In June, when the Supreme Court found that Obamacare is constitutional because the individual mandate is not really a mandate after all but a tax, I suggested that Chief Justice Roberts had come up with this unique formulation precisely because (being a conservative) he did not think that such a momentous social issue should be decided by a small panel of experts. Essentially, he was saying, let the voters decide.
The voters have decided. Obamacare is the law of the land, and is neither going to be declared unconstitutional, nor repealed.
In my view, of course, we had very little chance of getting rid of Obamacare no matter who was elected. Repealing the legislation would have required not only the concerted effort of a President Romney who had favored a similar plan in Massachusetts, but also a large majority in the both House and Senate – large enough majorities to overcome the substantial number of Republican legislators who would have been cowed by: a) the absolute onslaught of TV and newspaper stories about specific sympathetic and deserving individuals whose healthcare (and very lives) would be placed into jeopardy by Obamacare’s repeal; and b) the public machinations of the health insurance executives, who would have viewed the repeal of Obamacare as removing their final lifeline, and who would have gone to great lengths to stop such a repeal (by, for instance, demonstrating to an increasingly frightened public just how unremittingly evil they would become without the constraints imposed upon them by Obamacare).
So if Mr. Romney had won, in my view the most likely outcome would have been a more-or-less half-hearted effort at repealing Obamacare – an effort which would peter out ignominiously, but only after the Republicans had burned through whatever public goodwill they might have started out with. And what we we would have been left with is: Obamacare, with perhaps some of its more egregious provisions blunted a bit. And then, in a few years, when the public began to really understand the personal price they’re paying under Obamacare, Mr. Obama (who would be running again in 2016) would be able to blame these now-obvious problems on those stupid Republicans, who had come along and bollixed up a perfectly good system.
If this sounds pessimistic, I suppose that it is. But the book I expended so much blood, sweat and tears writing earlier this year was never really intended as a plea to repeal Obamacare (an eventuality which, as I say, I have always found to be unlikely), but rather, was meant to let readers know what we should all expect under Obamcare, and what we should do – collectively and as individuals – to try to cope with it.
And now that we can see that Obamacare really is here to stay, and we are no longer distracted by long-shot efforts at getting rid of it, perhaps we can all move on to taking those necessary steps.
The details are in the final few chapters of my book. But the fundamental issue we now need to address – the line in the sand I hope we will finally draw – is whether individual Americans are to retain the right, under the law, to expend their own resources for their own well-being. This is not something we can take for granted. If we are to retain this right we will have to fight for it. It will be a hard fight, a dirty fight, and some of us will not survive it.
If we can maintain this last line of defense, then eventually (in a decade or two, perhaps) we can force Obamacare to evolve into a system that is not so bad, one that is certainly less destructive to the Great American Experiment than it now promises to be.
For those readers who still insist that our Progressive leaders will never try to limit individual prerogatives in such a way, I ask you to re-read Chapter 7 – and to pay close attention to what you see unfolding before your eyes.
DrRich explains it all in Open Wide and Say Moo! The Good Citizen’s Guide to Right Thoughts and Right Actions Under Obamacare
Now available in the audiobook version!
Many readers (and you know who you are) think I am a complete dunderhead when it comes to interpreting Progressives and their healthcare system. But the real problem is that I am not a dunderhead, and as disturbing as it is even to myself, I have been right more times than not when it comes to predicting how things related to Progressive healthcare will turn out.
Believe me when I tell you that I wish this were not the case.
Today, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld Obamacare, or at least most of it, and they did so even while declaring an individual mandate based on the commerce clause to be unconstitutional. At the same time, they determined that the so-called individual mandate was, in fact, merely a tax, and they noted that the taxing power of Congress is essentially unlimited. So not only does Obamacare stand, but so does its funding mechanism. It’s full steam ahead for Obamacare.
As humbly as I can, I remind readers skeptical of my ability to predict the future that, on March 25, 2010, a few short days after the Obamacare legislation was passed, I wrote a post that all but guaranteed that Obamacare would stand, and for this very reason. Specifically, I said that, viewed objectively, the individual mandate could easily be construed as a tax in everything but name. And, I asserted, the courts would find it to be a tax.
I am thus vindicated, though no less saddened, by today’s ruling.
I now reproduce the meat of that old but prescient post, just to prove my point. Read it and weep, skeptics.
From The Covert Rationing Blog, March 25, 2010:
“For those among his readers who do not want any constitutional challenge of the new healthcare law to succeed, DrRich has good news. It won’t.
DrRich has come to this conclusion after reading the section of the law that deals with the individual mandate. This section, “Subtitle F – Shared Responsibility For Health Care,” is carefully designed to defeat any constitutional challenge.
The meat of Subtitle F is contained in one sentence (Section 5000A), to wit: “An applicable individual shall for each month beginning after 2013 ensure that the individual, and any dependent of the individual who is an applicable individual, is covered under minimum essential coverage for such month.” This sentence takes up about 20% of one page. Most of the remaining 42.8 pages of Subtitle F creates a protective shell against constitutional challenge. It does this in two ways.
The first protection against a constitutional challenge is the more obvious. In fact, before we ever get to the individual mandate itself, we are treated to five pages that detail the multitude of ways in which “individual responsibility” in healthcare (i.e., the mandate to buy insurance) “is commercial and economic in nature, and substantially affects interstate commerce, as a result of the effects described in paragraph (2).” In other words, the individual mandate is wrapped by a formal “finding of Congress” that this mandate is subject to the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
DrRich is not enough of a legal scholar to understand whether the five pages of justification that follow (the “paragraph 2,” referred to above) are sufficiently compelling to actually invoke the Commerce Clause. To him, it all sounds like an “ends justifies the means” argument, one that would be equally applicable if Congress decided it would benefit the general welfare to mandate that people purchase all their cars from Government Motors. But whether or not the supportive language itself proves compelling to the courts, it seems very unlikely to DrRich that the Supreme Court would overturn a formal “finding of Congress,” as regards the applicability of a provision of Congress to the Commerce Clause.
But this first protection against a constitutional challenge only covers the first five of the 43 pages of Subtitle F. Most of the remaining 38 pages establishes the second protection. This one is more subtle than the first, but, DrRich thinks, it will be the more difficult one to overcome.
That remaining portion of Subtitle F deals largely with the penalties to which individuals would be subject if they failed to comply with the mandate to buy health insurance. It describes in detail how the mandate is to be complied with, how compliance is to be documented, and how the mandate is to be enforced. This long section of Subtitle F reads like tax law, like IRS code. As well it should. For, what it establishes is that the individual mandate is actually a tax, that is treated like any other tax in its documentation, collection, and enforcement, and indeed, that the IRS will be running the whole show.
If DrRich were defending the individual mandate before the Supreme Court, here is what he would say:
“Your Honors (and you other Justices, too), even if you find that the Commerce Clause is not applicable here (a finding, I respectfully submit, which would create a Constitutional crisis, since Congress has issued its own formal finding to the contrary), you must let this provision stand for an even more compelling reason, which is: This is not really an individual mandate to purchase health insurance or any other product, as our opponents claim. It is, in fact, simply a tax, like any other tax.
It is a tax. A healthcare tax. It is a tax to support healthcare in the United States, payable to the U.S. Government on Form 1040, administered and collected entirely by the Internal Revenue Service. It is not in any way fundamentally different from the Medicare and Medicaid taxes, which also support healthcare services for our citizens, which also appear on Form 1040, and which are also administered and collected entirely by the IRS.
Your Honors, simply look at the language of Subtitle F. After a modest amount of palaver to convince Your Honors that the Commerce Clause applies (and, I remind you, it does), the last 38 pages of this Subtitle is tax law. I mean, really, just try to read it. Can any of you understand it? Neither can I. It’s IRS tax code, plain and simple.
The only difference between this tax and any other federal tax is that Congress, in its wisdom and magnanimity, gives the individual citizen the ability to opt out, to not have to pay it, simply by documenting that they have purchased health insurance. That is, if the citizen chooses to buy health insurance – which, we must all admit, would be a wise decision from that individual’s point of view, as well as a benefit to society – the IRS will forgive the new healthcare tax altogether.
Where is the mandate here? Nowhere in Subtitle F does the word “mandate” appear. Rather, Subtitle F refers to “shared responsibility.” Individuals should feel responsible to do their part for society as a whole, and this Subtitle encourages them to act on that responsibility. They can do so by paying the new healthcare tax. Or, if they choose, they can do so by making sure they and their families are covered by health insurance. To be sure, Congress’ intent was that the large majority of citizens would choose the latter. But for all that, it is in the end the individual’s choice.”
As much as DrRich wishes otherwise, the individual mandate in the new healthcare law has been written in such a way as to almost certainly turn aside any challenges based on its constitutionality.
And now, dear reader, it is time to ask yourself, “What else is he right about?“
I have been working very hard on my book-in-progress, and, given my time constraints (which must take into account the various organizations that are actually paying me to do things), have tried to ignore everything else that would normally induce me to post on this blog. But it is difficult to ignore the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court of the United States heard arguments last week on whether the individual mandate provision of Obamacare is constitutional, and if it is not, whether the whole bill must be overturned (or just the mandate itself).
Readers will know that I think the mandate should not stand. I agree with Justice Kennedy, who last week observed that the individual mandate fundamentally changes the relationship between the federal government and the individual. My belief is that this would be a negative outcome. The fact that healthcare is really, really important should not trump the freedom of individual action guaranteed by the Constitution, especially since it is entirely possible, in many different ways, to fix our healthcare problems without tossing out individual liberty or killing the Great American Experiment.
The Court’s decision appears to hinge on whether five justices will agree that either A) fundamentally changing the relationship between the federal government and the individual is a good thing, or b) overturning the largest legislative effort in history is a bad idea. Our political punditry tells us that four justices are locked into position A by virtue of their Right Thinking regarding the Constitution, so the outcome will hinge on whether one of the remaining five, who most often lean toward Wrong Thinking, can be convinced that position B is true (and that, for instance, overturning Obamacare would diminish the credibility of the Court).
