"The era of the 1,000-page bill is over," Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander quipped at a press conference yesterday discussing H.R. 3962, the new House health care proposal. "We have the 2,000-page bill," he deadpanned Actually, the legislative text of the "Affordable Health Care Act for America," a bill "To provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending, and for other purposes," is a staggering 1,990 pages -- far far more than the English translation of Tolstoy's War and Peace. And, after having skimmed my way through a couple of hundred pages of this bill by Messrs Dingell, Rangel, Waxman, Miller, Stark, Pallone, Andrews et al , I can tell you it's far, far less interesting than Tolstoy's masterwork -- which isn't exactly a page-turning to begin with.
Republican Dave Camp told reporters he was going to read the bill while flying back to his Michigan home. Upon hearing Camp make this comment I thought, "Either he's the fastest reader in the House of Representatives or he's taking the slowest flight in the world." As it turned out, Camp was stymied in his plans to stow the bloody thing on board; it turned out to be too big to fit in the overhead compartment. And with good reason: H.R. 3962 stands nearly 9 inches tall and weighs 19 pounds.
The fact that this bill is of both staggering length and stultifying lingo makes one wonder precisely how many people are actually going to read and digest it in its entirety. And, to make matters more intense, H.R. 3962 is merely one of at least 5 different omnibus health care proposals currently floating around Capitol Hill. Who but the Platonic Absolute of a legislative wonk would even attempt such a task? It strikes me that anyone actually reading the bill in its entirety is in serious need of getting a life.
Presuming that the aforementioned is true -- that few if any will ever master the "Affordable Health Care Act for America" -- one wonders how it turns out that so many are issuing dire warnings about specific aspects of a bill they have not read. I really rather doubt that people like Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, John Boehner or Tim Pawlenty have read HR 3962 -- or HR 3200 or Senator Max Baucus' "America's Healthy Future Act of 2009," or any of the others. And yet, there they are -- along with dozens upon dozens of their Republican colleagues -- attempting to scare the daylights out of the American public by "disclosing" such perniciousness as:
- Last Friday, Sarah Palin's Facebook page contained the following: "The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so that his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment, of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care." [Note: There is a provision which authorizes Medicare to pay doctors for counseling patients about end-of-life care, if the patient wishes.]
- Working from almost the same script, House Minority Leader John Boehner warned that this same provision "may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia." [Note: Page 425 of the current House bill contains a provision requiring Medicare to pay for some end-of-life counseling sessions with a health care practitioner. Period]
- Representative Michelle Bachmann has claimed in numerous speeches that "The real issue is, will illegal aliens have access to taxpayer-subsidized health care? Well, the answer is yes, they will. In the bill, 3200 has a section that says illegal aliens will not have access to health care, and that's why President Obama is able to say that. But the practical effect is that illegal aliens will have access to health care because there is no provision for enforcement in the bill." [Note: HR 3200 specifically says that "no federal money will be spent on giving illegal immigrants health coverage."]
- Additionally, Bachmann has said that the bill contains a provision that will "put sex clinics in our schools . . . and puts Planned Parenthood in charge of these sex clinics because the bill requires [it] under this provision." According to Bachmann, "School children will be able to go to a sex clinic during lunch, obtain an abortion, return to school and then go home . . . without anyone being the wiser as to their having had an abortion." [Note: According to the legislative service Politifact, "We see no language in the three main versions of the bill that would allow school-based clinics, which have a long history of providing basic health services to underprivileged students, to provide abortions."]
And on and on.
In the days and weeks to come these scare tactics and outright untruths will no doubt be receiving a lot of exposure. And the folks who scream the loudest will no doubt make it appear that they have poured over the various bills with a fine-tooth comb. In raising fear levels across the country, they will be seeking nothing less than to convince folks that it is most appropriate for them to stand in opposition to things which are inherently in their best interest -- a really nifty trick when you think about it. One wishes that every time one of these folks uncovered another malevolent clause they were asked to cite section, clause, page and verse. For if they were, it would then soon be revealed that they really don't know what in the world they are talking about; that they are merely doing the bidding of those who pay their bills.
And now, if you will excuse me, I'm in the mood for an easier, quicker read . . . perhaps War and Peace?
©2009 Kurt F. Stone