Gambling on Amnesia
“This president is a real slow learner.” – Oscar Goodman, Mayor of Las Vegas
Speaking of gambling, President Obama has subpoenaed weary Democrats and disgusted Republicans to a Blair House summit tomorrow for a day-long policy-palooza to be broadcast on C-SPAN for Americans who didn’t get enough of the health care reform debate last year. Obama has decided to wager what little respectability he has left on the hope that the American people will be charmed by his vision of health care reform, will develop amnesia, and will forget everything they hate about the bills passed by Congress last year.
The Associated Press announces that the new proposal released by the President “is important, but not as critical as the political skill Obama can apply to an impasse that seems close to hopeless in a pivotal congressional election year.”
Hmm… Let’s tally up the campaigns Obama has fought and lost using his “political skill” over the past four months: securing the 2016 Olympics for Chicago, electing Creigh Deeds governor of Virginia, reelecting John Corzine governor of New Jersey, getting UN members to agree to a climate change accord in Copenhagen, and electing Martha Coakley Senator in Massachusetts. Oh—and of course his year-long crusade to sell Congress’s health care plan to the public, which resulted in voters increasing their opposition to the plan in direct proportion to the number of syllables Obama emitted in his attempts to explain it.
Obama views the populace as a huddled mass of slow learners to whom he must explicate Congress’s monstrous health care legislation over and over until it penetrates their thick skulls.
In fact, it is Obama who is the slow learner. Americans have learned about the bill, debated the bill, and rejected the bill; implicitly and explicitly, at townhall meetings and in polls and at the ballot box; over and over, for a year.
But Obama promises us he has a new proposal that incorporates the best of the House and Senate bills. The White House posted Obama’s proposal online Monday morning to allow the public to see what bold, fresh ideas the President has to offer.
The verdict: Obama might as well have taken the Senate version of the health care bill and stuck Groucho Marx glasses and mustache on it.
Obama has been trying to entice Republican lawmakers to attend the summit by boasting that there are “Republican elements” in his proposal—by which he means that there are Democratic elements that a few liberal Republicans have been caught on tape saying might be tolerable, if dealt with in isolation, if massively reworked from their present form, and if included only in conjunction with real free-market reforms.
Even AP admits that Obama has nothing new to offer: “Realistically, he’s just hoping to win a big enough slice to silence the talk of a failing presidency.”
Obama’s one significant innovation is increasing the federal government’s power to regulate insurance premiums: “[H]ealth insurers must submit their proposed premium increases to the State authority or Secretary for review… [I]f a rate increase is unreasonable and unjustified, health insurers must lower premiums, provide rebates, or take other actions to make premiums affordable. A new Health Insurance Rate Authority will be created to provide needed oversight at the Federal level.”
So Obama proposes to improve on a massive, bloated bill that explodes government intervention in the private sector and is hated for that very reason by… adding more government intervention. Sounds like a winner!
Even Democrats aren’t on board with the ideas in this proposal, at least to the degree that they were when the House and Senate passed their versions of the legislation last year. Congressmen up for reelection this fall received the message sent by Virginia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts loud and clear. The only federal officials who still want to ram this thing through are Obama, Senators not up for reelection, Senators up for reelection who know they’re going to be lose, and Representatives from insanely liberal districts that will boot them if they don’t vote for the bill.
And even Democrats don’t really believe anything will come of Thursday’s meeting. Every time the media asks Democratic Congressional leaders about their goals for the Blair House summit and how the meeting will help achieve these goals, they respond with the same bromides about how they believe Thursday’s meeting will help “provide affordable, accessible, quality health care to all Americans.” How, specifically, will it do that? Specifically?
If anything is to be passed, it will have to be through budget reconciliation—and many commentators say Democrats don’t even have enough votes for that anymore.
The Chicago Tribune recently called the House and Senate legislation “zombie” bills, noting that neither chamber likes the other’s version, the public hates both, and the only reason the bills are still floating around is that Congressional leaders are hinting that they will try to merge them through reconciliation. The Tribune condemns reconciliation as “convoluted. Confusing. And unnecessary. The Democrats need to reconcile themselves to what Americans are telling them about these health care bills: They’re too complicated and too expensive.”
Obama isn’t the only slow learner in Washington.