It was interesting to listen to the left-leaning commentators lamenting the presentation made to the Court by the Solicitor General. Despite having more than two years to spiff-up the government’s arguments, and despite several “practice sessions” in the lower courts to fine-tune the message, the government’s lawyer was strikingly inarticulate when explaining the constitutionality of the individual mandate. This, of course, is because there is no good constitutional argument for it. If the government is allowed to promulgate this mandate, then one is hard pressed to articulate a cogent limit to the government’s power over the individual. And so, the government’s lawyer could not articulate one (despite pointed attempts at coaching from the Bench by few of the Justices partial to position A).
If the mandate is overturned, this unfortunate man will be scapegoated to the Progressive’s Perpetual Penalty Box.
President Obama, it should be noted, could have easily kept this issue from reaching the Supremes until after the election, but he did not. Rather, he opted for a risky path that would result in the Supreme Court rendering a possibly negative decision on his signature legislative accomplishment a mere four months before the election.
And this leads me to speculate on why he would do such a thing. I agree with those who say President Obama is a very smart man, and so I have to believe that he is gambling that any decision the Court makes can be turned to his benefit.
There are, in essence, three possible outcomes: 1) The mandate, and Obamacare, will be upheld. 2) The mandate will be overturned, but the rest of the legislation can stand. 3) The mandate will be overturned, and so will the entire package.
If Outcome One occurs, not only will Obamacare stand, but also the Supreme Court of the United States will have agreed that the government can direct the economic activities of individuals, to the extent that the Central Authority can force individuals to enter into contracts with private companies against their will. (Until now, in order to form a valid contract both parties had to enter the contract voluntarily.) This would be such a fundamental change in the relationship between the government and individuals as to entirely negate the basic premise underlying the Constitution. And while Outcome One might galvanize the Tea Party to sweep Republicans back into power at all levels, this fundamental victory for Progressives would dwarf the mere winning of an election by the opposition. President Obama would become a Perpetual Hero of the Progressive Pantheon, and, in fact, would be a strong candidate again in 2016. (By that time, the mess Obamacare will have become will be blamed on the Republicans’ mismanagement of it.)
If Outcome Two occurs, the issue upon which President Obama will base his re-election campaign will be set. Instead of having to rely on bogus issues like a Republican War on Women, he can run on healthcare.
Outcome Two leaves Obamacare intact, except for the mandate. The mandate is “merely” the funding mechanism for the legislation. The whole package can then be salvaged simply by re-instituting the mandate, but this time explicitly calling it a tax. (If they would have called it a tax in the first place, there would not have been any grounds for a constitutional challenge).
To do this, of course, the President will have to be re-elected, and will have to hold the Senate and gain a majority (or near-majority) in the House. In engineering this electoral sweep, healthcare will be his ticket.
His campaign would likely be based on three elements related to healthcare. First, of course, he will remind us of all the good stuff we will lose if we don’t put Democrats back in power – the uninsured will remain uninsured, people with pre-existing conditions will again be unable to get insurance, and our 25-year-old “children” will have to fend for themselves. Second, he will point to the Republican’s alternative healthcare plan which (unless some miracle occurs between now and the summer) is no plan at all; it’s chaos. Third, he will rely on the assistance of the Evil Health Insurance companies. The health insurance industry, as I have pointed out, is desperately relying on Obamacare, which is their only path to a viable business model. This is why they pulled out all the stops to see that Obamacare was passed in the first place. If saving Obamacare depends on electing Democrats, electing Democrats is what the industry will try to do.
So the moment the Supreme Court chooses Option Two, the insurers will do everything in their power, once again, to demonstrate their fundamentally ruthless, evil natures. They will raise their premiums 90%; or rule that they will no longer pay for newer cancer therapies; or announce that they are doubling their rescission efforts. Whatever it takes to demonstrate that, if you people elect Republicans, when you get sick you will have hell to pay. “Welcome back into our tender mercies, ” the heartless health insurance executives will laugh. “We, who have no sense of human decency or compassion, are very pleased to wallow once again in your pain and suffering and despair, in the name of profit.”
The Republicans will not know what hit them.
Outcome Three throws out Obamacare altogether. This outcome (like Outcome Two) re-establishes healthcare as the President’s only necessary re-election issue.
President Obama might. of course, take the same tact as he would take under Outcome Two – that is, re-instating Obamacare as originally written, but fashioning the mandate as a tax. He could then enlist the help of the Evil Insurance Industry, as above.
Or, he could go for the Brass Ring.
President Obama, it will be recalled, was originally against an individual mandate, and invoked as reasons for opposing it all the reasons the Conservatives argued before the Supreme Court. The mandate was placed into Obamacare as the only viable funding mechanism for a reform plan that included private insurers; and private insurers were included in the plan as the only feasible way to pass any reform plan at all.
But what Progressives – and President Obama himself, according to his own words – have wanted all along was a universal, single-payer healthcare system run by the government. (And indeed, in my view, Obamacare was designed to evolve to just that outcome after a few years.) Outcome Three will give the President a real chance of getting what he really wants, right now, in one giant step.
To this end, the President could address the nation, saying:
“My fellow Americans, we tried! Nobody can say we didn’t. We presented our nation with a healthcare plan that would cover almost everybody, and which would have saved the private insurance industry. But now, thanks to the the actions of the Republican naysayers, the Supreme Court has ruled out the only mechanism that would have allowed our healthcare reform plan to include the participation of the private insurance industry. And now, with this ruling, and with the Republican-led demise of our visionary healthcare plan, the insurance companies tell us that in order to remain in business they will have to price their products so high that the number of uninsured Americans will soar – my advisers tell me that soon, over 100 million of you will be without health insurance. You and your loved ones and your neighbors face imminent death or disability, thanks to Republican nihilism.
Republicans should know that it may be easy to destroy, but it’s difficult to create. Where is their plan to save our healthcare system, and spare the lives of our citizens? All they have to offer are platitudes and chaos, and vague mutterings about “the markets.” This is all they have, after destroying our new centrist, market-based healthcare plan, which was made law by your elected representatives, and which would have brought high quality healthcare to everyone.
But thankfully, we still have a choice. And thankfully, the time to choose is now.
I and my Democratic colleagues did not want it this way. We fought hard against it. But our Republican opponents and their allies in the reactionary Court leave us with little choice. My fellow Americans, re-elect me, and send Democrats to the Senate and the House, and we will act to save the American healthcare system. If you re-elect me, and give me a Democratic Congress, I pledge that within 60 days, we will pass into law my new program to expand Medicare to cover all Americans. This is not the path I would have chosen if there was a real choice, and indeed it is not the path I chose. But our opponents saw to it that all the other paths have been closed to us; such was their blind zeal to destroy. And if you don’t like it, as I myself do not, you know who to hold responsible at the polls.”
If the individual mandate is overturned, the Republicans had better have an alternative healthcare reform plan ready to go that they can articulate immediately, simply, compellingly and often. If they do not, the President will play them like a fiddle.
DrRich has written a lot on this blog about the intentional destruction of the classic doctor-patient relationship. That relationship, of course, was a fiduciary one, under which the patient was encouraged and expected to place full trust in the doctor’s sacred duty to put the patient’s own best interests above all other considerations.
Obviously, such a thing is incompatible with a healthcare system in which doctors are expected to covertly ration healthcare at the bedside. Indeed, it was the ethical tension between what the classic doctor-patient relationship required and the new duties of physicians in the real world, that led professional medical organizations to formally re-define medical ethics in 2002.
And today, of course, under these New Age medical ethics, doctors are no longer expected to place the needs of their individual patient first. Rather, they are required to make the needs of the collective – that is, social justice – their chief consideration.
When the needs of the individual and the needs of the collective coincide, of course, so much the better. But when they do not – and they frequently do not – the needs of the collective take precedence. And “the needs of the collective” are now being determined by panels of experts created under Obamacare, which are busily devising the “guidelines” for treatment that physicians must follow to the letter, or risk their careers, life savings, and freedom from incarceration.
Lest you think DrRich is making this up, allow him to remind his readers of this excerpt, from the ominously-titled book, “New Rules,” co-authored by none other than Donald Berwick MD, who has run CMS for the past 18 months:
“Today, this isolated relationship [between doctor and patient] is no longer tenable or possible. . . Traditional medical ethics, based on the doctor-patient dyad, must be reformulated to fit the new mold of the delivery of health care. . . The primary function of regulation in health care. . .is to constrain decentralized individualized decision making.”
Having thus terminated the classic doctor-patient relationship with extreme prejudice, the same political and medical leaders who conducted this assassination immediately realized they had to fill the void – for how can you have no such thing as the doctor-patient relationship? The solution to this problem, of course, was easy. Just as you can create a New Age medical ethics to fit modern exigencies, you can create a new doctor-patient relationship that will do the same thing.
So, what medical students are being taught today about the doctor-patient relationship has nothing to do with fiduciary responsibilities or ethical obligations. Rather, the New Age doctor-patient relationship is all about the interpersonal relationship between doctor and patient. Doctors are admonished: Be compassionate, be empathetic, be nice. And there’s nothing wrong with crying in front of your patients.
Not being an asshole, of course, has always been a useful trait for physicians. Doctors who can relate to their patients, displaying and actually feeling a certain amount of compassion and empathy, have always been more effective at communicating with their patients – and thus have been more effective physicians – than those who are arrogant, self-centered, aloof, or just plain mean*.
*DrRich has already pointed out the following irony: many of the doctors who washed out of clinical medicine, possibly because they were too arrogant, self-centered, rigid, and/or aloof to be effective physicians, are now populating the expert panels which are writing the guidelines which will dictate the behavior of doctors who might otherwise be actually useful.
The benefits of being a nice person are not exclusive to the medical profession. The same rules hold for anyone who makes his/her living by engaging in personal interactions with fellow humans. And so, until recent years, the medical profession categorized this fact (that doctors ought to have decent interpersonal skills) within the realm of common sense, common decency, and common knowledge – and the idea of the doctor-patient relationship meant something else entirely.
