Obama show doesn’t improve plan

March 5, 2010


— So the yearlong production, set to close after Massachusetts’ devastatingly negative Jan. 19 review, saw the curtain raised one last time. Obamacare lives.

After 34 speeches, three sharp electoral rebukes (Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts) and a seven-hour seminar, the president announced Wednesday his determination to make one last push to pass his health care reform.

The final act was carefully choreographed. The rollout began a week earlier with a couple of shows of bipartisanship: a Feb. 25 Blair House “summit” with Republicans, followed five days later with a few concessions tossed the Republicans’ way.

Show is the operative noun. Among the few Republican suggestions President Obama pretended to incorporate was tort reform. What did he suggest to address the plague of defensive medicine that a Massachusetts Medical Society study showed leads to about 25 percent of doctor referrals, tests and procedures being done for no medical reason? A few ridiculously insignificant demonstration projects amounting to one-half of one-hundredth of 1 percent of the cost of Obama’s health care bill.

As for the Blair House seminar, its theatrical quality was obvious even before it began. The Democrats had already decided to go for a purely partisan bill. Obama signaled precisely that intent at the end of the summit show — then dramatically spelled it out just six days later in his 35th health care speech: He is going for the party-line vote.

Unfortunately for Democrats, that seven-hour televised exercise had the unintended consequence of showing the Republicans to be not only highly informed on the subject, but also, as even Obama was forced to admit, possessed of principled objections — contradicting the ubiquitous Democratic/media meme that Republican opposition was nothing but nihilistic partisanship.

Republicans did so well, in fact, that in his summation, Obama was reduced to suggesting that his health care reform was indeed popular because when you ask people about individual items (for example, eliminating exclusions for pre-existing conditions or capping individual out-of-pocket payments) they are in favor.

Yet mystifyingly they oppose the whole package. How can that be?

Allow me to demystify. Imagine a bill granting every American a free federally delivered ice cream every Sunday morning. Provision 2: steak on Monday, also home delivered. Provision 3: A dozen red roses every Tuesday. You get the idea. Would each individual provision be popular in the polls? Of course.

However (life is a vale of howevers) suppose these provisions were bundled into a bill that also spelled out how the goodies are to be paid for and managed — say, half a trillion dollars in new taxes, half a trillion in Medicare cuts (cuts not to keep Medicare solvent but to pay for the ice cream, steak and flowers), 118 new boards and commissions to administer the bounty-giving, and government regulation dictating, for example, how your steak was to be cooked. How do you think this would poll?

Perhaps something like 3-1 against, which is what the latest CNN poll shows is the citizenry’s feeling about the current Democratic health care bills.

Late last year, Democrats were marveling at how close they were to historic health care reform, noting how much agreement had been achieved among so many factions. The only remaining detail was how to pay for it.

Well, yes. That has generally been the problem with democratic governance: cost. The disagreeable absence of a free lunch.

Which is what drove even strong Obama supporter Warren Buffett to go public with his judgment that the current Senate bill, while better than nothing, is a failure because the country desperately needs to bend the cost curve down and the bill doesn’t do it. Buffett’s advice would be to start over and get it right.

Obama has chosen differently, however. The time for debate is over, declared the nation’s seminar leader in chief. The man who vowed to undo Washington’s wicked ways has directed the Congress to ram Obamacare through, by one vote if necessary, under the parliamentary device of “budget reconciliation.” The man who ran as a post-partisan is determined to remake a sixth of the U.S. economy despite the absence of support from a single Republican in either house, the first time anything of this size and scope has been enacted by pure party-line vote.

Surprised? You can only be disillusioned if you were once illusioned.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. letters@charleskrauthammer.com


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 2 months ago

"a Massachusetts Medical Society study showed leads to about 25 percent of doctor referrals, tests and procedures being done for no medical reason?"

But the facts are that malpractice payouts are a very minor part of overall healthcare expenditures, and a further fact is that malpractice premiums have been increasing over the last several years while malpractice payouts have actually been declining.

So while some form of tort reform may be desirable, the cause of "defensive medicine" is mostly irrational fear, likely whipped up by insurance companies in order to justify the gouging of physicians with unjustifiably high malpractice insurance premiums.

