Belmont Club

The Dead Hand

President Obama reminded his constituents that health care “reform” was a life support system for a number of political constituencies which would otherwise die without it. He reminded Congressional Democrats that their political fates were tied to the health bill and that they could not save themselves by voting against the President. Rep Suzanne Kosmas of Florida typified conflict. The Democrat represents a district whose economy was eviscerated by Obama’s NASA budget cuts. Now she can have some of them back — if she votes for health care “reform. She would only say about her health care discussions with President Obama that “I did have a conversation last week on NASA.” Mike Synan of WDBO says Kosmas insisted the conversations were unrelated.

Last week, President Barack Obama invited Kosmas to the White House for a private chat, while Republicans chartered a plane Tuesday to fly over her hometown with a banner urging beachgoers to call her office and tell her to vote no. …

“I know there are many disappointed people who are counting on her for the final lap of the race,” said Linda Merrell, a self-described “lifelong friend” to Kosmas and a local activist in support of the Democratic health-care plan. …

“Kosmas might as well start planning her retirement if she votes for this thing … especially if she votes for [it] as part of some shady side deal,” said Andy Sere, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The NRCC has targeted Kosmas’ March 11 meeting with Obama, calling it a “sunshine sellout” because she frequently pivoted the 20-minute chat to NASA and Kennedy Space Center, which is set to lose up to 9,000 jobs when the space shuttle completes its final four missions scheduled for this year. …

She vehemently denied the insinuation of quid pro quo and said she would make her final decision after taking time to read the bill.

The oxygen most special interests needs to survive is money; and the health care “reform” bill is above all about delivering it to keep the vital signs ticking over. Take the Congressional Hispanics. Paul Kane’s Washington Post blog says that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus announced its unanimous support for his bill, which is remarkable because they were against it. “Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and several other CHC members had been threatening to withhold their support because of provisions the Senate added restricting illegal immigrants from using their own money to access the insurance exchanges that would be established by the proposed legislation.” Something appears to have changed their minds; but then again the therapeutic effect of money is nothing short of miraculous.

Diana Furchtgott-Roth of Real Clear Markets notes the pivotal role that health care “reform” will play in keeping SEIU pensions alive. Without the bill’s passage — by the “deeming” process or otherwise — the union can’t keep expanding membership, which is the key to keep their faltering pension plans going. With health care “reform” it will cling to life a little longer.

More than flexing labor’s political muscles, the overriding reason for SEIU support of health care reform is that it would bring in more members. The percentage of private sector workers belonging to unions has been declining steadily, and reached 7.2% in 2009. Partially offsetting this is the percentage of unionized government workers, 37% last year, up half a percentage point from 2008.

And without more members, the SEIU’s troubled pension funds will continue to fall short of 80% funding, considered by the Labor Department to be acceptable financial coverage.

Even before the stock market crash of 2008-09, the SEIU’s 1199SEIU Greater New York Pension Fund was funded at 58% for 2007. The Service Employees 32BJ North Pension Fund stood at 68%; the Local 32BJ Building Maintenance Contractors Association Pension Plan at 41%; and the 32BJ District Building Operators Pension Trust Fund at 56%. ….

Successful lobbying for health-care reform would expand the health centers available for unionization, driving up costs. The SEIU now represents employees of many providers, including Kaiser Permanente, The League of Voluntary Hospitals and Homes of New York, Tenet Healthcare Corporation, and Dominion Hope. Such providers presumably would expand payroll if 30 million uninsured were covered, with new members required to join the SEIU.

Although the administration is threatening to treat soda and other soft-drinks as “the new tobacco”, in the words of the New York Times, and it has “announced a plan to ban candy and sweetened beverages from schools … [in relation to a] campaign against childhood obesity will be led by the first lady”, health care reform itself is a gigantic sugar fix. It provides one more trillion dollar jolt to keep unsustainable political zombies going for just a little longer. How long dying agencies or unimpeded immigration or bad pension management can keep going is anybody’s guess. How much money do you have?

Fred Barnes at the Wall Street Journal says the battles between the living and the undead — the taxpayers and the spenders — have only just begun. With the passage of health care “reform” they will ravage the American landscape for decades to come. Barnes thinks a battle looms for every dollar that isn’t nailed down to the floor. The President has just given away the contents of half the nation’s wallets by arranging things so that the survival of the other half depend on getting it.  Hope and change means that you hope you can grab some change.

If you think the fights over funding of Medicare and Medicaid in recent years have been unpleasant, wait until the funding battles over ObamaCare start. It’s all but inevitable that they would occur every year given the way Mr. Obama has proposed to finance his health-care program.

ObamaCare low-balls its cost and exaggerates the means for paying for it. “Our proposal is paid for,” the president insisted in a speech in Ohio on Monday. It’s not. The financing includes billions that are obligated elsewhere. It claims to cut the budget deficit by $118 billion but achieves this by borrowing hundreds of billions more.

At the same time, Mr. Obama’s plan offers a cornucopia of new benefits: free preventive care, coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, guaranteed issue, no lifetime or annual benefit caps, and subsidies for insuring 30 million people now uninsured.”

The lengths people will go to stay one step ahead of their creditors; to keep the party going one more night; and to keep the music playing for one more track can’t be understood unless you’re on the edge. For those whose lives revolve around it keeping the wheels turning is everything. Ask Bernie Madoff what it means to run out of room to run. The financier who was once regarded as the most trusted man on Wall Street was beaten by an inmate in prison who thought Bernie owed him money. “The 71-year-old suffered a broken nose, fractured ribs and cuts to his head and face in the assault.”  In the end it was about money. Maybe it always is. Madoff’s future eventually caught up with him. But SEIU is still one jump ahead and heading out the back for the parking lot even as the knocking on the front door gets more insistent. One more day, one more night for as long as there is other people’s money to spend.

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