Harry Truman is forever remembered by the honest but prophetic words on his desk: THE BUCK STOPS HERE.
Several generations later Truman’s descendents in the Democratic Party, notably Nancy Pelosi, will be aptly remembered by the words: PASSING THE BUCK.
My grandfather, a practical and humble man who was in the clothing business greatly admired Mr. Truman’s blunt manner. My grandfather took great pleasure in the fact that President Truman ran a haberdashery and even though Truman’s business failed --- he made good on his debts.
Contrast Truman’s personal responsibility with today’s Washington where this year’s deficit, a staggering $1.42 TRILLION, exceeds last year’s record breaking deficit of $455 BILLION by an unimaginable factor of three. While the deficit has scarcely raised a ripple of actual concern during this year’s literal spending eruption, the deficit has raised political anxiety -- not coincidently in the wake of Democratic losses in the recently blue state of Virginia and the consistently blue New Jersey. Taking his cue from this stunning turnaround, President Obama with great fanfare recently announced his administration would focus extensively on reducing the deficit…….NEXT YEAR!
But first Democratic leaders in Washington are pulling out all the stops to pass healthcare reform. Speaker Pelosi was able to muscle through legislation a week ago even though 39 courageous or at least politically expedient Democrats resoundingly voted NO. They voted against Pelosi’s plan because it will spend over a trillion dollars, require punishing tax hikes on individuals and businesses, cut Medicare benefits to over 10 million seniors, raise insurance premiums on working middle class Americans and inject government bureaucrats between Americans and their physicians.
The legislation would even require Americans who do not have employer sponsored health insurance to purchase it through a government run health exchange or pay an income tax surcharge. Failure to pony-up would lead to large fines and even jail -- for otherwise law-abiding and freedom-loving Americans. Predictably, Pelosi’s ever loyal drill-sergeant, Carol Shea-Porter, strongly defended this provision. While meeting with Alton Selectmen she insisted, “I think when you can pay for insurance, you must.” (Laconia Citizen November 14).
Even with 2000 pages of unsavory and probably unconstitutional provisions like this now coming to light as Americans actually read the bill, President Obama’s biggest problem remains the staggering cost. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projected costs of $1.05 TRILLION. More alarming, CMS, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (the people who actually run these programs), just estimated that our nation’s overall health care costs could be almost $300 BILLION higher because of the legislation. CMS also stated some of the legislation’s proposed Medicare cuts are so onerous providers may decline to treat those patients and were Congress to intervene at a future date the savings envisioned today would prove to be “significantly smaller.”
Thus, the President is in a box: a prisoner of his own promise not to increase the deficit by a single dime and a captive of Americans increasing angst over mounting debt.
So where do the President and Congressional Democratic leaders turn? There is only one place: mandating new costs onto states. Every version of health care legislation pending in Congress liberalizes eligibility for Medicaid, the program that provides health care for low income Americans. More importantly for state budget writers --- they will be expected to pick up BILLIONS of the bill!
Former Health and Human Services Commissioner John Stephen recently unveiled projections about the extent to which New Hampshire taxpayers would be on the hook for PelosiCare.
Stephen said currently many New Hampshire residents are eligible for Medicaid but do not enroll. Given Pelosi’s mandate that all American’s purchase healthcare or face tax surcharges with fines and jail-time as penalties for non-compliance, it is likely these folks will enroll in Medicaid. There is no additional federal funding so New Hampshire’s costs will explode.
Stephen also portrayed the impact of liberalizing Medicaid eligibility criteria. Currently New Hampshire provides Medicaid to adults with children who have incomes at or below 63% of the federal poverty limits. This would be expanded to cover all adults at or below 150% of poverty. Pelosi’s legislation would have the federal government pay for these costs until 2015, but after that New Hampshire taxpayers would be expected to pick up part of the tab of these new obligations. Total PelosiCare cost estimates by John Stephen for New Hampshire: $1.23 BILLION over ten years.
Given these stark projections from unfunded federal health mandates coupled with current budget shortfalls, a budget crisis is looming when the federal stimulus evaporates. This means New Hampshire could face the imminent and nasty prospect of an income tax.
Unable to wish away this apparently trivial $1.23 BILLION, the New Hampshire Democratic Party (NHDP) tried instead to shoot the messenger accusing Republicans of “deliberately trying to mislead the people of New Hampshire.” Thinking perhaps that no-one would notice, they chortled that under PelosiCare “almost all of the costs to states are covered.”
Unfortunately for the NHDP someone important did notice and is apparently very concerned that the words -- ALMOST ALL -- really may mean $1.23 BILLION of new uncompensated federal mandates.
Not one to be misled, late last week Governor Lynch’s spokesperson said, “the Governor remains concerned about possible cost-shifting to the State. How health care reform will be paid for is obviously still a question.”
Governor Lynch is right……it is a $1.23 BILLION unanswered question.
For precisely this reason, I have introduced legislation that would ensure New Hampshire taxpayers are not responsible for any expansion of Medicaid unless that expansion is duly authorized by the New Hampshire Legislature. Given the huge budget quandaries our state confronts for the foreseeable future unless we reduce state spending, this legislation is a common sense and hopefully bi-partisan response to Washington Democrats trapped in the clutches of their runaway spending spree…….ever so willing to pass the buck -- to us.