Every medical school now has formal training on the doctor-patient relationship, under which young physicians are taught to be compassionate, empathetic, and nice. To the extent that such traits can be taught – and DrRich has his doubts – there’s nothing inherently wrong with emphasizing interpersonal skills. There are, however, two problems that come to mind when emphasizing interpersonal skills becomes a substitute for emphasizing the real and true obligations of a professional.
First, teaching young doctors that a good doctor-patient relationship simply means being nice will result in newer generations of physicians having no concept of any fiduciary obligation to their individual patients. They will address the needs of the collective first, as a matter of course. (But as they withhold information on available treatments about which their patients are not to be informed, we can count on them to be extremely nice about it.)
Second, there is a growing school of thought, amongst those who are responsible for teaching this New Age doctor-patient relationship, that not only should doctors avoid stoicism at the bedside, but they also ought to openly display their emotions, so as to further reinforce their compassion, empathy, niceness, &c. By graphically displaying the deep empathy the physician has for his (or more likely, her) patients, he or she can really bond with them, and thus establish a really strong doctor-patient relationship.
And what better way to openly display one’s emotions than to cry?
Just as a general proposition, DrRich is against crying in front of patients. Certainly, there may be rare occasions when emotions rise up unexpectedly at the bedside – when a patient relates a particularly affecting personal story for instance. But in general, DrRich is convinced that doctors should not make a habit of expressing their emotions too frequently or too luxuriously to their patients.
Empathy and compassion are fine, but what sick patients really need is a doctor who can maintain some sense of composure even when things are the bleakest, some sense that, as bad as things are, this situation is not beyond the doctor’s experience. Even if the outcome is destined to be very bad, the patient deserves a doctor who acts like he or she has been there before, and who they can trust to remain at their side and help guide them through the ordeal that remains.
But DrRich is concerned that the faculty of our medical schools, who are busily training America’s Obamacare Doctors of Tomorrow, have reached the following epiphany: A particularly wonderful way to repair the failing doctor-patient relationship would be to indoctrinate young future physicians (most of whom these days, once again, are said to be women – not that there’s anything wrong with that) that crying at the bedside – indeed, openly displaying their every emotion at the bedside – is a marvelously therapeutic act. Such an open display of the doctor’s emotions conveys a powerful message to the patient, namely, “I care.”
Perhaps. But DrRich thinks crying at the bedside actually conveys two powerful messages to patients:
First Message: I empathize with you. I feel your pain.
Second Message: Your medical condition is so unbelievably dire that not even I can face it with any amount of composure. You, my friend, are well and truly screwed. I cannot imagine the agony you’re in for, without falling apart myself. May God help you.
It is the conveyance of this latter message that, in the opinion of DrRich, ought to make most doctors on most occasions relatively circumspect about crying in front of their patients.
It is also this latter message that offers to make crying doctors a convenient tool for covert rationing.
When the doctor is reduced to tears (thus graphically demonstrating to the patient that the game’s about up; that there’s pretty much nothing, really, that’s going to change this bleak outcome; and how very sad it all is) – well! Talk about reducing your patient’s expectations!
A chief tenet of covert rationing is that patients who can be made to expect little will be satisfied with little. In most cases this is accomplished by simply coercing doctors to withhold from their patients all of their medical options. But if they can be encouraged to cry when delivering bad news, doctors can destroy patients’ expectations in a much more definitive fashion.
Furthermore, the traditional role of the doctor when a patient’s outlook is poor is to take charge of a very bad situation, and with great empathy, patience and fortitude attempt to guide the patient through that situation with as much skill and courage as possible, even if the final destination looks very bleak. If the doctor instead becomes just one more of the people who gather about the bedside crying about it, then the patient immediately perceives themselves to be abandoned and alone, placed into a position irremediably desolate, with no sense of direction, and no sense of control over their own destiny. Patients fighting illness from such a position do more than merely lose their expectations; they will also die much sooner and in greater despair than necessary.
So obviously, our modern healthcare system under Obamacare will see immediate advantages to encouraging emotional outbursts on the part of doctors. In the name of advancing empathetic physicians and fixing a broken doctor-patient relationship, we could, more easily and more often, get those folks who are in the infamous last six months of life to simply stop striving for a medical miracle – or even for non-miraculous but expensive therapies that actually exist, and that (alas!) might actually extend their survival – and thus effect the sick patient’s demise more quickly and more economically.
Certainly, now that medical schools are teaching forms of alternative medicine that in former years would have made real doctors blush, for courses on the doctor-patient relationship to encourage young doctors to let their emotions free is a good and natural fit.
Young doctors should not be taken in by such ploys. They should empathize with their patients, but remain strong, and lead their patients gently and resolutely through their medical ordeals. They should try to avoid allowing a free display of their emotions to break their patient’s spirit. Their job, instead, is to use their expertise to fortify their patient’s spirit, even in the worst of times. And above all they should not allow themselves to become the trained tools of an ultimately cynical healthcare system, that uses every ploy at its disposal to covertly ration medical care.
A few years ago, one of the Ladies on the View (DrRich does not recall whether it was Rosie or Whoopie or Joy or Daisy May) “proved” that George Bush was responsible for the collapse of the World Trade Center (and not the heat generated by all that burning jet fuel), when she proclaimed that “steel does not melt.” The audience went wild with approval.
DrRich, however, was puzzled. All those years ago, when America still had lots of steel mills and DrRich used to work in one of them, he could swear that once every six hours a massive door would open on the open hearth furnace, and molten steel would flow out of it. In fact, one of DrRich’s jobs was to advance a long-handled ladle into that molten stream of new steel to acquire a sample for analysis. He would be willing to attest under oath (say, to a Federal grand jury) that the steel in his ladle was in liquid form. So, unless DrRich’s Old Fart memory fails him, steel actually does melt, as long as you can make it hot enough.
The thing about conspiracy theorists, however, is that they are never deterred by facts. And if DrRich had actually sent Whoopie (or whoever) a letter explaining her mistake, as he had thought about doing, it would not have caused her to say, “Oopsie.” She simply would have shifted to another “fact” proving that Republicans (and not Islamists) had knocked down those buildings.
The other thing about conspiracy theorists is that their methods know no party lines. Whatever their political affiliation they are usually whack-jobs. And on the opposite side of the political spectrum, the birthers – who are convinced that President Obama was not born in the USA, but instead was born in Indonesia, or Kenya, or Mars – have displayed no more reasonableness than the Ladies on the View.
So, when one thinks about it, the truly puzzling thing about the birther controversy is not that the birthers won’t give up, no matter what evidence is placed before them. That’s just what conspiracy theorists do. What’s really puzzling is why President Obama and his legal team fought them for so long before they actually produced definitive evidence of his American birth.
Astute readers might respond, “You just answered your own question, DrRich. Conspiracy theorists don’t go away just because you have the facts on your side. Even a time machine that deposited them into the birthing room in Honolulu would not have deterred them. And indeed, when Obama finally produced his birth record, the birthers immediately found six ways to show it had been Photoshopped. Giving conspiracy theorists the real facts does not end the conspiracy theory.”
Very true. (DrRich is proud to have readers like you.) The President had no hope of making the birthers go away by releasing his birth documents. But by not releasing these right away, and instead letting the matter fester for several years, he just made more problems for himself. By fighting the birthers all that time, and running up hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills doing it, all he accomplished was to waste a lot of money, and to raise questions among millions of more reasonable Americans who are not given to conspiracy theories.
DrRich believes he has a possible answer to why Mr. Obama stonewalled for so long on his birth records. It may be that he was signalling to his Progressive followers his baseline contempt for the Constitution.
The birthers, as misguided as they were, were raising a constitutional question. For, if Mr. Obama had been born outside the U.S., he could not legally serve as President under the Constitution*.
*DrRich, for one, thinks this is a rather silly feature of the Constitution, which he believes Mr. Madison inserted into the document for the sole purpose of disqualifying Alexander Hamilton for the job.
Typically, therefore, inasmuch as a constitutional question is by definition an important one, one might expect that President Obama would have produced the definitive documentation right away, to resolve the matter once and for all. And, as it turns out, he easily could have done so.
But he chose not to. He chose to let the question fester and grow, for several years, before finally putting an end to it. It’s almost as if he was saying: It’s just a constitutional question. I will actively fight against having to acknowledge the legitimacy of my presidency under the Constitution, because to do so would be to acknowledge the importance of the Constitution. And that would be beneath me, and would be at odds with my real agenda.
This message must have offered much succor to nervous Progressives, who had watched him solemnly take the Oath of Office, and had listened to his public words.
Very few Progressives – much less the President of the United States – are willing to say publicly that the Constitution is a major impediment to their program, and that one of the absolute requirements for achieving the Progressive program is to nullify the underlying thrust of the Constitution.
For indeed the Constitution is an impediment, since it firmly establishes the primacy of the individual, and severely limits the government’s ability to control the property or the behavior of individuals – both of which are critical to the Progressive program.
Mr. Obama has said so himself, publicly, before he became President. He has indicated that the chief flaw of the Constitution is that it places limits on the power of the government, and thereby prevents the government from acting to assure redistributive justice.
You can listen to him say it himself on You Tube, here.
Mr. Obama is right about the Constitution, of course. For indeed, if the Constitution granted the government the power to affect redistributive justice, it would have had to make the government all-powerful, and to make all property communal property, controlled by that government. But the founders, having just fought a war with the world’s greatest power to guarantee the autonomy of individual Americans, were disinclined to write a Constitution that immediately nullified their great victory for mankind. So the Constitution simply does not suit the Progressive agenda.
After just two years, President Obama apparently found that he had no further need to continue the charade with the birthers. He has by now, of course, amply demonstrated that the Constitution will not be an impediment to him. He has created scores of hand-picked, unelected Czars who began setting national policy and running much of the government, in independent fiefdoms, answerable only to him; he has unilaterally cancelled contractual obligations to bondholders when “negotiating” with car companies; in addition to the auto industry, he has essentially nationalized the banking industry, the insurance industry, and student loans (and thus, colleges), and of course, the healthcare industry; he went to war in Libia without even a nod to Congress; he allows his DOJ to selectively enforce or ignore laws depending on who has broken them; and he inserted an individual mandate into his healthcare reform plan, which, if upheld by the Supreme Court, will give the government unlimited authority to control the economic activity of individual Americans.
