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Roger’s Rules

“What Just Happened?”

March 29th, 2010 - 8:15 am

Our daughter, aetat 2 and a bit, has been talking up a storm lately. The world, she has discovered, is a surprising place. When something happens that she doesn’t understand, her usual query is: “What just happened?” There’s an unexpected noise: “What just happened?” Her mother exclaims over a dropped stitch: “What just happened?” I scan the latest news out of Washington and mutter: “What just happened?”

It’s hard to know how to respond. One thing that happened is that she is already nearly $40,000 in debt: how precocious the young are today! A week ago, the Obama administration, aided by its Democratic allies in the House, passed one of the most unpopular and radical pieces of legislation in the history of the Republic. What just happened? The United States suddenly became poorer. How much poorer? It will take years, maybe decades, to tabulate. AT&T acknowledged the obvious by taking a billion-dollar charge in its first quarter to help pay for the anticipated cost of Obama’s experiment with socialized medicine. Caterpillar, 3M, Deere & Company, and AK Steel Corporation also announced that they would be taking huge charges in order to prepare for the government’s intrusion into their businesses. What just happened? The recession just got longer. Adding tens or hundreds of billions of dollars of liabilities to your balance sheet isn’t exactly a prescription for growth, is it?

What just happened? In the kaleidoscope world of Obama, it’s hard to keep track. A few days into the brave new world of ObamaCare and at least a dozen major companies have seen the future and have seen that it is expensive. Just wait till the health insurance companies finish totting up the damage, dividing it by the number of policies they write, and passing along the cost to you, the consumer, in the form of higher premiums.

But wait! Wasn’t ObamaCare supposed to make thing cheaper? That’s what the Democrats have said. (Well, some of them. Nancy Pelosi, in an uncharacteristic burst of candor, said that “we have to pass the health care bill so that you can find out what is in it.”) But companies across the country have started assessing what’s in store and are planning accordingly. They have looked to the market, not The Narrative, for their marching orders. As Andrew McCarthy observed over the weekend, our Democratic masters in Washington do not appreciate this forthrightness. The Narrative according to them is that ObamaCare will make health care cheaper. Ergo, if premiums go up, if companies lose various tax credits for providing health care or drugs, that’s just too bad. More expensive is the new cheaper. The Narrative demands it. Hence, as McCarthy reports,

People’s Commissar Henry Waxman is now planning to haul the companies before his committee because their disclosures fail to play along with our Leftist rulers’ script that Obamacare “will expand coverage and bring down costs.”

But, say, aren’t companies required to disclose events that materially affect their balance sheets? Isn’t that part of what financial transparency is all about?

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