Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Obama's Return to Health Care - A Case of Chicago Arrogance?


Tomorrow Obama has scheduled a bi-partisan meeting on health care. Unfortunately, he has already taken the Senate and House Democratic bills and combined them into what he calls a template for a final bill. We are talking about over 1000 pages consolidated into a template. That is rather absurd. But giving the president the benefit of the doubt, so he has a template.

However, he has already said, before the meeting took place, that if the Republicans don't do what he wants them to do he will force his bill through Congress using a reconciliation act. Now that seems to take away any interest in bi-partisanship, any intent to negotiate, and any concern for the public will which is obvious from the elections in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts or the polls showing the vast majority of Americans do not want a wholesale overhaul of health care. The public just wants the problems fixed.

As for the reconciliation procedure to circumvent the Senate rules, it was established for the sole purpose of establishing a mechanism to deal with contentious budget issues, not general policy. To date it has only been used for budget issues. The Byrd rule within the reconciliation procedure says no bill may be considered that will increase the national debt at the end of ten years.

With all the confusion over the impact of health care reform, and the dependence on certain budget assumptions by the White House regarding unemployment and tax revenues over the next ten years, does anyone really think this White House can be wrong on every economic and budget projection to date and not be wrong on a ten year health care projection. Not to mention that the health care reform goes way beyond a budget bill and impacts on federal policy and programs in many none budgetary ways.

So, what does it all mean? First, in the interest of transparency which Obama hails as a first step toward getting this done, the President must reveal his deals with the unions contained in this bill. He must also reveal how the auto bailout has already given the unions a multi-billion dollar payoff for health benefits. Then he must reveal any secret deals made between the White House, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in particular, to protect the union benefits far exceeding normal health care benefits and pharmaceutical corporations to protect them from foreign competition. Finally, he must reveal any deal with the Trial Lawyers that might prevent tort reform from being included in the package.

One last item. Our health care system is built around a maze of stock ownership positions as most health care providers are private corporations. Also in the interest of transparency the White House should disclose those investment houses they have discussed health care reform with and what promises might have been made to the Goldman Sachs, JP Morgans and banks regarding their investment in these health care special interests. Far more than the insurance companies stand to gain big bucks from the Obama plan and the involvement of Wall Street in the White House plan must also be disclosed.

There is no way the president will allow the truth about any of those questions to come out as they would undermine any bi-partisan efforts and result in outrage by the public, Republicans and moderate Democrats. Obama as much as said it already by threatening to shove the bill down our throats with the misapplication of the reconciliation procedure.

Now if the Republicans do not press for answers on these issues they are just as delinquent as the White House. The Republicans must have an alternative to the Obama plan, and they must demand answers in the interest of transparency on these issues.

It is clear Obama's Chicago gang has no concern for the public will and events starting tomorrow will demonstrate if the Democrats and Republicans chose to ignore the public as well. If our elected officials do not listen to the mood of the public, and pay attention to all those polls they claim they do not read, then we know they are serving special interests and not the public interest.

The Administration and Congress are at a crossroads. They have to decide whether their campaign funds are more important than the public good. They need to pass a health care bill that reduces the cost and improves the service without impacting on the national debt. Will they serve the public interest or the special interests. We may soon know.


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