Monday, December 21, 2009
The Healthcare Bill: Sausage-Making, or Three-Card-Monte-Playing?
Politico's "Arena" section asks if the Senate bill is sausage-making. My answer:
It’s not sausage-making, it’s three-card-monte-playing.
As Politico observes, just about every Democratic Senator is pointing to some special provision that he or she inserted into the Senate bill, to help the folks back home. Thus, for example, Ben Nelson claims perpetual Medicaid funding for Nebraska, Chris Dodd will soon be taking credit for a new hospital in Connecticut. But, we might observe, if every Senator claims a special deal, then they can’t all be good deals. Someone will eventually figure out the fiscal net, to and from each state, as a result of this bill, and by definition, a lot of states will be net losers.
I suspect, for example, that Minnesota will come out behind; Amy Klobuchar said on “Fox News Sunday” yesterday that she had secured a 50 percent cut in the new tax on medical equipment--a tax that would fall heavily on manufacturers in her state. So a $40 billion tax is now a $20 billion tax. So is that a $20 billion tax cut, or a $20 billion tax increase? It’s both. But $20 billion is still a lot of tax. Sorry, Gophers, and Hoosiers, and Bay Staters.
Moreover, as Kent Conrad also pointed out yesterday on “Fox News Sunday,” this Congress can’t bind future Congresses. And so, for example, when the federal government starts looking around for ways to reduce spending--to avoid, as President Obama warns us of, the “bankruptcy” of the federal government--those standout special spending items Senators are using now as a kind of “public finance” to their own re-election campaigns will be easy targets.
But the whole point of three-card-monte is not to build an enduring monument of some kind--the point is to get the money away from the rubes. Or, in this case, the votes away from the voters.
We’ll see in 11 months how this game plays out.
Posted by James P. Pinkerton at 9:57 AM