Slick Barry Sells (Snake-Oil) Health Care

Human Eventsby Jed Babbin


And you thought Bill Clinton was the slipperiest guy ever to sit in the Oval. Compared to Barack Obama, Clinton is Dan Quayle.

It would have been better if he’d offered us the UAW health care plan. Last night President Obama demanded action on his “new” health care legislation, which sounded just like the plans that have moved through three House committees.

This was Obama’s finest hour. Well, about fifty minutes of his best rhetoric that promised Americans everything at no cost and at no risk to their Medicare, private insurance or health care choices. Everything you want, and it’s all coming from your beneficent government.

But it’s not free, and it has a lot of risks. The president insists on an individual mandate: if your employer doesn’t provide insurance, if you’re just out of college and don’t need a lot of insurance, you’re still going to have to buy it or pay a penalty. In the Senate bill, for a family of four making about $60,000 a year, that penalty would be about $3800.

By magic, the president lowered the number of uninsured Americans from 47 million -- the number he and the Democrats have used throughout the debate -- to 30 million. Perhaps the other 17 million have decided to live abroad. Maybe in Canada, which has the single-payer government health care system the president is driving everyone toward.

The president also insisted on an employer mandate, as sure-fire a job killer as the “cap and trade” global warming tax.

Obama promised that although his plan would cost $900 billion over ten years, it would not raise the federal deficit. Adamant as the guardian of the federal treasury, Obama -- over his $1 trillion “stimulus” bill, his $3.6 trillion federal budget for this year and the rest of his spending spree -- promised that he’d not sign a bill that increased the deficit.

Does that mean he wouldn’t sign any of the three House bills, which the Congressional Budget Office said would add about another $1 trillion to the deficit?

No, because the president slipped around it. He said that if the savings he promised didn’t come to pass, the bill would require that future spending would be cut to make up the difference. Right.

It was only a few months ago that the president called together health care providers, insurers and pharmaceutical companies and announced that they had agreed on hundreds of billions in cost reductions over the next decade.

Before the television crews had cleared their equipment from the scene, the groups that made the promises were backing away from them.

Obama insisted on the “public option” as a means to create competition, promising insurance “exchanges” in which insurance companies would compete with the government insurance. He argued that public universities compete fairly with private colleges. But public universities are heavily subsidized by taxpayers.

The idea that a government-run insurance plan would compete fairly because it would be funded entirely by the insurance premiums it collects is a fantasy. The interest costs government pays, its ability to borrow capital from the federal treasury and such are so different for private companies and the government that the idea of fair competition between government and industry is an economic oxymoron.

When Obama talked about the public option and how he’s accepting Republican ideas, several of the House Republicans -- apparently led by the feisty Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) -- were holding up copies of their alternative bills and amendments that were ignored by Obama and the House Democrats. It was a sharp counterpoint to the partisan Obama attacks.

Obama said he “will continue to seek common ground in the weeks ahead. If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be there to listen. My door is always open. But know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it’s better politics to kill this plan than improve it.”

But his door has been closed tightly against the many common-sense plans authored by Representatives Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Louie Gohmert, by Senators Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.). Neither Nancy Pelosi nor Harry Reid will allow those plans a full and open debate. Which is just the way Obama wants it.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. (and Doctor) Tom Price told me, “This is the plan that the American people said no to in August.” He added, “The American people are smarter than this. It was his 28th speech on health care, and you’d think he’d have made it different than the earlier 27.”

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) told me last night that, “Just because you can identify a problem doesn’t mean you need the government to solve it.” DeMint reminded me that Obama -- who demands the creation of insurance exchanges for people to shop for competing health insurance -- fought against the same idea for small business insurance exchanges.

DeMint remembered Obama’s other promises, such as no earmarks in the “stimulus” bill and that the bill would keep unemployment to 8%. It’s now at almost 10% and still climbing. To say the least, DeMint is highly skeptical of these promises. As we all should be.

DeMint also pointed out that the one thing that will bring health care costs down -- tort reform to prevent predatory lawsuits -- was going to be an experiment and not in the legislation. If there were any chance that the legislation would bring costs down, tort reform would be in it, clearly and without question.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky). said last night, “The President spent a lot of time tonight talking about what will happen if Congress does nothing about health care even though there’s already a strong bipartisan agreement on the need for reform. The false choice between a massive government takeover, or no reform at all, is one that has been soundly rejected across the country.”

Obama insisted that the opponents of his plan were telling lies, such as that federal money would be used to pay for abortion and that illegal aliens would be covered by the government-run health care plan. He said that there is nothing in the bill to allow that.

True. But as we’ve seen with every other government program if the legislation doesn’t prohibit such things -- and none of the House and Senate Democrats’ bills do -- the bureaucracy and the courts will ensure that what isn’t specifically excluded is included quickly.

Obama made it clear that he wants a bill, and won’t wait for it. His approach is to stampede whatever he can through congress and sign it into law. But will it pass?

Just yesterday the Democratic leader of the “Gang of Six” -- Montana Sen. Max Baucus -- said, “The public option cannot pass the Senate." Baucus added, "I could be wrong, but it's my belief that the public option cannot pass."

McConnell said it all: “When it comes to health care, Americans don't want the government to tear down the system we have and build an even bigger, government-run system that adds massive spending and debt. They want us to repair it. Republicans have offered many specific plans to do just that -- common sense proposals that could attract strong bipartisan support in Congress and overwhelming support from the American people. It's not too late for the White House to join us in using these ideas as the basis of reforms that Americans actually want.”

No new ideas, just hard-nosed partisan liberalism spiced with attacks on opponents. So, Blue Dogs, what are you prepared to do?

Mr. Babbin is the editor of Human Events and He served as a deputy undersecretary of defense in President George H.W. Bush's administration. He is the author of "In the Words of our Enemies"(Regnery,2007) and (with Edward Timperlake) of "Showdown: Why China Wants War with the United States" (Regnery, 2006) and "Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe are Worse than You Think" (Regnery, 2004). E-mail him at