Orwell 8 years, 2 months ago

As we've learned to expect, Krauthammer parrots the same tired talking points focus-grouped by the Republican Rich. When he decries the decision to enact reform "by one vote if necessary," he neglects to mention it is made necessary solely by the cynical strategy of withholding every Republican vote, in order to deny the president an accomplishment, for purely political ends. The "pro-life" party is perfectly happy to let another 45,000 Americans die needlessly while the blah-blah goes on for another year.

One vote in a democracy is enough, as we recall from the disastrous Bush giveaways to the rich; at least this time the objective is to save thousands of lives instead of lining the already-bulging pockets of favored supporters.

beaujackson 8 years, 2 months ago

Can't wait till Nov. - Adios, Democrats!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 2 months ago

"Can't wait till Nov. - Adios, Democrats!"

I bet if you jumped off a tall building you'd complain about it taking too long for the inevitable impact.

Liberty275 8 years, 2 months ago

1: defeat liarcare 2: toss the liar out of office in 2012 3 ??? 4. Be proud of America again

jafs 8 years, 2 months ago


Which politician have you found that doesn't ever lie?

And if 3 if a ???, how do you know we'll be proud of America afterwards?

oldvet 8 years, 2 months ago

Friends and fans of Jimmy Carter are very happy with obama's performance, since this will relieve Jimmy of the title "Worst One-Term President Ever".

jaywalker 8 years, 2 months ago

"But the facts are that malpractice payouts are a very minor part of overall healthcare expenditures..."

Unfortunately, while you may be correct with the above, it's not a viable response to what you quoted, bozo. Try to read and comprehend Krauthammer's point. The expense and waste isn't in the "malpractice payouts", it's in the unnecessary testing and procedures doctors prescribe in order to AVOID any chance at a malpractice claim.

Obama and the rest of these idiots still haven't even attempted to focus on the problem, which is COST. For the love, isn't there one of these guys that's smart enough to address the problem? Obama admits that premiums will rise? Well, gee, thanks for finally copping to the incredibly obvious, but why are you so pigheaded as to not see that what you're proposing is therefore fatally flawed? Wanna make a change, wanna reform? Do it freakin' right!

Fred Whitehead Jr. 8 years, 2 months ago

And Tom, just what does the Palin-Limbaugh-Beck crowd offer in replacement? What would you think would be the correct solution to the present situation that President Obama inherited from your star and hero, George W. Bush? How should the crushing problem of lack of health coverage for those who cannot afford to line the coffers of the predatory insurance companies? How would you steer the millions who do not have coverage and are bankrupting the American hospital organizations? Come on, Tom and company, what should be done? How do you think the problem should be handled?? Lets hear some solutions instead of the constant drumbeat of derision to the lawfully elected American citizen, Christian office holder that presently lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. How should the richest country in the world, the most blessed and prosperous country without any sort of coverage for those who are not rich Republicans deal with this problem?

If you cannot answer these questions with sound, fiscally reasonable and workable solutions, why don't you just shut the hell up and go sit in the corner!.

independant1 8 years, 2 months ago

I think, If I studied all my life, I couldn't think up half the number of funny things passed in one session of congress. Will Rogers “Society is produced by our wants and government by our wickedness” Thomas Paine “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.” Thomas Paine

independant1 8 years, 2 months ago

  “That government is best which governs least.” Thomas Paine

jafs 8 years, 2 months ago


Yes, and many of those lies have come from the Republican side.

But, seriously, you think Bush's lies about Hussein that got us into a war weren't bad? Or Nixon's?

All politicians lie, as far as I can tell.

They lie in order to get elected, and then they lie once they have been elected. The kinder version of lie is "spin".

Part of this is because people don't understand some basic principles of how the government works, eg. that the President is not all-powerful, and much of the decision-making is done by Congress. So when candidates for president talk about all of the things they'll do if elected, most of which are beyond their scope, people fall for it. I pointed this out when Obama was running.

And part of it is because people want to feel good - they want a candidate that tells them this is a great country, and we're the good guys, etc.

They don't want to hear about the real problems we have, and the difficulties of solving them.

This may be changing a bit now that people see the ugly truth about politics - the partisan bickering, posturing, influence of money, etc. and the lack of real solutions that are offered.

The real problem is that so much money is needed to get elected - thus candidates, even if they start out with pure intentions, are immediately corrupted by the need to raise massive amounts of money.

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