The GOP’s Gift To Henry Waxman — Part II

Cold War era Congressman Chet Holifield wanted the federal government to finance a network of underground bomb shelters.  His successor, Henry Waxman, wanted the federal government to take over health care. Holifield failed; Waxman is still doing just fine.  [Credit: NY Times]

Cold War era Congressman Chet Holifield wanted the federal government to finance a network of underground bomb shelters. His successor, Henry Waxman, wanted the federal government to take over health care. Holifield failed; Waxman did just fine. [Credit: NY Times]

Chet Holifield was obsessed with The Bomb.

During a 32-year tenure that flowered during the Cold War, the Los Angeles Congressman sought federal money to help Americans survive a nuclear war.  He called for “a nationwide system of underground shelters” in which to huddle, safe from irradiated debris.

Though Holifield achieved success in other areas – he was known as “Mr. Atomic Energy” for his promotion of nuclear power — he left Congress in 1974 without fulfilling his subterranean vision. Continue reading

The GOP’s Gift To Henry Waxman — Part I

Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and John Boehner (R-OH) took a bow when the House passed a $141 billion health care bill. But Henry Waxman deserves the credit. [Credit: Politico]

Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) took a bow when the House passed a $141 billion health care bill. But Henry Waxman deserves the credit. [Credit: Politico]

“What a way to celebrate a birthday!”  — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) after the House passed bipartisan health care legislation

Sorry, Nancy.  It’s not about you.

The $141 billion health care bill that cleared the House last month and that is expected to win Senate approval next week is a tribute from the GOP-controlled Congress to former Congressman Henry Waxman, a man who worked tirelessly – and with great success – to expand health care-related welfare spending. Continue reading

When Dead Men Rule

G.K. Chesterton worried that our predecessors would have too little influence on our politics. But Gene Steuerle says that they have too much. [Credit: christiancompletely blog]

G.K. Chesterton worried that our ancestors would have too little influence on our society. But a new book by the Urban Institute’s Gene Steuerle says that they exert too much control over our politics. [Credit: christiancompletely blog]

“Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors.  It is the democracy of the dead.”G.K. Chesterton

Chesterton fretted that modern democracies might show too little deference to past generations.  But according to the Urban Institute’s Gene Steuerle, the very opposite is true: in American democracy, dead men rule. Continue reading

Tolerance, The Amish And Hobby Lobby

Pamela Harris, shown here with her disabled son, prevailed at the Supreme Court this week in her challenge to an Illinois law requiring her to pay union dues.  [Credit: Heartland Institute]

Pamela Harris, shown here with her disabled son, prevailed at the Supreme Court this week in her challenge to an Illinois law requiring her to pay union dues. [Credit: Heartland Institute]

For a brief time during the 1980s, I was Director of Policy Development for the Social Security Administration.  The title is more glorified than the reality.  Social Security is a big and ossified program that resists “policy development.”  Congress, ever cognizant of the political risks of tampering with the program, had been forced by its looming insolvency to pass a massive law hiking payroll taxes and raising the retirement age just a few years before.  They were in no mood to entertain additional legislation.

But my job was to prepare options for the Commissioner’s consideration, so I met with career staff who had an idea: why not advocate for a bill requiring self-employed Amish farmers to pay social security taxes? Continue reading

Curly Howard And Our Health Care System

Curly Howard didn't design our healthcare system, but his plumbing misadventure helps explain why it's such a mess -- before and after Obamacare.  [Credit: wondersinthedark.com]

Curly Howard didn’t design our healthcare system, but his plumbing misadventure helps explain why it’s such a mess — before and after Obamacare. [Credit: wondersinthedark.com]

Curly Howard didn’t design the US healthcare system. Or Obamacare. Or Republican proposals to replace it. But he could have.

Howard, the most creative of the Three Stooges, set out to fix a leaking pipe. His solution: add a length of pipe. Each time he did, the flow of water was temporarily interrupted, only to resume, this time out of the pipe he’d just added. Undeterred, he added another length of pipe. By the end of the episode, a frustrated and soggy Curly is enmeshed in pipes. And still the water flows.

So it is with healthcare. The leak, in this case, is the basic premise of insurance – that risk is inevitable and its cost must show up somewhere. Curly’s pipe is regulation – the unceasing attempts by government to divert and disguise the cost of that risk. The system that resulted from perpetual intervention resembles the one Curly produced – costly, cumbersome, inefficient and confusing. Continue reading

Should Obamacare Evolve Into “Medicare for All?”

Federal agents storm a Los Angeles hospital engaged in a scheme to defraud Medicare.  Such fraud is rampant, raising the question of whether "Medicare for All" is a good idea. [Credit: LA Times]

Federal agents storm a Los Angeles hospital engaged in a scheme to defraud Medicare. Such fraud is rampant, raising the question of whether “Medicare for All” is a good idea. [Credit: LA Times]

Estill Mitts, a 68-year-old from Los Angeles, came up with an enterprising idea some years back that made him millions: pay homeless people from the city’s “Skid Row” district who were eligible for Medicare or Medicaid to check into local hospitals, even if they didn’t need to be there.

Setting up shop at a faux medical facility that he dubbed the ”Assessment Center,” Mitts hired what he called “stringers” to pay homeless people small sums of money to go to one of three medical facilities that were in on the scam – City of Angels, LA Metropolitan and Tustin Hospital and Medical Center – where they were admitted whether or not they actually required care. The hospitals billed Medicare or Medicaid for the inpatient stays and made kickback payments to Mitts. Continue reading

Welfare or Work: A Difficult Choice

The choice between welfare and work is not always an easy one, according to a new study by the Cato Institute.  (Credit: LA Times)

The choice between welfare and work is not always an easy one, according to a new study by the Cato Institute. (Credit: LA Times)

(NOTE: This post was updated on September 23 to incorporate the government’s newly-released poverty rate data.)

If forced to choose between a full-time job that paid $24.40 per hour and enrolling in a package of government benefits that paid a comparable amount, which would you choose? Continue reading

Obamacare: We Don’t Need No Innovation

The Ford Edsel didn't last, but the 1965 Medicare benefit remains largely unchanged nearly 50 years later. [Credit: phrenicea.com]

The Ford Edsel didn’t last, but the antiquated Medicare benefit did, still largely unchanged nearly 50 years later. 
[Credit: phrenicea.com]

Beginning next January, it will be illegal for insurance companies to sell policies modeled on the benefit that millions of seniors receive through Medicare.

And that’s a good thing. Continue reading

WH Surrenders to Political Reality on Private Medicare Plans

Photo of seniors (500x500)

The Obama Administration surrendered to political reality yesterday, granting a program that seniors love and that it loathes a reprieve from what would have been devastating cuts.

Continue reading

Budget Wars: Can They Bridge the Health Care Gap?

Budget debates make good political theater. Each party forces recorded votes designed to score political points and embarrass members of the opposing party. The House had fun yesterday with some amendments before adopting the Republican proposal written by Paul Ryan (R-WI). The Senate began debate on its proposal last evening and is bracing for Friday’s “vote-a-rama” – a day of recorded votes on dozens of politically-barbed amendments advanced by members of both parties. Continue reading