THE RICH LOWRY COLUMN
By Rich Lowry
Otto von Bismarck at one point called the prospect of Germany waging preventive war against other European powers “committing suicide out of fear of death.”
Little did the Iron Chancellor know that he was forecasting 21st-century Democratic political strategy. Democrats so fear the consequences of failing to pass ObamaCare that they’ve convinced themselves that embracing $370 billion worth of tax increases and more than $400 billion worth of Medicare cuts is good for them. This will long make for a compelling case study in the Annals of Abnormal Political Psychology.
Tax hikes undid Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton (Bush lost his presidency, Clinton his congressional majority), and Medicare cuts undid Speaker Newt Gingrich (taking the air out of his “Republican revolution”). All of those figures undertook their foolhardy exertions in order to reduce the deficit. Democrats will ingest their double dose of taxes and Medicare cuts on behalf of legislation that almost certainly will increase an already $1 trillion deficit. It’s fiscal pain for no fiscal gain.
If Democrats can’t afford failure on this course, what makes them think they can afford success? They created a hellish dilemma for themselves by refusing to scale back their bill once it became persistently unpopular.
As it stands now, the sprawling monstrosity of Democratic health-care reform violates almost every major reassurance President Barack Obama has made about it. Its latest iteration, the Reid bill in the Senate, costs more than $1 trillion over 10 years when fully implemented; bends the cost curve up; covers abortion; and knocks people out of their current coverage.
For all that, it only covers half the uninsured. Republican Sen. Tom Coburn counts no fewer than 11 studies that say provisions in the bill will raise premiums. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a family of four headed by a breadwinner making $66,000 annually still would pay almost 10 percent of its income on health insurance — even after it gets a federal subsidy.
If Obama meant his major promises about health care, he’d start over. But all his soothing words were just sugar to make the medicine of a vast left-wing project go down in a center-right country.
The White House has lived up to its promise of “post-partisanship” in only one sense. It’s wielding health care as a wedge issue against its own side, forcing moderates like Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln into possibly career-ending votes out of fear of an aroused liberal base.
Democrats desperately want to keep the health-care debate from dragging too far into next year. Obama plans to pivot onto jobs and deficit reduction come January. This shift will be even more ludicrously incredible if he’s still occupied with creating a new entitlement set to grow at 8 percent a year and cost $2.5 trillion during its first 10 years of full operation. As Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin said, in an understatement, in 2010 the health-care debate becomes “more complex.”
When they elected Obama, most voters wanted competence, bipartisanship, sobriety and responsibility. On health care he’s 0-4, but the only option the Democrats have is to keep going. In fear of death, they’ll risk suicide.
(Rich Lowry is editor of the National Review.)
© 2009 by King Features Synd., Inc.