Peter Lemiska
Sometimes Congress gets it wrong
By Peter Lemiska
March 23, 2010

After months of wrangling, arm-twisting, deal-making, and a series of surreal events, Obamacare has become law, despite overwhelming public opposition and claims that it amounts to socialized medicine, eventually leading to huge tax increases, insurance premium increases, government rationing of health care, public funded abortions, and an ever expanding national debt. More than that, critics are incensed by the tactics used to pass it, calling the process an affront to our democratic principles.

Congressional Democrats framed the issue as a basic right, guaranteed to all Americans at any cost. Their rhetoric was filled with rants against health care providers, endless anecdotes about abuses by health insurers, and reflections on Ted Kennedy's Utopian dreams. They said they addressed all those practical concerns cited by their critics, yet we somehow sensed that all those things didn't really matter to them — that the only thing truly important was universal health care. At any rate, they ultimately failed to win the trust and support of the American people. Despite all that, they had the resolve, the resourcefulness, the chutzpah, and the numbers to force the bill through.

But it was a strictly partisan effort, and not such a great accomplishment, given their sizable majorities in both houses of Congress and a committed, progressive President. Voters in the 2008 election unwittingly handed it to them on a silver platter. The real question is why did it take so long to get it passed? Now, as they line up to pat each other's back, basking in their moment of glory, they should temper their revelry with a dose of reality, and reflect on the outrage they have spawned across the country. If they did, they might discover an undercurrent of foreboding about unintended consequences, about the seething American public, and about their own political futures.

If their critics' predictions come to pass, this bill could lead to economic and social chaos and a loss of individual freedom in our country, proving it to be one of the greatest legislative blunders in our history. It would not be the first congressional blunder to rankle the American public. In December 1917, Congress, under pressure from temperance groups and progressive reformers calling for more government control, passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, commonly called Prohibition, or the Volstead Act. There was no public polling back then, but we know that public opposition quickly grew, and over the years, the unintended consequences of that act began to outweigh its benefits. It led to flagrant mass violations of the law, bootlegging, and ultimately, widespread violence. There simply were not enough resources to enforce a law that the public wholeheartedly rejected, and in 1933 it was repealed.

Of course, there's one huge difference between the Volstead Act and the health care reform bill. The latter is an entitlement program, so opposition is not, at least for now, universal. Some people certainly will benefit from it. Democrats claim that 30 million more people, one tenth of our population, will now have the health insurance that they did not have before. Most believe it will be to the detriment of the vast majority of Americans, who are reasonably satisfied with their current plans. And no one knows with certainty what other unintended consequences might arise from this bill. In fact, we may not know for years if all those other concerns raised by its critics will come to pass.

Incumbent Democrats are counting on those 30 million new beneficiaries to support them at the polls in November. They also hope that enough opponents will find something positive in this legislation and come to accept it before then. And no doubt they're crossing their fingers that none of those catastrophic predictions surface, and that tempers will cool — at least before the elections.

Considering the dramatic turnabout in Obama's poll numbers and the overwhelming negative opinion of Congress, there is at least a chance that Republicans can regain legislative control later this year. But that can only happen if the voters who hate this bill show a bit more resolve than Representative Bart Stupak, and they approach the next election with the same single-minded determination that the Democratic leadership showed in passing the bill. It can only happen if — and this is a big "if" — if voters can turn away from government dependence and resist the onslaught of bribes in the form of government giveaways. If all that happens, perhaps Republicans will have an opportunity to halt our slide towards socialism. Maybe they can even repeal this bill. It's been done before.

© Peter Lemiska


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Peter Lemiska

Peter Lemiska served in the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Secret Service. Following his retirement from the Secret Service, he spent several years as a volunteer for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Like most of his contemporaries, he's always loved his country, and is deeply dismayed by the new and insidious anti-American sentiment threatening to destroy it. He's a life-long conservative, and his opinion pieces have been published in various print media and on numerous internet sites.


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