Renew America (Washington, D.C.), March 9, 2009
Part 2–socialized medicine: The end of America as we know it?
(See Part 1 — 2/9/09)
The just-concluded health care “summit” at the White House was so much window dressing, giving the appearance of hearing from “all sides” before Barack Obama, this nation’s most committed socialist president, gets his government-controlled health care plan enacted.
But there will be popular pushback that very well may derail this and/or other elements of this administration’s high-tax trillions-in-spending agenda, in the opinion of Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.). Fasten your seatbelts. It will be a rough ride, but in the end, we may be about to experience one of those historical rarities — Congress changing its mind on major enacted legislation.
Conventional wisdom says once you lock in socialized medicine, “that train has left the station,” never to return. It’s a done deal. That’s the way it has worked in socialist Europe. It’s permanent. So when — more likely not “if” but “when” — it’s on the books here, we’re stuck with it forever?
Or maybe not.
Americans will intervene?
Senator Inhofe has an innate faith in the basic instincts of the American people. Never underestimate their common sense. And he thinks President Obama may soon come to learn that lesson the hard way once he tries to put us on a path toward permanent nationalized health care.
The conservative Oklahoman — by the way — was returned to the Senate for another term by a thumping 18% margin on the same day Obama was getting clobbered in that Red State and was pulling through with a mere 52.7 percent of the nationwide total. Inhofe concedes that the White House steamroller is going full tilt on its socialized medicine crusade.
“They [in the administration] own everything,” the senator said in an interview with this column — citing, for example, the fact that the White House “health summit” effectively shut down Senate business in terms of floor votes.
So socialized medicine is a done deal in America? Not so fast.
Mr. Inhofe notes the Senate’s traditional role as the cooling saucer that slows down the process long enough to allow for multiple second thoughts beyond the populist heat of the moment.
A losing battle on the Senate floor? “In a way, it’s not all that bad,” the senator says while seeing the bright side. “Keep in mind, they can get something passed and we can debate it, filibuster it just like they did in 1993 with [Hillary] care. So in a way I think that’s good because that fortifies our case.”
Issues that won’t die
The Oklahoma Republican sees the debate eliciting highly relevant questions from the American people — mainly about rationing health care. Such as: Why are so many people coming down from Canada to Minnesota (most notably to the Mayo Clinic) and other northern U.S. locations because they won’t do a procedure up there that we can do down here.
True, but once it’s through Congress and signed by the president, it’s in concrete? Too late to stop it?
“I don’t think so,” opines the veteran of 22 years in Congress (first the House, then the Senate). “You see, I’ve always felt anything you do in Congress this year [even if it’s popular at a given moment], you can undo it next year….First of all, to put it into place, if you pass it today it would be two years before you’re going to get this thing working, because they’re going to get all the bureaucracy wired up, [decide] what kind of medical treatment people are going to get,” and other preparatory business.
At that point, the senator believes, many who might have backed nationalized health care in the abstract will get their backs up as they perceive the full personal impact on their own doctor/patient relationship. Just wait until it becomes clear that a government bureaucrat can threaten to fine (or perhaps imprison?) one’s doctor for not accepting inferior (but government-mandated) remedies for the patient. That is about as “up close and personal” as government interference gets. Senator Inhofe thinks that will be one of several sticking points, with or without reviving the “Harry and Louise” commercials that (thankfully) torpedoed Hillarycare.
Even if Obama/Reid/Pelosi ram their health care bill through, “The only thing in our system you can’t get undone is the judicial appointments. Once they’re in there,” it’s final, Senator Inhofe observes.
The HHS Secretary to be
As the lawmaker says, “They own everything,” which means barring some skeleton in the closet — such as the tax cheat problem that derailed former Senator Tom Daschle (the president’s first choice), there apparently is no stopping the nomination of Kansas Democrat Governor Kathleen Sebelius as Health and Human Services Secretary. It won’t matter that she is radically pro-abortion — even including the grisly partial birth kind. There are enough pro-abortion Republicans to kill any filibuster, Inhofe laments. And the two Kansas Republican senators won’t go against their home state governor. In fact, Governor Sebelius’s father-in-law was a Republican congressman from that state years ago. She has several bases covered. There will be lots of debate and protests from Inhofe and others, but in the end, she’s in.
This column, however, sees a possible weakness on her part that could help opponents of government-run health care: Governor Sebelius delivered a speech at last summer’s Democrat convention, and it fell flat. An inarticulate spokesman for the socialist cause can be a good thing for America. But, alas that did not deter Republican Kansas from electing her. Besides, Daschle is no stem-winding orator either. His forte was maneuvering behind the scenes and organizing. Obama himself — with his teleprompter — can do the PR.
The battle already ongoing
While the mother of all health-care debates is under way, the Obama/Reid/Pelosi axis has already sneaked into the “Stimulus” package a part of the socialized medicine infrastructure, and it zipped through with little or no debate.
