Can You Believe it? Unfortunately, Yes We Can!

By Jeb Bradley

Joe Castiglione, the inestimable radio play-by-play announcer of the Boston Red Sox, has called two World Series victories. When the last out was recorded, Joe finished his play-by-play with words that rang through all of New England: “Can You Believe It?

The “unbelievabilty” of the Red Sox winning two World Series has passed, but the unbelievability of what is happening in Concord and Washington continues to grow – the polar opposite of Red Sox Nation’s joy.

In Washington, spending escalates unchecked, the deficit hemorrhages red ink, and the overall debt frighteningly approaches unsustainablity. The 2009 deficit was $1.42 trillion. It is likely to grow in 2010 and is estimated to average nearly a Trillion Dollars for the next ten years. The total debt hit $12 Trillion, an eye popping $39,000 for every American man, woman, and child. 

Taxes are also set to go through the roof. Unless Congress acts before year’s end, each tax bracket for individual Americans will climb, the marriage penalty reappears, and small business expensing provisions disappear. Taxes on investment income – particularly tough on seniors, will jump precipitously and the death tax will come roaring back. In 2013 a new .9% increase in the Medicare payroll tax goes into effect as well as a 3.8% tax on investment income. In 2014 a federal tax on health insurance will be added to the tax-soup. Meanwhile, Washington is abuzz with talk of a staggering new Value Added Tax.

All of this is against the backdrop of the Unemployment Rate hovering near 10%.

The view from Concord is similar. Spending increased by 23% over the last two budgets and the State now faces a $220 million deficit despite nearly draining the so-called Rainy Day Fund. The next budget gets even worse as one-time federal money disappears and the deficit explodes past $600 million. These deficits are despite the 38 new or increased fees and taxes including the job-killing income tax on small business owners known as the LLC Tax. Now Governor Lynch is proposing new taxes on tobacco products and higher property taxes as the State shifts ever more costs to cities and towns.

While Congress and Concord flounder with deficit spending and taxes, 52,508 of our New Hampshire friends and neighbors are out of work and scant progress has been made to reverse the hardship of job loss.

Just when one would think conditions could not get much worse --- they have.   Despite the overwhelming need to create jobs for Americans, Washington has spent the last year concentrating on health care reform. Unquestionably, insurance reforms dealing with pre-existing conditions, insurance cut-offs during illness, and life-time limits were overdue. However, what Congress produced is “reform” that will cost at least $1 trillion over ten years, drive up costs for states, reduce choices for consumers, increase taxes, cut Medicare for seniors, increase insurance costs, further increase the deficit and debt, and lead to more government take-over of health care in America.

Given health care reform problems, the flawed political process used to pass it, and the significant majorities of Americans fundamentally opposed to the federal legislation, why would New Hampshire Democrats eagerly follow their Congressional brethren and attempt to pass New Hampshire’s version of health care reform? Unbelievable perhaps, but that’s precisely what Concord Democrats are proposing.

In a little noticed move late last week a non-germane amendment was scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday April 27th to ostensibly be added to legislation that had previously passed the Senate: SB-455. This amendment will give the New Hampshire Insurance Department (NHID) virtually carte-blanche authority to adopt any and all rules to implement health care reform in New Hampshire per the federal legislation. This type of unfettered authority for the NHID would leave the Legislature almost totally devoid of any say over health care policy in New Hampshire – an almost unprecedented transfer of power from elected officials to an unelected government agency.

Federal health care reform is now the law of the land. But, before Concord Democrats kowtow to an all knowing federal government and cede control of health care policy to the Insurance Department, consider the following: 

The most significant federal mandate --- that states show progress creating so-called health exchanges --occurs in January 2013. Exchanges must be implemented by January of 2014. This amendment does not need to be jammed through now without proper scrutiny, and --- if even necessary --- can and should be fully vetted in the next Legislature.

Furthermore, the NHID would have authority to commit taxpayers to more generous Medicaid benefits than required under the federal law. This decision must be left to elected officials more accountable to taxpayers.

Twenty one states have joined the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of key provisions of health care reform. Shouldn’t New Hampshire wait for the outcome of this challenge before simply blessing the new federal law?

Lastly, national elections will be held in just six months. There could well be a political shift in Washington that may dramatically impact the status of the federal law. Yet, another reason to wait!

Regardless of whether the new federal law is good or bad or some combination– it is simply unfathomable that Concord Democrats would transfer all implementation of the law to an unelected bureaucracy.

Governor Lynch had previously – and correctly -- spoken out against unfunded mandates in the federal law that will substantially increase costs to New Hampshire taxpayers. Now however, executive agencies indicated these new costs are apparently acceptable

Just as apparent, Concord Democrats are simply falling into line and embracing whatever decree and judgment Washington orders.

Thus Concord Democrats are hoping to slip this unprecedented amendment through quickly with at best cursory review. Given their record on taxes, spending, deficits, and a faltering economy it’s no wonder they would want to push this through before anyone notices.

Can you believe it? Unfortunately---Yes We Can!