And that’s why it eventually became OK for the President to release his birth records. American Progressives, by that time, had been suitably reassured regarding his stance on the Constitution.
But thanks to the birthers, the President had a convenient way of signalling his attitude toward the Constitution, well before he had had the opportunity to demonstrate it overtly through his Presidential actions.
DrRich will only remind his conservative friends that, once a President has taken over private industry, made the Congress (the people’s branch of government) nearly irrelevant, promulgated the individual mandate, &c., the fact that the Constitution has in it some verbiage about the Presidency being limited to two-terms ought not to be given much weight.
Progressive Americans have this much going for them: they can, without any reservations, second thoughts (or perhaps even first thoughts), enthusiastically and wholeheartedly support Obamacare’s individual mandate. For them, the individual mandate is an unalloyed good. Not only does it enable Obamacare to proceed, thus giving the government unprecedented control over every aspect of American healthcare, but it also establishes the authority of the government to control the economic activity of individuals. This new authority will come in very handy as our leaders continue working toward redistributive justice. So if you’re a Progressive, what’s not to like about the individual mandate?
Conservative Americans do not have it so easy. In principle, of course, the very idea of an individual mandate is constitutional heresy to a conservative, since it violates not only the letter but the very spirit of the Constitution. This is why, over the past three years, opposing the individual mandate has become for conservatives a more fundamental litmus test than opposing abortion. Accordingly, it is conservatives who have launched the constitutional challenge to the individual mandate, and who have now succeeded in bringing it before the Supreme Court, and who have based their chief strategy for bringing down Obamacare on the idea that the Supremes will agree with them about it.
DrRich, like most conservatives, is aghast at the idea that the Court might actually find the individual mandate to be compatible with the Constitution. Such an expansion of the power of the Central Authority over the lives of individuals will essentially gut the main idea behind our founding, and send us even more rapidly down the path toward tyranny.
But as he contemplates how he might feel on the day the Supreme Court finally strikes down the individual mandate, DrRich can’t help conjuring up the last scene from The Graduate. In that scene, Dustin Hoffman, who has just burst into the church and fought through a horde of wedding guests to grab his girl from the altar, and, with her in tow, has fought his way past the stunned groom and back through the angry crowd, and having at last jumped with her onto a city bus, is now sitting breathlessly, his hard-won love at his side, as the bus pulls away leaving their pursuers behind. And as that last scene fades, his look of elation at finally winning his heart’s desire gradually slackens, and transforms into a look of utter panic, a look that silently beseeches, “Now what?” Or, perhaps, “What have I done?”
DrRich thinks that’s what will happen to Republicans on the day the individual mandate is declared unconstitutional.
There is a reason, dear reader, that Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and the Heritage Foundation, all of whom claim to be conservatives, at one time or another supported something very much like Obama’s individual mandate. That reason is: it is very difficult to conceive of a workable, market-based solution to our healthcare mess without one.
Any scheme for reforming healthcare that is based on private health insurance will fail if a substantial proportion of the population declines to purchase health insurance. Whether people have chosen to acquire health insurance or not, they will still get sick. And when the uninsured get sick there are only two choices.
The first choice is to refuse them care. Libertarians have no problem with this. They believe that if you want some healthcare, you should pay for it yourself. If you choose not to buy health insurance, or otherwise fail to make arrangements to pay for healthcare should it turn out that you need some (as well you might, if you engage in all the activities and abuse all the substances that libertarians say is your right), well, that’s too bad for you. Let your painful and untimely demise serve as an object lesson to everyone else, so that perhaps they will make better personal choices. Most non-libertarians, however, find this option abhorrent.
The second choice is to take care of the uninsured anyway. If you do that, not only do you drive up the cost of health insurance for people who have chosen to buy it, but you also create a huge incentive for people to not buy it in the first place.
This is why Republicans or conservatives who have thought deeply about healthcare reform (Gingrich, the Heritage Foundation), or who have actually instituted healthcare reform (Romney), will often settle upon a solution that incorporates something very much like President Obama’s individual mandate. Unless everyone is strongly “incented” to buy health insurance, a market-based healthcare system will collapse.
More to the point, Republicans ought to recognize that, while it seems to have wound up that way, the individual mandate in Obamacare did not start out as a sneaky way to undermine the Constitution. It was, in fact, a necessary concession to the more conservative of the Democratic members of Congress. President Obama and his minions (or handlers, depending on which talk show hosts you listen to) are on record as saying that their real goal is a single-payer, government-controlled healthcare system. And there is no reason in a single-payer, government-controlled healthcare system to invoke anything like an individual mandate to purchase insurance. The President would have been quite happy without any individual mandate, if he could have gotten his way in the first place.
The individual mandate was inserted into Obamacare purely as a necessary component of healthcare reforms that are ostensibly based on private health insurance, which is the only kind of reform the President could possibly get through even a Democratic Congress in 2010.
If the Supreme Court declares the individual mandate to be constitutional (which will violate everything DrRich holds dear about America), then it’s a huge win for Obamacare.
But if they declare it unconstitutional, that will trigger the Republican’s real problems.
Republicans, Democrats and federal judges all seem to agree that without the individual mandate, Obamacare is infeasible. The moment the mandate is declared unconstitutional, Obamacare disappears.
And this will create a “Graduate” moment. There the Republicans will be, sitting on the bus with the healthcare system they have just saved from the handsome-but-arrogant groom who had Big Plans for it, and heading to – where? They can’t just go back to the old healthcare system; we’re past that. The health insurance industry has made it plain that their business model is broken, which is why they acceded to and even campaigned for Obamacare (a system under which they are to become federally-regulated public utilities) in the first place. Should Republicans institute their own market-based healthcare reforms? Good idea! But what do they do about the people who choose not to buy private insurance, now that they have had mandates to purchase declared unconstitutional? And even if they have an answer to that question (which they do not), do they have a plan ready to go, one that can be implemented quickly, before the healthcare system implodes? (Remember, Republicans, you will be dealing with a health insurance industry that has run out its string, and that will be at least angry if not panicked at the demise of its public-utility end-game.)
As it happens, DrRich himself has proposed a fix for the healthcare system that addresses all these problems – a system that is based on individual choice and incorporates private insurance, and at the same time covers everyone without any individual mandate, and controls healthcare costs to boot. The details are entirely irrelevant at the moment, and DrRich will not bore his readers with them now. (If you’re interested you can buy a copy of his book in Kindle format for five bucks, or if that’s too steep you can read an outline of his plan here for free.) The point is that workable solutions to our healthcare problems are indeed imaginable. The likes of DrRich has imagined such a thing, and so have others. But Republican candidates for President, and Republican congressional leaders, are not creating these solutions. Instead, they are steering us into a blind alley.
Here is what DrRich fears. When the individual mandate is declared unconstitutional next June, the Republican celebration will last all of 7.5 minutes. The insurance industry will make it very clear very quickly that they simply will no longer be able to function, and to have any hope of survival they will have to resume cherrypicking healthy patients, massively increasing premiums, denying recommended care, and dropping subscribers when they get sick. Even with these drastic steps, they will say, there’s no guarantee that health insurance will still be available for most Americans in a year or two. And at the time these astounding revelations are made, the Republicans won’t even be finished choosing a nominee, let alone be able to articulate a coherent plan for replacing Obamacare. By Independence Day panic will reign across the land.
The President will then make a speech. He will say, “We tried, America. In the spirit of bipartisanship we tried to give Republicans a system of market-based healthcare reforms, just like they say they wanted. But that kind of system requires an individual mandate, and our misguided friends on the right have now shot the individual mandate through the head. And when the American people ask those same Republicans who brought this disaster upon us, “Now what?” the American people get no answer. The Republicans are quite good at destroying healthcare solutions, but are hopeless when it comes to creating them. And you can hear for yourselves what the health insurers are now threatening to do to all of us when we get sick. It will be just like it was before, but much, much worse.
“We tried, America. We tried to create a market-based healthcare system that would be fair to all. But the Republicans, caring for nothing but their own selfish political fortunes, have blocked our efforts, and have left us all for dead.
“Fortunately, in a few short months you will be able to exercise your God-given right as Americans to choose. If you want to, you can vote into office the Republicans, the people who have traded your healthcare security and that of your family in favor of the chaos we are all witnessing today. Or you can re-elect me, and you can give me a Congress I can work with, and let us try to salvage something good from the ruins of the glorious reforms we fought so hard for the last time. Let us try to give you the best healthcare system that is still possible, given the new constraints the Republicans have now made for us. While you and I might not have started out wanting a healthcare system run entirely by the government, today our choice is either that, or the chaos, pain, suffering, disability and death that, thanks to the good offices of the Republicans and their friends in the health insurance industry, are now staring us in the face. But this is not the first time Americans have stared evil in the face. We have done it before, and we have always prevailed.
“We tried, America. We tried – but the Republicans denied, and babies died.
“My fellow Americans, in November you will have the opportunity to say no to the forces of evil, and to set this travesty right. I know the heart of Americans, and I know that you will do the right thing, not only for your own sake, but for the sake of your children, and your grandchildren, and generations of Americans yet unborn.*”
And when President Obama is finished laying out his argument, the Republican nominee, whoever he or she turns out to be, won’t know whether to cry, “Oops!” or “Nein, nein, nein!”
*DrRich is a conservative but also a capitalist, and so his speechwriting services are available to the highest bidder. Mr. Obama, mutual “friends” in the DOJ have proven adept at tracking DrRich down when necessary, and will know how to contact him.
If we are ever to gain control of our healthcare spending, which is a necessity if we are going to avoid an economic catastrophe during the next couple of decades, we have to come to some agreement, as a society, on a few essential questions. Chief among these questions is whether healthcare is something we must consider to be a right for all Americans.
