A Major Victory For The Have Nots
In the end, it was a battle of the haves against the have nots. The nots won 219-212 as if it was a high scoring basketball game that extended into 10 overtimes.
President Obama is set to sign the new health legislation bill into law within the next 24 hours. Some critical repairs to the law is now in the Senate’s court.
For 10 hours Sunday I watched C-Span coverage of the House debate. What I saw was a microcosm of America crammed into a large room where passions were on display for the world to see. It was difficult to discern whether some of these men and women were preening for the cameras or expressing core beliefs.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Republicans’ wicked witch of the West, said the legislation was historic in that health care was now “a right, not a privilege” by extending insurance coverage to an additional 32 million Americans.
In a televised statement after the votes, President Obama said the pending legislation is right and just and proves “this government — a government of the people and by the people — still works for the people.”
During the debate, I lost count how many times Republicans complained the bill was flawed and unaffordable, passing a $1 trillion annual cost onto the backs of taxpayers for generations to come. Democrats, whose backs were covered by a Congressional Budget Office report, countered the legislation would reduce health costs by a billion dollars the first 10 years and a trillion the next decade.
This is ouija board economics. It is true there will be redistribution of wealth under this legislation. But, I can’t dispel this recognition of reality expressed by the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, one of the more astute observers of the health game.
Klein argues federal subsidies for seniors on Medicare and the poor on Medicaid are well known. But the haves in this scenario fail to acknowledge the costly $250 billion subsidy in terms of tax credits for people with good jobs that offer healthcare benefits in the work place.
“When (opponents) hear stories of people left bankrupt or sick because of uninsurance, they are more likely to see a lack of personal responsibility and virtue than a lack of good fortune,” Klen writes.
That is evident in why protesters spit and hurled verbal epithets at black Congressman John Lewis on Saturday and “baby killer” from an unknown Republican at Rep. Bart Stupak last night.
The much maligned Democratic Congressman from Michigan wrangled a promised executive order from the president earlier on Sunday and switched his opposition because of abortion wording to supporting the legislation. It was a face saving decision for Stupak since most observers doubt an executive order could override existing law of the Hyde Amendment which bans federal funding for abortions.
There has been considerable hand-wringing among health reform proponents that the opposition is playing unfair for saying nasty things such as tyranny, socialism and corruption.
On Sunday, some Republicans fanned the flames by yelling support when two protesters in the gallery yelled “Kill The Bill” and were 86’d from the room. But that’s not all. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post wrote the following exploits:
Thousands of conservative “tea party” activists had massed on the south side of the Capitol, pushing to within about 50 feet of the building. Some Democrats worried aloud about the risk of violence, and police tried to keep the crowd away from the building. But rather than calm the demonstrators, Republican congressmen whipped the masses into a frenzy. There on the House balcony, the GOP lawmakers’ legislative dissent and the tea-party protest merged into one. Some lawmakers waved handwritten signs and led the crowd in chants of “Kill the bill.” A few waved the yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flag of the tea-party movement. Still others fired up the demonstrators with campaign-style signs mocking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Milbank identified the Republicans as Buck McKeon, (Palmdale, Calif.) Rob Bishop (Ogden, Utah) and Mike Turner (Dayton, Ohio) waving “Kill the Bill” placards, Mary Fallin (Oklahoma City, Okla.), Georff Davis (Fort Mitchell, Kent.) and Bill Posey (Melbourne, Fla.) waving “Don’t Tread On Me” flags and Pete Sessions (Dallas, Tex.) and Jeff Miller (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.) dangling the U.S. flag. “That’s kind of fun,” Fallin said cheerfully.
In sports jargon, the crowd went wild.
I am not going to look into the crystal ball and guess what happens next. I do know that Sunday’s vote took on added historical significance because it was the first time in U.S. history that Congress passed major legislation without a single vote from the minority party.
It is a political calculation the Republicans will sink or swim.
Here are some of the advantages gained by the have nots.
An estimated 24 million people who lack access to affordable coverage through the workplace will be eligible for tax credits to buy insurance on new state-based exchanges.
Another 16 million will become eligible for Medicaid.
Children may remain on their parents insurance policies until age 26.
Businesses with fewer than 25 employees whose wages are less than $50,000 will receive tax credits to offset the cost of buying insurance for their workers.
The so-called donut hole gap in drug coverage for seniors will be filled.
For the haves:
Mandatory insurance will be required with 10,000 additional IRS agents hired to track those who fail to comply.
Insurance carriers will be prohibited from refusing clients for preexisting conditions or dropping those who suffer catastrophic illnesses in which caps on coverage will be removed.
An excise tax in reconciliation will be attached to the highest employer-provided policies, high-income earners in Medicare and a new 3.8% Medicare tax on investment income for those higher income groups. This tax is the last to be implemented in the entire legislation scheduled for 2018.
How long the rancor will last is anyone’s guess. Minority Leader John Boehner ended his final plea before the House of Representatives by shouting “Shame on each and every one of you.”
He called the Democrats a “disgrace” to the values of the founding fathers, the constitution, the Bill of Rights and the rights of all “freedom” loving Americans.
“Hell, no, you can’t!” Boehner shouted.
Need I point out Mr. Boehner is one of the haves.
For just one day, the winners in this debate were President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, the have nots among the American people and the “quiet” ones so eloquently described by TMV deputy managing editor Dr. Clarrisa Pinkola Estes. What becomes of this legislation depends on the fickle winds within our political time capsule. The law is structured so that many features are not triggered for as long as eight years from today. Because of that, the American people will be hard pressed to distinguish its impact, not as a sudden jolt, but a work in progress. It will require patience which we don’t have and tweaking which is always unpredictable inside the halls of Congress. One thing we learn from history is that the American people love their entitlements and will fight to the death to preserve them.