Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pop Quiz

CBO Director Doug Elmendorf said: "In the [health care reform] legislation that has been reported, we do not see the sort of fundamental changes that would be necessary to reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount. And on the contrary, the legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for health care costs." Mr. Elmendorf added, ". . . the federal budget is on an unsustainable path, because federal debt will continue to grow much faster than the economy over the long run ... under any plausible scenario."

Given that the CBO has a reputation for being objective and nonpartisan, what would be the choice of a sane, honest politician, attempting to act in the public interest?

1. Reevaluate health care reform, taking into account the fact that Americans are satisfied with their healthcare in the range of anywhere from the 60%-85% range according to different surveys. Maybe things aren't so bad after all, especially since you've already run up a bigger deficit in 6 months than the last President did in 8 years. Give things a chance to settle down and hold a huge public debate how best to address the problem when recovery is well under way.

2. Consider a piecemeal approach that would address the most chronic problems first, such as helping ensure that people who don't have coverage, but need it, and want it, can get it. Following that, implement a series of measures to rein in the tremendous amount of fraud and waste in Medicare and Medicaid. Couple increased services and entitlements with true cost-cutting reforms for a truly cost-neutral plan going forward.

3. Take measures to decouple health coverage from employment, which would allow much more freedom of choice and would not penalize people who are laid off (COBRA is extremely expensive), or who work in a volatile industry and change jobs often. Foster other means of collective bargaining for insurance that doesn't depend on a person's employer or union to help those people who are unemployed, self-employed or who don't have the best choices in health care provided by an employer.

4. Ignore the advice, plunge wildly ahead with another 1000+ page bill that will be passed without being read by anyone voting on it. Load the bill up with all kinds of pork, guarantee huge cost overruns, completely ignore the cries of common sense or the constituents, blaspheme the Constitution, and generally treat the economy like a bunch of thugs wielding crowbars and chains beating a poor victim to death in the back alley somewhere. When the victim cries for help, whack him good, be sure to break some bones, and tell the victim you _are_ helping him. Make sure the blood doesn't splatter on your Armani. When things go exactly as expected and reform makes things worse, blame your opponents or the rich.

If you chose 4, congratulations, you have undergone enough intellectual and moral devolution to qualify for Congress. For bonus points, make seditious comments against the military, kowtow to our enemies and steal candy from babies.

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