The question of whether healthcare is a right has become a very contentious one. One side passionately declares that of course it is a right, as healthcare is so critically important that how could it be otherwise? And the other side, with equal conviction, asserts that nothing can be a right that creates an involuntary burden on another.
That is, advocates on either side of the argument maintain their respective positions as being axiomatic, as primary and irreducible truths – which does not allow much room for discussion or debate. So instead of dispassionate discussion, we get vituperation. For, when one’s opponent denies an axiomatic truth, he declares himself to be beneath contempt, and unworthy of any degree of respect.
Regular readers will know that DrRich is a peacemaker. Accordingly, he will attempt an apology for each of these mutually exclusive, fundamentally principled positions. He will follow this by a description of the pragmatic (as opposed to principled) position on the matter taken by our current leaders. Then finally, humble as ever, he will offer the “real” answer to the question of whether healthcare is a right.
The Conservative Position
Conservatives (and in most matters, DrRich is among this lot) think of “rights” in terms of “natural rights,” that is, in terms of rights which accrue to every person by virtue of the fact that they are members of the human race. Natural rights are generally considered to descend from the Creator (as the Declaration of Independence explicitly says), or at the very least from the inherent nature of the universe, and thus are not subject to addition or subtraction by any human authority – such as by governments.
Because natural rights are granted equally to every human, it follows that there is no such thing as a right that imposes obligations or limitations on the natural rights of others.
A right to healthcare would most certainly require an abridgement of the rights of others, and so there can be no right to healthcare.
The Progressive Position
Most Progressives do not explicitly deny the existence of natural rights, because doing so would cause them embarrassment when they assert their own inherent and unalterable “truths” (such as the superiority of “diversity” over all other human virtues). However, at their core Progressives do not (and cannot) actually subscribe to natural rights, since the Progressive program virtually requires a Central Authority to assign and distribute and enforce various differential “rights” to various groups, in order to achieve social justice. And achieving social justice is the central requirement for Progressives to reach their ultimate goal of a perfect society.
To Progressives, creating healthcare equality among all Americans is critical to social justice. And so, it becomes axiomatic for them that healthcare must be a right.
It becomes immediately evident that any such “rights” granted under the Progressive program will necessarily create involuntary obligations upon at least some individuals. So it is likewise immediately evident that any “right” for Progressives will fundamentally violate the essence of a “right” for Conservatives.
This impasse, which occurs at the very first step of the discussion, is what prevents Conservatives and Progressives from engaging in any fruitful discussion of whether healthcare ought to be a right.
The Practical Position (The BOSS Rule)
Our current leaders have taken a more practical position on the question of a right to healthcare. They rely on the fact that “rights” are often bequeathed not because of some overarching principle (as with Conservative or Progressive thought), but rather, because of issues of practicality – or more straightforwardly, because the sovereign authority has the desire and the power to do so. They point out that throughout human history innumerable “rights” have been promulgated by the expediency of raw power.
We need only consider, during the course of human events, such widely acknowledged rights as the exceptional rights of the aristocracy (especially the divine rights of kings), the unique rights of the clergy, or the special rights of the Politburo (or the Congress). The fact is that all of these rights clearly imposed more-or-less oppressive obligations on, and limited the individual rights of, the people. But that is not the least matter of concern. Rights become rights because the exigent authority has the desire to create them, and the capacity to exert violence wherever necessary to enforce them.
In this light, one might say that healthcare is a right in America simply because of the BOSS rule (Because Obama Says So). If Obama says healthcare is a right (and he has said so, many times), and has the raw power to back it up, then, by God, healthcare is a right.
The Correct Position
It is easy to see why the “healthcare is a right” debate has become so contentious – people mean entirely different things when they use the word “right.” A right to a Conservative is a natural phenomenon, awarded equally to all people and fundamentally unalterable by human hands. A right to a Progressive is an essential social construct, enumerated by enlightened leaders, which is necessary to further the principle of social justice. And to some non-ideologues a right is whatever the sovereign authority says it is.
To DrRich, none of these constructs are useful to solving our current problem of healthcare spending.
The Conservative position – that because healthcare cannot possibly be a natural right, therefore there is no right to healthcare – not only seems callous to a large segment of Americans, but (as DrRich will shortly demonstrate) is wrong. The Progressive and Practical positions – that healthcare is a right either because it is necessary to further the supreme cause of social justice, or simply because the Central Authority decrees it to be so – leave us in an untenable position when it comes to reducing healthcare spending.
That untenable position occurs because, when a “right to healthcare” is bestowed by the government, under either the Progressive program or the BOSS rule, that right is open-ended. It immediately takes on the characteristics of an entitlement, a grant bestowed on individuals by society because of the group to which they have been assigned (such as: citizens, residents, people over 65 years of age, a particular racial or ethnic group, etc.) That entitlement is to “healthcare” – that is, for whatever we can get the authorities (by whatever political maneuvering we choose to engage) to agree that “healthcare” includes, whether it is well-baby checks, artificial hearts, chemotherapy, extravagant end-of-life care, hair transplants, or cosmetic surgery. A right like this – an entitlement – is rarely taken away, or even limited, once granted. Entitlements are soon seen by their recipients (and by the vested interests that quickly spring up to defend those entitlements, such as the bureaucracy that regulates them, the companies that supply the products for them, and the healthcare professionals that administer them) as something that is owed forever, as a natural, God-given right, which can always be expanded, but never ever restricted.
DrRich, therefore, finds all these positions on a right to healthcare to be unhelpful. For this reason DrRich proposes a new position on a right to healthcare, a position which he humbly calls the Correct Position.
To wit: all Americans have an implied contractual right to healthcare. We have this right because we have long since entered into a contract under which, in exchange for implied considerations, we’re all paying for it.
Under the present healthcare system, a system we have devised over the past six decades through our duly elected representatives, every person living in the United States is sharing in the cost of healthcare for every person who receives healthcare. Since every American, in one or more ways, is paying for the healthcare of every American who receives it, every American has a just claim – a contractual right – to their fair share of that healthcare.
Let us list some of the ways in which Americans all share in the cost of all healthcare:
1) Anyone receiving a paycheck is subject to payroll deductions to pay for Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor.
2) Anyone paying income tax is paying higher tax rates to offset tax-deductible health insurance premiums purchased by businesses for their employees. (That is, employer-provided health insurance is subsidized by the taxpayer.)
3) Anyone buying products in the U.S. is paying higher prices to cover the healthcare costs of American businesses.
4) Anyone living in America is sharing in the massive societal burden we are creating by allowing healthcare spending to be passed off to future generations, by way of the national debt.
These costs, and more, are borne by everybody living in the U.S. And since all Americans are paying the cost of all healthcare – even the cost of so-called “private” health insurance – we all have a right, in the form a consideration under a contract, to claim some of that healthcare for ourselves. To deny this fact would void the contract.
It is important to note that this argument for a right to healthcare is fundamentally different from the arguments typically given. This contractual right is not “granted” to an individual by a beneficent society because of some inherent characteristic of the recipient, but rather, it exists solely because the individual is party to a social contract, created by the peoples’ representatives, under which healthcare is a consideration given in return for certain obligations the individual makes to society. Those obligations would include paying for the publicly-funded healthcare through taxes, and subjecting oneself to whatever limits to publicly-funded healthcare such a system requires in order to maintain societal integrity.
It is critical to understand that this kind of contractual right to healthcare enables us, legally end ethically, to set necessary limits on what we mean by healthcare. The “right” to healthcare is a contractual right, and not a natural right or an ethical requirement. So, under that contract, as in any contract between consenting parties, we have a duty to specify the limits of our mutual obligations, that is, to specify what we mean by “healthcare.” Furthermore, we have a duty to specify what we mean by “healthcare” in such a way that fulfilling the contract does not bring about national bankruptcy or otherwise cause societal destruction.
There would no longer be an obligation to provide individuals with every manner of available healthcare under all circumstances, but only to provide individuals with that level of healthcare which is provided as a public benefit to all other individuals, under the terms of the social contract. (An entitlement to healthcare, in contrast, traditionally is an open-ended promise in which “healthcare” comprises anything and everything one might think has any possibility of restoring every bit of health.)
To summarize, as DrRich sees it we have already created a contractual obligation to provide publicly-funded healthcare to all individuals, by virtue of the fact that we have burdened every individual in America with the cost of healthcare for anyone who is now receiving it. In contrast to the Conservative position, DrRich’s formulation recognizes a right that truly exists, by virtue of a contract that is unarguably in force, and that has been enacted over a long period of time through the offices of the people’s elected representatives. And unlike the Progressive position, DrRich’s formulation does not entrap us into an open-ended obligation to pay for all “healthcare,” however our collective sentiments may entice us to define that term.
We might as well own up to our responsibilities by openly recognizing : a) the universally-shared payments we all make to the cost of American healthcare: b) the right of all Americans to the considerations that arise from this universally-shared burden; and c) that it is right and proper for us to establish clear limits to the obligations borne by all the parties, as we must do with any legitimate contract.
The open recognition of this contractual right to healthcare will finally give us the framework we need for a public discussion on setting necessary limits on publicly-subsidized healthcare spending.
And this, DrRich most humbly submits, is the correct answer to whether healthcare is a right.
DrRich considers it his responsibility to point out to his readers certain truths related to modern American healthcare which may not be obvious to everyone, and which the fine people in the mainstream press choose not to mention.
Be honest. If it weren’t for DrRich, would you be aware that the only reason Obamacare became the law of the land is that the private insurance companies needed it in order to have any hope of long term survival? Would you understand that the Progressive healthcare system to which we are now legally committed inherently requires all of the following things (while loudly proclaiming the opposite): ending the classic doctor-patient relationship; preventing individuals from spending their own money on their own healthcare; killing off the practice of primary care medicine; to the furthest extent possible, limiting preventive medicine; and stifling medical innovation?
One thinks not.
And so, DrRich hopes you will pay attention as he reveals yet another poorly-appreciated truth about our new healthcare system. Namely, it has become the case that maintaining your own wellness is not merely something which would be desirable, something you ought to do, or at least something you ought to want to do. It is now your duty.
