

The purported justification is the claim that use of tanning services contributes to skin cancer, although it seems that overuse of tanning services might be the culprit. But so is over-sunning at the beach or poolside, so why not tax beach clubs and shut down public pools? The justification for a tanning tax results from the same pseudo-scientific logic being used at the state level to try to tax sodas and sugary drinks.

The random nature of this tax is what is worrisome. An out-of-favor industry, with no substantial political muscle, is singled out by an avaricious Congress at the last minute in a secret backroom deal.

The significance of the tanning tax is that the government, in its thirst for funds to fund government expansion, will attack the weakest link. Today, the tanning industry is the weakest link, tomorrow who will it be?
This is essentially the same argument I've offered before on smoking bans. It may be tanning salons today, but what happens when it's your industry tomorrow? If we're going to stand against any government takeovers of private industry, we need to stand against all government takeovers of private industry.

Bill Kristol writes that DemCare could be a Pyrrhic victory:
Wikipedia ... defines a Pyrrhic victory as "a victory with devastating cost to the victor." It also provides this quotation from Plutarch's Life of Pyrrhus, describing the aftermath of the battle of Asculum in 279 BCE:

"The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one more such victory would utterly undo him. For he had lost a great part of the forces he brought with him, and almost all his particular friends and principal commanders; there were no others there to make recruits, and he found the confederates in Italy backward. On the other hand, as from a fountain continually flowing out of the city, the Roman camp was quickly and plentifully filled up with fresh men, not at all abating in courage for the loss they sustained, but even from their very anger gaining new force and resolution to go on with the war."

So: Pyrrhus's victory became Pyrrhic because the victorious party lost many of its supporters--but also because the opposition didn't abate in courage, was able to gain new recruits, and had the force and resolution to go on.

[So] how should Republicans move forward?

1. Keep fighting on health care. Fight for the next few days in the Senate. Fight the conference report in January in the Senate and the House. Start trying to repeal the worst parts of the bill the moment it passes, if it does.

After all, never before has so unpopular a piece of major legislation been jammed through on a party-line vote. This week, Rasmussen showed 57% of voters nationwide saying that it would be better to pass no health care reform bill this year instead of passing the plan currently being considered by Congress, with only 34% favoring passing that bill. 54% of Americans now believe they will be worse off if reform passes, while just 25% believe they'll be better off. Making the 2010 elections a referendum on health care should work--if Republicans don't let up in the debate over the next year.

2. But don't fight only on health care. Republicans need to expand the battlefield. The rest of the past week's news--some Gitmo prisoners being released back to the battlefield, while others are to be brought to the U.S.; the Copenhagen farce and the EPA CO2 regulation; an Obama-appointed "safe schools czar" who's more interested in safe sex than safe schools--reminds us that there are many fronts for conservatives and Republicans to fight on, ranging from economic policy to social issues to national security.

3. And broaden the base for the fight. Many Republicans--especially Republican elected officials--fret that the Republican party remains unpopular. Don't worry about that. It will take a while longer to repair the damage that's been done in recent years. ... The good news is that, for the first time in more than two years, the Democratic party has a negative favorable/unfavorable rating, of 35 to 45 percent.

The most striking result in the NBC/Journal poll is that the Tea Party movement has a net-positive 41 percent to 23 percent score. The American public is in a populist/conservative/libertarian mood. Republicans need to adopt that mood, channel it into sound policies, and learn to trust the people, without worrying that they haven't all yet signed up to GOP orthodoxy.

So: Fight on with respect to health care. Fight on other fronts. And recruit new fighters. In a word: Fight.

Sounds like a good strategy to me. I think the base is primed and ready to fight; the question is whether or not we have enough elected leaders ready to engage with us.

So, the vote is going on now, and will almost certainly pass. What happens next? From what I've read, there are two basic methods the Dems could use to push DemCare into law. First, they could start up the conference committee where House and Senate reps haggle out a final bill which will have to be passed again by both bodies. This is treacherous because some of the key components of DemCare are polar opposites in the two versions as they are currently written. For example, the Senate version doesn't contain the public option because several Dem Senators wouldn't accept it; the House version, however, does contain the public option because a big bloc of Dem Reps said they wouldn't accept a bill without it. Obviously, there are lots of potential traps in doing this.

More likely is the continuation of what we've seen so far: back room deals done in secret. The term being thrown around is 'ping pong':

When Democrats took over Congress in 2007, they increasingly did not send bills through the regular conference process. “We have to defer to the bigger picture,” explained Rep. Henry Waxman of California. So the children’s health insurance bill passed by the House that year was largely dumped in favor of the Senate’s version. House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel and other Democrats complained the House had been “cut off at the knees” but ultimately supported the bill. Legislation on lobbying reform and the 2007 energy bill were handled the same way — without appointing an actual conference.

Rather than appoint members to a public conference committee, those measures were “ping-ponged” — i.e. changes to reconcile the two versions were transmitted by messenger between the two houses as the final product was crafted behind closed doors solely by the leadership. Many Democrats grumbled at the secrecy. “We need to get back to the point where we use conference committees . . . and have serious dialogue,” said Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama at the time.

But serious dialogue isn’t what Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid are interested in right now. Look for the traditional conference committee to be replaced by a “ping-pong” game in which health care is finalized behind closed doors with little public scrutiny before the bill is rushed to the floor of each chamber for a final vote.

The math is simple - Reid cannot afford to lose a single vote in the Senate, but Pelosi can afford to lose a bunch in the House. So, it is likely that the House will end up giving in and accepting the Senate bill over their own. After all, the Dems know they're playing for the long haul (emphasis mine):

As written, the Senate health care bill will force every American to purchase a government-approved insurance policy or pay a tax. It will expand Medicaid by 15 million people. It will create a new government-run long-term care insurance entitlement, called the Class Act, that even Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad called "a Ponzi scheme of the first order, the kind of thing that Bernie Madoff would have been proud of." And it will create new government-run insurance exchanges on which individuals would use government subsidies to buy government-designed insurance policies.

Taken together, this legislation enables to federal government to get its hands on every aspect of the health care system -- and it's only a matter of time before it tighten its grip. Just listen to what Democrats are saying now.

"What we need to do is lay a strong foundation," Sen. Ron Wyden said in an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow last week. "A foundation that we can build on in the years ahead. We are not going to get everything we want in round one, but we are going to get a foundation that we are going to build on in the years ahead."

Sen. Jay Rockefeller told the New Republic "that liberal advocates could try again another year to push for the reforms that didn't make it into the current bill." He said, "You know we're going to be back next year, and the year after that, and the year after that."

And in comments on the Senate floor on Friday, Sen. John Kerry argued that Democrats shouldn’t even wait that long. Kerry explained ... "When it comes to historic breakthroughs in America, especially in social policies, you make the best deal that you can, and immediately, you start pushing for ways to improve the deal."

And as evidence, he noted that Medicare and Medicaid have greatly expanded over time.

If this health care legislation becomes law, Democrats will attempt to use the new infrastructure they built to add stricter regulations, more subsidies, and additional mandates. They will continue to incrementally expand existing government-run programs such as Medicaid. And as health care spending spirals out of control, instead of faulting government intervention, liberals will blame the absence of a public option.

All along, opponents of the pending legislation have argued that it was just one step on the long march to a government takeover of health care. And now, with victory in sight, Democrats are proving their critics'point.

So you see, this may be a smaller step than the Left hopes, but it is nevertheless a critical one on the road to government control of health care.

Good-bye freedom, good-bye, America.

There's my two cents.

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