Consumer Power Report #208

Published December 28, 2009

I have never been more worried about the future of liberty than I am this Christmas. I am normally pretty calm (if a tad cynical) and don’t like to get into hyperbole. But I see very little in the public square to be cheerful about.

I don’t normally talk about this, but in the past year I have been rediscovering Christianity. I’ve always been a nominal Christian, but never actually paid much attention to it. But something has been tapping on my shoulder lately telling me to wake up.

Almost every book I’ve read in the past several years has had a Christian message. These include Dean Koontz thrillers, historical works like Boswell’s Life of Johnson and Winston Churchill’s History of the English Speaking People, and more focused works like Dinesh D’Souza’s. I was even looking for something to read in an airport bookstore and a clerk recommended The Shack.

So, I finally took the hint (I’m a little slow sometimes) and started looking into all of this. I’m not here to proselytize, so I’ll just say that this Christmas season, in spite of all the political chaos, is going to be one of the most joyous of my life.

I hope you find some joy in it, too.



Harry Reid’s hurry-through bill is about to become the law of the land. All that need happen now is for Nancy Pelosi to get her minions to hold their noses and vote to pass the Senate bill as written. She then avoids a messy conference and re-vote in the Senate.

She can do this easily. Votes in the House come a lot cheaper than in the Senate and all she needs is 50% +1. Her arguments will be that:

  • This is HISTORY
  • We must not let President Barack Obama down
  • We can fix it later
  • Public opinion will change once the bill is signed
  • It is this or nothing.

Those very few Democrats who are not persuaded by these arguments can be easily bought off with cushy jobs in the Obama administration. Then they can collect their Congressional pensions and also have a fat salary paid for by the taxpayers. Sweet deal.

Then on to the White House for a glorious bill signing ceremony by January 18, just in time for the State of the Union address.

There isn’t a damned thing opponents can do about it … except plan to vote these guys out of office this coming November and repeal it in the next Congress. But that is easier said than done. Such a repeal would surely be vetoed by the president.

Even the elections are no sure thing. This legislation is a gigantic give-away to interest groups like the AMA, AARP, the pharmaceutical industry, and the insurance industry. The share prices of insurance companies are at a 52-week high in anticipation of the profits to come. Just as these groups spent millions in advertising to support this legislation, they will spend even more in campaign contributions to protect it in the future.

While most of the American people oppose this legislation, and will hate it even more once they find out what is in it, the Washington elite doesn’t care. The politicians are now firmly in charge of the entire American economy. They have made themselves into Grand Poobahs who will dole out favors to their friends and punish their opponents.


One example is a give-away to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan authored by Sen. Carl Levin. The bill is supposed to raise money by applying an excise tax to insurers, but Mr. Levin decided that not-for-profit insurers (like BCBS of Michigan) should be exempt, even though there is no real difference between them. In fact, when complaining about market domination in health insurance, Mr. Obama missed the fact that most of those dominators are non-profit Blues plans. Now, of course, the for-profit Blues plans like Wellpoint are upset that they didn’t get in on the deal.

SOURCE: Washington Times

And The Wall Street Journal writes that longshoremen have been added to the list of job categories that are exempt from the 40 percent excise tax on high-cost plans, courtesy Sen. Reid (how many longshoremen are there in Nevada, anyway?) But these folks join in with 17 high-cost states that are also exempt from the excise tax. Or, as the Journal writes, “So controlling health costs is enormously important, except in the places where health costs need the most control.”

SOURCE: Wall Street Journal

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen fancies himself an expert on health care because his wife has been seriously ill. He says that while being in her hospital room, “I would sometimes drift to the window and look out over a city with several million people and wonder: What do they do? What do they do if they have no health insurance?”

Yes, indeedy. Royalty often looks out the window and wonders about the little people.

But he understands the limits of government. He writes,

“Ben Nelson did get special privileges for Nebraska, and Mary Landrieu got goodies for Louisiana. Carl Levin got a little something for Michigan; and New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont all found something under the Senate’s Christmas tree. There are mysterious provisions in the bill to favor this state or that, this hospital or that — but no money went into the pockets of members of Congress, so this is not corruption as we know it. It just smells the same.”

His hubris shows when he repeats all the myths that have been used to sell this monstrosity. “Only in America can sickness send you to the poorhouse.” Jeeez. Maybe he doesn’t know that people in most European countries actually have higher out-of-pocket costs than Americans do.

But it gets worse. He writes,

“Behold the uninsured. Look at them in their terror. See their faces as they are denied coverage for preexisting conditions or their looks of despair because they cannot afford insurance at all. Watch them ignore symptoms of sickness, pass up examinations or wait, often for hours and hours, for free medical services.”

What? People don’t wait for care in Europe and Canada? Hellooooo! And this notion of denials for pre-existing conditions is getting really tiresome. That applies solely to new applicants in the individual market. Which means almost nobody. Yet that little item has driven this whole push to change health care for every single American.

SOURCE: Washington Post

Columnists don’t come much more partisan than Dana Milbank of the Washington Post. He rarely has a kind word for Republicans or a critical thought for Democrats. But even he seems to be appalled at the crass votes-for-sale attitude of the Senate Dems, calling it, “Cash for Cloture.” He writes, “As Senate Democrats finally complete their health-care legislation, those combing through the bill have uncovered many backroom deals that were made to buy, er, secure the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture.”

SOURCE: Washington Post

In the same paper, Philip Rucker notes the unprecedented Christmas rush. He writes, “Senators and their staff members have been deprived of sleep and are subsisting on takeout pad Thai, cafeteria panini and office cookies. Stuck on Capitol Hill every day since Nov. 30, they have had no time for the gym, let alone Christmas — no time to buy a tree, unpack lights and ornaments, or shop for presents.”

While he notes that most of the policy staff aren’t complaining — in fact, they are thrilled to be a part of this historic moment — the same doesn’t apply to all the support staff, the “police officers, clerks and student pages who keep the place humming” and would prefer to be home with their families.

SOURCE: Washington Post


Finally, let’s wrap up with a graph that was assembled by a liberal professor of economics at a large Midwestern university. I rarely agree with this fellow but we often have interesting conversations. In this case, he has hit a home run that provides a whole lot of food for thought.