You owe it to society to maintain your wellness, to take every step at your disposal to keep yourself from needing to consume healthcare resources. You owe it because healthcare is now a collective responsibility. And if your chosen actions (or inactions) cause you to become unwell, and if your unwellness causes you to consume healthcare resources which otherwise might have been available to individuals who (unlike yourself) became ill through no fault of their own, and if such faultless individuals subsequently suffered or died as a consequence of your failure to honor your duty, well then – that would make you no different from any other common criminal whose selfish actions produce harm to their innocent victims.
Maintaining your wellness is not a nice-to-have; it is your non-negotiable obligation.
You have been told that your wellness is very important to the caring people who will run our new healthcare system. And indeed, it is. So you will, by law, be “entitled” to annual, detailed “wellness checks,” provided by a dedicated team of healthcare workers, who will assess (and record) your efforts to maintain your own wellness, and then will give you all the instruction you need to alter whatever suboptimal behaviors you are displaying. The results of these annual wellness checks will be entered into a federally-approved universal electronic medical record, so that any healthcare provider, anywhere, at any time, will have a complete record of the trajectory of your state of wellness over the years – and of the degree of your compliance with the instructions you have received for maintaining that wellness.
Of course, if you elect to forgo the annual wellness checks to which you are entitled, that information (i.e. that you cared so little for your wellness that you couldn’t be bothered to do anything about it) will also be maintained in the universal electronic records.
Then, when you become ill 10 or 20 years from now, your records can be consulted to decide to what extent your illness can be considered self-induced. For, when resources are scarce, the only moral thing to do is to distribute them according to who is the most deserving.
Most readers are now thinking that DrRich is paranoid. Guilty as charged. However, DrRich’s paranoia, regarding the kinds of behaviors of which our Central Authority is capable, is based on hard experience. Indeed, it is evidence-based.
Still, DrRich is enough of a realist to understand that it is unreasonable to ask his readers to just trust him here. Instead, let’s examine patterns of behavior, regarding supposedly self-induced disease, which our society is already displaying. The best example, one which DrRich has written about extensively, is obesity.
We are witnessing a sustained and ongoing campaign to demonize the obese. Consider: While we are universally urged to stifle any impulsive speech or sentiments which, by any stretch of the daintiest of sensibilities, might make any member of any group (however you choose to define a group) the least bit uncomfortable, it is perfectly OK to castigate the obese, loudly and often. We can say about the obese anything we like. Screw their feelings. It is perfectly fine to insist that it is the obese – gluttonous, lazy, self-indulgent, slothful fat people – who are driving our healthcare spending off a cliff. It is acceptable to publish ridiculously flawed papers in respected scientific journals proving that global warming is caused by the obese (thus pinning upon them the responsibility for upcoming catastrophes of unimagined proportions), and demonstrating that obesity is a contagious disease (which will justify any actions we may choose to take to concentrate the obese into special camps).
A person’s choice to allow themselves to get fat already justifies more than mere words of castigation. Under the British Health Service (the model to which Dr. Berwick and other of our current healthcare heroes openly aspire), the obese (along with smokers, another group of selfish sub-humans who use an unfair share of healthcare) are now being removed from the waiting lists for medical services.* By virtue of their obesity (and the lack of social responsibility their obesity indicates), fat people have forfeited their equal access to healthcare.
*Removing the fat from the waiting lists has at least two beneficial effects. It punishes them, of course, for their selfish refusal to maintain their own wellness. But it also reduces the long waiting lists that exist in Britain for medical services, closer to the target waiting times which the government has been promising its citizens for decades.
Demonizing the obese has many advantages. Chief among these is that the obese are easy to spot. In contrast to the Jews of Nazi Germany, one does not have to sew a Star of David to their jackets to know which individuals are wrecking the culture. By just walking down the street (not that fat people do all that much walking, lazy SOBs) they reveal themselves, by their unsightly corpulence, to be one of those people who are ruining the healthcare system for the rest of us. And we svelter, more worthy citizens can look upon them with the scorn they deserve.
Especially now that we have so many programs and policies aimed at preventing obesity – putting apple slices in Happy Meals, publishing calorie counts in restaurants, being lectured at by First Ladies and skinny movie stars, &c., – anyone who still chooses to remain obese despite all this abundant assistance must be especially contemptible.
Perhaps most useful of all, in the long run, is the fact that real, honest-to-goodness, health-threatening obesity almost always has a strong genetic component. When we learn to demonize the obese, we are learning that wellness is a duty even if your genes (or some other force that is largely beyond your control) mitigates against it.
The obese, therefore, are the perfect target. Thanks to them, we are teaching ourselves that it is right and proper to disdain individuals who are leading less than exemplary lives.
Once we have learned this lesson well, it should be relatively easy for us to apply the same kind of disdain to others who who fail to honor their duty to maintain their own wellness. Most of these scurrilous individuals will not be so obvious to spot as fat people. But at the end of the day, they will reveal themselves in the ultimate manner – they eventually will fall sick. And by their diseases we shall know them.
For the past several years, our healthcare experts have been busy declaring more and more illnesses to be “preventable.” And if an illness is preventable, and an individual fails to prevent it – well, what more do you need? That person has obviously failed to perform their sacred duty to society, and has forfeited any claim to the healthcare we more deserving people can expect.
The list of illnesses which are officially preventable now includes coronary artery disease, heart failure, kidney failure, diabetes, stroke and many kinds of cancer. And just a week or two ago, Alzheimer’s disease was added to the list.
It is possible that in a decade or so, if you acquire an illness from this growing list of “preventable” medical disorders – especially if your annual wellness checks reveal that you have gained weight since college, or you habitually fail to exercise at least 90 minutes per day, or that you imbibe less than one or greater than two alcoholic beverages per day – you may be triaged to Tier B healthcare. Tier A will be reserved for people who obviously care more than you do about wellness, and about their duty to society. Just as obesity does today, the state of your health will demonstrate your true commitment to the perfect society to which we all aspire.
For, when it is your duty to maintain wellness, your illness reveals a grave dereliction.
DrRich’s most recent post attempted to show how the creation of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) – the panel created by Obamacare that (as President Obama himself indicates) will be primarily responsible for reducing the cost of American healthcare - nicely illustrates the Progressive mindset. That Progressive mindset, DrRich maintained, is reflected in the degree of power and breadth of control granted to the IPAB, in the coercive process under which the IPAB was created and its powers granted, and in attempts to bind future Congresses from amending those powers.
DrRich did not imagine that Progressives would like his formulation very much. But as always, DrRich offered his analysis in the hope of engaging readers – friend or foe – in a fruitful exchange of ideas.
And accordingly, DrRich is gratified that the venerable blogger Shadowfax has seen fit to offer a pointed (though to be sure, rather brutal) rebuttal. While the nature of his rebuttal does not exactly invite a civil exchange, DrRich (in the spirit of furthering understanding amongst our mutual readers) will attempt to reply in a collegial manner.
Anyone who has read Shadowfax’s post will know that it would be all too easy for a back and forth to descend into heaped vituperations. Shadowfax begins his presentation, after all, with a scathing ad hominem attack on DrRich’s person. He speculates as to whether DrRich is a confabulist or a conspiracy theorist, and proposes, as the qualities which define DrRich, only the following: “laziness, ignorance, misinformation, or untreated paranoid psychosis.” Along the way DrRich becomes also a partisan hack, deceitful, hysterical, and a purveyor of fluff.
For several reasons, DrRich will not respond in kind. First, when he joined his high school debating team in 1965, one of the first things DrRich learned is that when one has induced his opponent into an ad hominem attack, one has already won the debate. Second, by virtue of his original post on the IPAB, DrRich started it – and when one starts it, one invites and ought to expect a vigorous response. Third, DrRich does not take this ad hominem attack at all personally, so does not feel compelled to return the favor. DrRich comforts himself with the knowledge that Shadowfax does not know him personally, and is confident that if he did, he would be entirely won over (as is everyone) by DrRich’s charm, his joie de vivre, his incisive humor, his charisma, and above all, his humility. And finally, DrRich chooses to view this personal attack clinically, as doing so makes it plain that by its very nature, Shadowfax’s reply is itself entirely illustrative of the Progressive mindset. (In other words, Shadowfax has inadvertently succeeded in reinforcing DrRich’s chief message.)
DrRich will return to this latter point in a short while.
For the record, DrRich does not attribute any negative personality or motivational traits to Shadowfax, and indeed, chooses to believe that he is basically a nice person. (Even if he did not believe it, DrRich would not say so. DrRich notes that Shadowfax is the parent of three children, and he would hate to have those tykes see their Dad publicly subjected to personal insults – despite the fact that Shadowfax neglected to consider the fragile sensibilities of DrRich’s own young ones before publicly besmirching his intellect, motives and psychological health.)
To his credit, the bulk of Shadowfax’s rebuttal (after having dismissed DrRich’s person as being beneath contempt) has to do with matters of fact, or rather, with matters of interpretation of fact. For DrRich thinks he and Shadowfax are surprisingly close on the facts themselves. It is in interpreting the implications of those facts that the difference appears.
And here is where DrRich must diverge for a moment to re-introduce his Theory of Progressive Thought. He has explained this theory at some length in the past, and subsequently has further developed it on several occasions. In so doing, DrRich has explicitly insisted that it is just a theory. It is a proposed framework for explaining the multitude of difficult-to-explain behaviors we have witnessed from Progressives during the last 120 years. In laying out this theory, DrRich has invited one and all to point out its weaknesses, and to suggest a better theory if they have one. Since DrRich himself does not like the implications of his Theory of Progressive Thought – given that Progressives are now running the show – he will, as he has said more than once, be delighted to abandon it for a better theory, should one come to his attention. But in order to be designated a “better” theory, it will have to explain real-world Progressive behaviors even more effectively than does DrRich’s.
Contrary to Shadowfax’s accusations, DrRich does not impute negative motives to Progressives. Indeed, fundamentally Progressives are motivated by a deep desire to achieve societal good. They are dedicated to achieving a society in which all people – whatever their disadvantages and limitations may be – will thrive equally, or as equally as possible. DrRich stipulates that this goal is inherently a good one.