Betsy McCaughey — whose scholarly analysis played no small part in killing Hillarycare in the last decade — points out this year’s bill creates a National Coordinator of Health Information Technology to apply the above-mentioned police powers to monitor your doctor. Big brother government will “make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost-effective.” (Translation: You’re over 65 and you’re in pain? Suffer, old woman. Or you require a new wonder drug to save your life? Die, old man.) Daschle says as much in his book — which, make no mistake, will be followed to the letter by Sebelius. The stimulus bill would apply a “cost-effectiveness standard set by the Federal Council.”
And to make sure you don’t wander off the government diktat reservation, your medical records will be tracked electronically by the government. Nothing wrong with records at your fingertips. But this Orwellian system specifies a government monitoring system that aims to keep track of you.
Daschle has written that the trick in implementing government health care is to ram it through before critics mount opposition (before we wake up). If that means attaching it to a budget bill, “so be it,” he said.
Bottom line: We don’t even have an HHS secretary in place yet, and already the steamroller is picking up speed.
Obama: Wrong again
President Obama — when picking Sebelius for the HHS job — claimed government-run health care is needed because our current system is a drag on the economy.
Wrong. Dead wrong! The current system, whatever its imperfections, is not a negative on the economy. About 13 million are gainfully employed by it (according to Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute). For the president to level this indictment of the health care industry is cynical, ignorant, or both. By demonizing the industry, maybe then the great unwashed won’t notice that the Dow — complete with millions in retirement accounts — plummets every time the president himself opens his mouth about all the taxes he’s going to raise.
Socialism good for the economy? Still wrong
And no, government command and control of health care won’t cure the economy any more than it will cure our physical ailments.
Douglas Elmendorf, director of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says employer-based health insurance — directly and indirectly — takes a bite out of employees’ pay, but usually does not take a bite out of the employer’s bottom line. Currently, one way or the other, employee pay is reduced to buy the health insurance. Higher taxes? Oh, sure, we’ve seen how that works. The employee still loses, if not in higher taxes, then in the loss of his job. So Washington-dictated health care is not a solution unless you believe government can pay for the system by tapping the assets of the tooth fairy.
A day of reckoning?
As we said at the outset, socialist health care is only one outrageous part of the Obama administration’s effort to spend our way to prosperity. (Try that at home and see what it does for your family budget.) Overall government spending will be beyond over the top.
“Five years ago, I wouldn’t have any idea that we would be talking about trillions,” Senator Inhofe told us. “It’s just huge,” he says, while acknowledging that it all started with the Bush White House’s $700 billion bailout.
Moreover, it involved “kind of a conspiracy” between then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and his (soon-to-be) successor Timothy Geitner — currently holding that post in the Obama administration. Geitner was Paulson’s “closest confidant,” Inhofe alleges. “They were partners and they were both in on this deal.”
Senator Inhofe is disappointed that even “many good conservative Republicans” voted for that initial bailout. Despite his own protestations at the time, 75 senators “somehow thought it [was] to our advantage to give an unelected bureaucrat [Paulson] accountable to nobody 700 billion dollars to do with as he wished, and he lied, as I knew he would. And he didn’t do what he said should be done. So we threw away 700 billion dollars.”
With the end of the Bush administration, the ongoing spending craze is squarely on the shoulders of President Obama, Inhofe says. That includes the stimulus bill and other schemes (including socialized medicine). “We’re talking about a deficit of possibly 2 to 3 trillion dollars in one year,” the Oklahoma senator points out.
For conservatives — the bad news: policy; the good news: political fallout
“Because they [the liberal Democrats] have everything, and because they’re extremists,” Senator Inhofe says, they are adopting the far left policy prescription that goes way beyond what millions of Americans intended when they voted for Obama in November of 2008. The result, he predicts: a conservative Congress in 2010.
Some of us would love to see that happen, but have had doubts there will be a reprise of 1994, when the Gingrich congress rode into town. Here’s where Senator Inhofe’s trust in the good judgment of the American people comes in.
“This is still America,” he says, “and you’re not going to have someone being able to lock in a majority [whose adherents] are un-American in their beliefs [and would sanction] a surrender of the free enterprise system.” That ethic, “that government can’t run our lives as well as people can,” is “what the whole [American] revolution was about.”
So Americans have to ask themselves: How are we to make certain that whatever comes out of Congress is American (given an administration that — in many respects — is clearly not American)?
That presents a problem for conservatives such as Inhofe, who says Obama is “smart,” but that his regime is beholden to expectations of the likes of Pelosi, Reid, George Soros, Moveon.org, etc. The American people will intervene, he confidently predicts.
What drives Senator Inhofe’s optimism? That leads us to a thumbnail sketch of his background. Aside from his years in Congress, it includes a stint as mayor of his hometown Tulsa, and service in the Oklahoma state House and Senate, as well as the private sector — including real estate, insurance, and aviation (he is one of Congress’s few certified commercial pilots). He served in the Army in the Fifties.
When someone with his worldview and well-rounded life experience holds out this much hope for America in one of her darkest hours, even we pessimists have to take heart.
© Wes Vernon