As Massachusetts Goes…. | Citizens Against Government Waste

As Massachusetts Goes….

The WasteWatcher

…so goes the ongoing effort to fight government waste, higher taxes, and save the future for our children and grandchildren.

The result of the special election for Senate in Massachusetts reflected a national outpouring of outrage over the overreaching Congress and White House, and a lot of buyer’s remorse for the 2008 election.  Americans wanted change, but they did not want it to include massive new government regulations, a highly partisan Congress, backroom deals on major legislation, and a takeover of large parts of the economy.

Ironically, President Obama has had some success in eliminating wasteful spending:  The Washington Times reported on January 15 that $6.9 billion of the $11.3 billion, or 60 percent, of the cuts proposed by the President was agreed to by Congress.  Much of that was in defense rather than domestic programs.  The President had victories in cutting spending for the F-22 and Future Combat Systems, but that was offset by $465 million in continued funding for the alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter and $2.5 billion for C-17s the Pentagon didn’t want.

But these mild achievements were unnoticed by taxpayers, who remain overwhelmed by ongoing joblessness in the private sector while government employment has increased.  Americans are also angry at the impact on their children and grandchildren of the record deficit and debt, unimpressed by the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars of stimulus money and the failure to provide evidence of success, and just puzzled by the obsession with passing healthcare reform in the face of much more important priorities.

In most cases where taxpayers feel something is going wrong, there is not an immediate outlet available to express their concerns.  While only Massachusetts residents voted on January 19, millions of Americans voted with their dollars and their time by sending financial support and/or volunteering to help the Brown campaign.  To them, the healthcare bill was not the only target; it was the entire Obama/Reid/Pelosi big-government agenda.

It is likely that the “Cornhusker Kickback,” as many have called the deal to exempt the state of Nebraska from increased Medicaid costs in order to secure Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D-Neb.) vote, will be viewed as the “Bridge to Nowhere” of the healthcare debate and the beginning of the end of one-party control in the nation’s capital.  While that was not the only deal intended to buy votes, it crystallized how the Democrats have been willing to do anything just to pass a bill, regardless of the consequences for the country, or for their party.

Governors from both sides of the aisle are certainly aware of the impact of the healthcare bills on their states, most of which are in dire financial straits, and have been vocal in their objections.  California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) sharply criticized the legislation passed by the House and Senate in his January 6 State of the State Address.  He said, “While I enthusiastically support health care reform, it is not reform to push more costs onto states that are already struggling while other states get sweetheart deals.  Health care reform, which started as noble and needed legislation, has become a trough of bribes, deals and loopholes.  You’ve heard of the bridge to nowhere.  This is health care to nowhere.”

According to an article in the December 22, 2009 New York Daily News, New York Governor David Patterson (D), New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R), and other state officials said “the Senate plan would force the city to close 100 health clinics; blow a $1 billion hole in the state’s budget; and threaten struggling hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities.”

A January 14 Heritage Foundation analysis found that the combined cost of increased spending and administration of expanded Medicaid coverage would be $32.6 billion from 2014 to 2019 under the Senate bill, and $60 billion from 2013 to 2019 under the House bill (the House bill expands coverage more than the Senate bill).  In California, those figures are $7 billion and $8.6 billion, respectively; in New York, the added expenses would be $2.6 billion and $3.2 billion (meaning New York officials underestimated the impact on their state).

In Massachusetts, those costs would be $202 million under the Senate bill and $615.5 million under the House bill, something that a state with a projected $3 billion budget deficit for fiscal year 2011 can ill afford.  The money for expanded coverage has to come from somewhere; if Congress decides that every state should get the same exemption as Nebraska, the $32 billion to $60 billion cost would be borne by all taxpayers.

There are also constitutional questions about the healthcare bill, particularly in regard to the individual mandate.  This was first raised by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) during the debate over the 1994 Clinton healthcare plan (which didn’t even have such a mandate).  CBO said, “A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be an unprecedented form of federal action. The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States. An individual mandate would have two features that, in combination, would make it unique. First, it would impose a duty on individuals as members of society. Second, it would require people to purchase a specific service that would be heavily regulated by the federal government.”  The Heritage Foundation elaborated on this issue in a December 9, 2009 Legal Memorandum, noting that “An individual mandate to enter into a contract with or buy a particular product from a private party, with tax penalties to enforce it, is unprecedented– not just in scope but in kind–and unconstitutional as a matter of first principles and under any reasonable reading of judicial precedents.”

The authors noted that Congress could have enacted a general tax or provided a tax credit for individuals to purchase health insurance, but that would have required putting those costs into the federal budget in a normal manner.  If the individual mandate is found to be unconstitutional, the entire healthcare plan would collapse, since the fees and penalties are an essential part of the financing scheme.

Finally, no one really believes that the healthcare plans will save money.  The “savings” are based on “unrealistic” promises to cut Medicare spending, according a December 10 report by the chief actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  Former Minnesota Senator Rudy Boschwitz (R) and Representative Tim Penny (D) noted in a July 29, 2009 Investors Business Daily op-ed, “When Medicare was being considered in the mid-1960s, the government projected that the outlays for the program 25 years down the road would be $10 billion.  Instead, in 1990, 25 years later, the outlays were $107 billion.  Government estimates were off by a factor of more than 10!  Medicaid, the other large medical program currently in effect, outdid Medicare.  Medicaid outlays in 1968 were $1.8 billion.  In 2007 they had risen to $190.6 billion, an increase in dollar terms of 105.9 times.”

Two days later, on July 31, the Republican staff of the Joint Economic Committee published a memorandum showing that healthcare costs are often “significantly understated.”  The memo covered programs from Great Britain’s National Health Service to Medicare and Medicaid to Massachusetts’ universal healthcare plan.  The latter was a factor in the Senate race, since when it was passed in 2006, it was projected to cost $472 million in 2008, yet ended up costing the Bay State $628 million in that year.

The story of the Massachusetts election was also about independent voters, who supported President Obama over Sen. John McCain in November 2008.  They were already trickling toward Republicans (or at least away from Democrats) in the governors’ races in Virginia and New Jersey last November, and that turned into a flood that washed out the filibuster-proof 60 vote majority in the Senate.

The White House, many Democrats, and the liberal media should be regretting the dismissal of the tea parties as not being relevant or important.  The remarks by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, the junior senator from neighboring Rhode Island, likely reverberated in Massachusetts as well.  On December 20, during the debate over healthcare, he said that foes of healthcare and President Obama are “fanatics,” “birthers,” and “running around in right-wing militia and Aryan groups.”  The problem for Sen. Whitehouse and the President’s agenda is that these “fanatics” are ordinary, hard-working Americans, and they will be a significant factor in the elections in November, just as they were in Massachusetts.

Sign Up For Email Updates

Optional Member Code