Furthermore, Progressivism being a product of the Age of Reason, Progressives sincerely believe that such a goal is within the reach of mankind. It can be achieved by careful observation, analysis, and rational solutions systematically applied. And therefore it ought to be the goal – rather, it ought to be the duty – of mankind to strive to thus implement effective solutions to society’s problems. And so, Progressives believe that the goal of mankind ought to be to continually progress toward solutions to ALL society’s problems, and hence to strive unrelentingly for a “perfect” society.
And that’s the theory. Contrary to Shadowfax’s accusation, there is no imputation of evil motives in this theory. Indeed, Progressives, as a group, tend to be motivated primarily by compassion for their fellow humans – at least as a starting position.
Unfortunately for everyone, there are two major problems inherent in Progressive thought. First, the rational analyses and the carefully planned solutions to society’s ills which are prescribed by Progressivism are almost always beyond the ken of your average member of the great unwashed. So designing and implementing the Progressive program inevitably relies on a cadre of “specialists,” a class of elites who have the right stuff (the right intelligence, the right education, the right knowledge, the right motivation, &c.) to do the job.
Thus the rational solutions to society’s problems which are offered up by the Progressive program are inevitably to be provided by an enlightened corps of elites, and accordingly, it is the duty of the average citizen (i.e., the rest of us) to cooperate with these handed-down solutions, for the overriding benefit of the whole. Otherwise, the Progressive program cannot succeed.
This fact places Progressivism fundamentally at odds with the Great American Experiment, that is, with a system of government which at its core maximizes the autonomy of we individuals to do as we please, and which allows us to succeed or fail based on our own actions, to the extent that our actions do not infringe on the rights of others. Thus, there is a natural and unavoidable tension between the kind of broad, centrally planned solutions which Progressivism inevitably offers up, and the severely limited sort of central authority provided by our founders.
The second great problem with Progressivism is even more intractable. It is that the kind of societal solutions dreamed up by Progressives invariably require individuals to sacrifice their freedom of action, to one degree or another, for the sake of what the elite planners have determined will benefit the collective – and in so doing, Progressive solutions always seem to require a fundamental change in human nature. That is, the Progressive program requires individuals to subsume their own individual interests to the interest of the collective.
Such a change in human nature will never be forthcoming, and this fact, in the end, will always defeat Progressivism (though often not before a lot of damage is done). Inevitably, the recalcitrance of substantial proportions of the population to their brilliant solutions drives Progressives, once they have been in power for a while, to great frustration, and finally, to drastic repressive action. A history of collectivist governments during the past 100 years amply demonstrates this ugly fact.*
* According to R.J. Rummel in his book Death by Government, during the 20th century the world’s governments killed four times as many of their own people, on purpose, as were killed in all wars combined.
With this brief review of DrRich’s Theory of Progressive Thought (and its implications), let us now quickly visit the differences in how DrRich and Shadowfax view the facts as they pertain to the IPAB.
Is the IPAB designed to function as a dictatorial entity? Shadowfax argues that since it will not be utterly impossible for Congress to overturn the mandates handed down by the IPAB, it is therefore not dictatorial. And from a strict definition of the word he is correct. But DrRich holds that the language of the law (which, to halt the IPAB mandates on healthcare spending, requires a supermajority of the Senate to a) block those mandates, then b) come up with its own cost cutting scheme that will achieve equivalent results), is meant to achieve for the IPAB at least near-dictatorial powers. Even Shadowfax allows this possibility: “The argument is that the IPAB becomes a de facto dictatorial board, because the bar is set too high to override its recommendations. We will see, I suppose.” This unelected panel* of experts will determine who gets what, when and how, and it will be exceedingly difficult (but admittedly not impossible) for Congress to have much to say about it. Therefore, Obamacare explicitly attempts to severely limit the prerogatives of the peoples’ representatives to control the ability of this unelected panel of experts to determine the medical destiny of Americans.
* Contrary to Shadowfax’s unnecessarily gratuitous implication, DrRich has not referred to the multitudes of expert panels created by Obamacare as “death panels.” To do so would make DrRich seem as unsophisticated as Ms. Palin. Rather, DrRich has referred to them by the much more accurate name of GOD Panels (Government Operatives Deliberating).
Is the IPAB designed to be an immutable panel? The plain language of the law very clearly attempts to render it exceedingly difficult (if not impossible) to change the IPAB provisions of Obamacare, thus revealing a wish on the part of its creators to render the IPAB an immutable entity. DrRich agrees with Shadowfax that, in truth, no Congress can actually bind all future Congresses down into perpetuity. But the language of the law clearly expresses a desire to do so. Shadowfax makes some sort of argument to the effect that the phrase “It shall be out of order” gives Congress a pathway to changing the IPAB provisions. And it is true that, under Roberts’ Rules, when a chairman declares some procedure to be “out of order,” there are provisions for appealing that ruling and rendering the thing back into order. But this provision is almost exclusively used to determine whether a member can speak or not. In contrast, the immutability language in Obamacare purports to create a LAW (rather than an ad hoc chairman’s ruling), which declares any action to alter the IPAB to be perpetually “out of order.” DrRich can find no parliamentary procedure addressing this remarkable and audacious circumstance.
In any case, even if the immutability language pertaining to IPAB turns out indeed to be something that can be by some manner overcome, as Shadowfax insists, that fact is not obvious. It has also escaped at least some U.S. Senators, who have interpreted the language the same way that DrRich has. And whatever the parliamentary options that may or may not come into play, the clear intent of the language in this provision is to greatly reduce the ability of future Congresses to alter the IPAB provision (if not actually render it immutable). Once again, this attempt is perfectly consistent with the all-consuming desire of Progressives to implement their expert-controlled programs with only minimal interference from the people (or the peoples’ representatives).
Does the IPAB already have the power to restrict private as well as government healthcare expenditures? Here, Shadowfax appears to concede the point, more or less, and adds that the idea “strikes me as a GOOD thing.” DrRich has described in great detail how and why our Progressive healthcare reforms will inevitably restrict (and is already attempting to restrict) the ability of individuals to pay for their own healthcare with their own money. And now, the IPAB (this very powerful and nearly-immutable panel of experts) has apparently been granted the authority to take charge of this important goal.
The bottom line, regarding these points of fact, is that DrRich and Shadowfax disagree less on the fact themselves than on the implications of those facts. We differ greatly on whether these features of the IPAB – dictatorial (or quasi-dictatorial) powers, immutability (or quasi-immutability), and the power to restrict private healthcare spending – are good things. Shadowfax explicitly believes that they are.
DrRich’s view, of course, is that these legislated features of the IPAB are perfectly consistent with, and even predicted by, his Theory of Progressive Thought. And that was indeed the whole point of his original post. Furthermore, based on the recent history of collectivist governments and where they invariably lead, DrRich does not believe this to be a good thing.
Before ending, DrRich must return to the ad hominem attack launched against him by Shadowfax which, DrRich submits, also perfectly reflects the Progressive mindset.
Almost invariably, once the Progressive elite have settled upon their scientifically-based, rational, centralized solution to some dire societal problem (such as healthcare reform), their thinking regarding the unwashed masses goes through a stereotypical evolution. At first they always believe (their proposed solution being so scientifically sound, so logical and so well-thought-out), that by delivering a carefully packaged explanation of their solution, the people will enter into paroxysms of delight. When the people do not react as expected, and indeed express apprehension or anger at what is being proposed, the Progressives will tell themselves that they must not have explained their solution well enough (but what can one expect, after all, when dealing with the great unwashed?) – and then they will arrange to implement the solution anyway (using whatever machinations and maneuverings are necessary to pull it off), confident that once the teeming masses see the incredible benefits that will accrue to them when the program is actually under way, they will at last display those belated paroxysms of delight. But then, when the program is actually implemented and the people are still complaining about it – or more likely, making their complaints more than merely vocal – the Progressives will begin culling out some of the more prominent troublemakers among them and make examples of them. And if that fails to quell the complaints of the masses, the leaders of collectively-oriented governments have been known to move past disappointment and frustration and into a state of wrath – and this (again, DrRich is simply referring to history) is where the real atrocities have taken place.
The evolution of the Progressives’ frustration regarding the public’s acceptance of Obamacare has moved past the “we can educate them” phase, and past the “we’ll go ahead and implement it and then they’ll like it” phase. They will soon be looking for someone of whom to make an example.
Traditionally, they will diagnose such troublemakers as being either misinformed (stupid), motivated by bad intentions (evil), or mentally deficient (crazy). And (again, historically), the solution to which the dissenter is subjected depends on that diagnosis – typically a re-education camp, elimination, or commitment to a state-run mental institution.
DrRich simply notes that Shadowfax has reacted with distressing typicality to a loudmouth who is not going along with the program. He indicates that the only possible explanations for DrRich’s recalcitrance (since a logical objection is not a possibility) are “laziness, ignorance, misinformation, or untreated paranoid psychosis.” That is, DrRich must be stupid, evil or crazy. It only remains for Shadowfax to decide on which of these diagnoses is correct, so that the appropriate final solution can be prescribed.
DrRich stands by his original contention that the salient features of the IPAB, the manipulative and underhanded process which brought it to life, and now, the reaction of Progressives when they encounter people who complain about it, all perfectly reflect the Progressive mindset.
In the speech President Obama gave responding to Congressman Ryan’s budget plan (the one in which he lured Ryan to sit in the front row in order to be publicly pilloried), the President did something DrRich did not think he would do before the next election. He openly invoked, and openly embraced, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) as the chief mechanism by which Obamacare will control the cost of American healthcare.
“IPAB” might be a new term to many Americans, but DrRich pointed his readers to this entity, within a few weeks of the passage of Obamacare, as the lynchpin (and a very scary lynchpin at that) of the whole enterprise.
Until President Obama’s recent “outing” of IPAB, however, this new board has been almost entirely ignored by most commentators. Since the President’s speech, of course, many have written about it, either to celebrate it or to castigate it. (Of all these commentaries, DrRich most highly recommends the analysis provided by Doug Perednia at the Road to Hellth. In fact, DrRich recommends Perednia in general, as he is regularly producing some of the most insightful commentary, anywhere, on health policy.)
DrRich does not wish to simply repeat here all the observations that have lately been made by others regarding the IPAB. Rather, he will emphasize three particular features of the IPAB, features which are remarkable indeed, and which will tell us something very important about our Progressive leaders.
Three Remarkable Features of the IPAB
1) It has dictatorial powers.
The IPAB is a 15-member board appointed by the President. Section 3403 of the Obamacare legislation tells us that the purpose of this board is to “reduce the per capita rate of growth in Medicare spending,” a noble goal indeed. Furthermore, in a superficial reading of Section 3403, one might think of the IPAB as a sort of Mr. Rogers of healthcare – a mild-mannered, friendly, always-helpful, but ultimately undemanding agent for good. This is the impression imparted by the first few paragraphs of the Section, which paint the new entity as an “advisory” board, whose main task is to develop “proposals” and “advisory reports,” which “proposals” and “advisory reports” would solely consist of various “recommendations,” that ought to be “considered” for the purpose of cost reduction.
Indeed, one might get the impression that the main difference between the IPAB and DrRich (another Mr. Rogers-like, mild mannered and undemanding personage) is that the former is appointed by the President and has a travel budget.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The IPAB is actually all-powerful.
Once the Chief Actuary of CMS determines that the projected per capita growth rate for Medicare exceeds a certain target growth rate (which it inevitably will), the IPAB is required to submit a so-called “proposal” which will cut healthcare costs sufficiently to bring the growth rate back in line; which is to say, the IPAB will determine what will be paid for and what will not. Then, the Secretary of HHS is required to implement that “proposal” in its entirety, unless Congress acts to block implementation. However, Congress is hamstrung. The representatives of the people are forbidden from taking any action “that would repeal or otherwise change the recommendations of the Board,” unless it replaces those “recommendations” with its own legislation that would cut healthcare spending to the same target level.
For all practical purposes, then, the cost-cutting “recommendations” which the IPAB would “propose” for “consideration” will be implemented nearly automatically, with the full authority of the Federal government.
And, for all practical purposes, the IPAB will become a new agency of the executive branch, with near-dictatorial authority to cut healthcare spending where and when and for whom it sees fit.
2) It will control all healthcare spending, not just Medicare spending.
A common accusation, heard these past few weeks from conservative commentators, is that the secret desire of the President and his supporters is to make it so that the IPAB will have these same dictatorial powers over not just Medicare, but over all healthcare spending – public or private. DrRich believes these conservative commentators are unnecessarily accusing the President of being conspiratorial. In truth, no conspiracy is necessary, as this result is already law.
DrRich recommends that these conspiracy theorists read the actual legislation. It is a bit difficult to sort out, but in fact the IPAB is already granted the authority to control private as well as public healthcare spending. It got this authority in a suitably convoluted way.
Those who paid attention to the remarkable process that brought us our new and transformational healthcare system might recall that the Senate bill, which ultimately became law of the land, was never designed to be actually implemented. It was designed solely to assure 60 votes in the Senate, after which the Joint Conference with the House was to meld the House Bill and the Senate Bill into a workable law.
As part of the negotiations to gain those original 60 votes in the Senate, five or six Democrat Senators went behind closed doors to cobble together a list of amendments to the original Senate Bill – the so-called Manager’s Amendments. It is in the Manager’s Amendments that one can find such famous niceties as the bribes paid to Nebraska in order to obtain an extra vote. But the Manager’s Amendments (which, contrary to the expectations of the actual Managers, are now part of our new healthcare law) contained lots of other stuff as well.
One of the more interesting parts of the Manager’s Amendments (Section 10320) is entitled, “Expansion Of The Scope Of, And Additional Improvements To, The Independent Medicare Advisory Board.” (The original language in Section 3403 did not actually create something called an IPAB – it created an IMAB. The Manager’s Amendments re-christened it as the IPAB, as explained below.)
Section 10320 (which can be found way down on page 2210 of the new law) grants the IPAB (beginning in 2015) the authority to limit all healthcare expenditures, that is, all healthcare expenditures, and not just expenditures by Medicare or government-run programs.
To emphasize this expanded authority, Section 10320 changes the name of the “Independent Medicare Advisory Board” (created in Section 3403) to the “Independent Payment Advisory Board.” It directs the IPAB, at least every two years, to “submit to Congress and the President recommendations to slow the growth in national health expenditures” for private (non-Federal) healthcare programs. Furthermore, it designates that these “recommendations” may be implemented by the Secretary of HHS or other Federal agencies “administratively” (that is, without the interference of Congress).
The justification for this expansion of the IPAB’s authority is that controlling private healthcare expenditures will directly impact Medicare, since the “target” Medicare growth rate which the IPAB is charged with achieving will be determined by overall healthcare expenditures. Therefore, it is necessary to control those private expenditures. More practically, if Medicare patients (who are subjected to arbitrary cost-cutting measures) see their younger counterparts enjoying less restricted healthcare, we old farts are likely to become inconveniently rowdy.
Once the Managers had devised enough paybacks in the Managers’ Amendments to get the needed 60 votes, and the law finally passed in the Senate, President Obama and his Congressional allies, Mr. Reid and Ms. Pelosi, determined that allowing the new law to go to Joint Conference would be counterproductive (in particular, they would undoubtedly have lost Section 10302 if the House Democrats ever saw it). So the entire Congress was coerced into voting on the bill as passed by the Senate – including all the Managers’ Amendments – under the reasoning that passing the law right then was a manifest emergency. And Congress, like the rest of us, could find out what was in it after it became law.
We are likely to hear grumbling from even some House Democrats as the real implications of the IPAB become more apparent to the public, since the House Democrats really didn’t get an opportunity to vote on (or read) this provision, except as part of an “all or nothing” healthcare reform bill.
Whatever. While the IPAB may begin by only controlling the cost of Medicare, it already has the authority to control all healthcare spending, including private spending. That’s you, dear reader. No further legislative action is needed.
3) It is an immutable entity.
Section 3403, the section that creates the IPAB and spells out its functions, contains some remarkable language that, DrRich suspects, has never been seen before in American legislative history. To wit:
“It shall not be in order in the Senate or the House of Representatives to consider any bill, resolution, amendment, or conference report that would repeal or otherwise change this subsection.”
So, the astounding truth, dear reader, is that the IPAB and all its designated dictatorial functions are in force for perpetuity. Our Congress has passed legislation that purports to bind all future Congresses from altering it in any way.
We can surmise from this fact that those who wrote this law must consider the IPAB to be very, very important. Of course, we know this because President Obama said so just the other week. However, what many Americans may not yet realize is that the IPAB provision of Obamacare must necessarily be not only the most important feature of our new healthcare system, but also the most important legislative provision ever written. We know this because no other provision has ever received such extraordinary protections from any future alterations whatsoever.
DrRich asks his readers to bask in the utter audacity of our current crop of leaders, leaders who are so sure they know what’s best for us that they were willing to engage in all manner of legislative legerdemain to pass Obamacare, not only against the apparent expressed will of the people, but also (as it turns out) against the objections any future American Congress may have that is sent to Washington by those people.
Not even our Constitution itself – a document that attempted to establish a government for all time – was as audacious as this. For the Constitution, at least, provided a mechanism for its own alteration.
As DrRich racked his brain to think of the last time a law was promulgated with such audacity – not with the audacity of hope, but the audacity of perpetuity – he initially drew a blank. Even monarchs who purported to reign under Divine Right understood that future monarchs, who would also rule under the same God-given right, might thus alter any laws they made.
DrRich believes we need to go all the way back to Moses, coming down from Mt. Sinai and holding aloft his awesome Tablets filled with divine writ, to find a law or set of laws that, from the moment they were written, were decreed to remain in force for ever and ever.
Only God has ever tried this before.
What Does This Tell Us About Progressives?
DrRich has gone on at some length about the Progressive program and the Progressive mindset. The creation of the IPAB, its configuration, and the manner in which it was created, simply reflects that program and that mindset.
Progressives are dedicated to “progressing” to a perfect society, and they know just how to achieve it. Unfortunately, a whole bunch of people – not merely right-wingers and a few Republicans, but most of the masses – just don’t see it their way. Specifically, the Progressive program requires individuals to subsume their own individual interests to the overriding interests of the collective – and human nature just doesn’t function that way.
Thus, the Progressive program inevitably relies on a cadre of elites – those who have dedicated themselves to furthering the Progressive program – to set things up the right way for the rest of us, while manipulating we in the teeming masses to let them. And the rest of us, once the correct programs and systems are in place, will at last understand that it was all for our own good. (Those of us who still don’t get it, to extrapolate from the actions of various collectivist governments of the past century, will either have to be re-educated or eliminated.)
The IPAB would serve as an ideal poster child for the Progressive program. It is an all-powerful commission of experts, appointed by Progressive leaders, which will make decisions based on only the “best” available data (and they are the determinants of what is “best”), that deeply affects the lives of every individual American, whatever the decisions might be that individuals would have made for themselves.
The manner in which the IPAB was created is a model for the Progressives. It involved manipulating the body of government that the Progressives find most problematic – the Congress, the voice of the people – and entirely marginalizing it.
The immutability of the IPAB is also a Progressive dream. Congress was manipulated into creating an all-powerful entity which it (the voice of the people) is enjoined from ever altering, down into perpetuity. The IPAB is forever within the control of the executive branch, which the Progressives, of course, intend to hang on to at all costs. (And, if lost, is relatively easy to regain.)
The fact that President Obama has at last brought the IPAB out of the closet, and has deemed it to be ready for public scrutiny, indicates that he is confident that the people will not understand the profound nature of what has been accomplished by the establishment of such an entity, or if they understand, will still be indifferent about it.
DrRich dearly hopes the President is wrong about this.
A well-known Progressive blogger has taken issue with this post – and with DrRich. See DrRich’s reply to said well-known blogger, here.