Melanie Sturm: Think Again |

Melanie Sturm: Think Again

Melanie Sturm
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

Prior to its maiden voyage 100 years ago this week, the Titanic’s captain proclaimed, “I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel.” Yet hubris, misaligned priorities and bad planning conspired to sink the Titanic.

The same mismanagement and arrogance afflict the Titanic-like health care law (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) that passed through icy congressional waters in 2010. Given lethal icebergs en route, both Capt. Edward Smith and America’s lawmakers would undoubtedly Think Again before declaring “Full speed ahead.”

If polled, Titanic’s passengers would’ve preferred slower navigation (and more lifeboats) to the record-breaking speed favored by Titanic’s ownership. Americans were polled on the health care law and registered consistent and overwhelming disapproval. Polling like CNN’s March 2010 survey – 19 percent believed they’d be better off with the legislation – led pollsters Scott Rasmussen and Doug Schoen to write, “Most voters believe the current plan will harm the economy, cost more than projected, raise the cost of care, and lead to higher middle-class taxes.”

Nevertheless, without reading, understanding or considering its constitutionality, lawmakers hurtled the unpopular 2,700-page bill toward passage. Though approved on a party-line vote, controversial political payoffs and parliamentary shenanigans never before deployed for legislation of such magnitude led voters to reject incumbents in the historic 2010 midterm elections.

Since the law’s passage, strong majorities of Americans support repeal. Meanwhile, recent polls show that two-thirds of Americans believe the Supreme Court should strike the law entirely or the individual mandate forcing every American to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty. If the law is upheld, Americans fear losing the constitutional limits our founders believed necessary to curb coercive federal government power. With the IRS to enforce it, what constitutional principle prevents government from forcing individuals into other purchases?

Politically diverse commentators agree that the government failed to substantiate the law’s constitutionality in oral arguments before the Supreme Court, though some believe that the court must defer to Congress by upholding its law. However, doesn’t our system of checks and balances mean the judiciary must declare unconstitutionality when another branch acts unconstitutionally? The Supreme Court struck down President Bush’s military tribunals, so why not the health care law?

In his latest book, “The People’s Money,” Rasmussen argues that America is divided between the “political class” – those who believe “the federal government is the source of all legitimate authority in the nation” – and the American people who “are the true sovereign authority of the land.” Since only 17 percent of voters believe the government has their consent, Rasmussen warns: “In a nation founded on the belief that governments derive their only just authority from such consent, that’s a devastating assessment.”

It’s hard to trust the political class when it misleads, distorting words like “trust fund” and “budget cut” to cover up increasing spending, deficits and debt. Upon instituting Social Security, Franklin Roosevelt promised it wouldn’t be a “pay-as-you-go” system that channeled taxes from today’s workers to pay today’s retirees. But Presidents Johnson and Nixon broke Roosevelt’s promise, and though trust funds are used to reduce deficits, many Americans believe their payroll taxes are segregated to pay for the retirement benefits they’ve earned.

To politicians, the term “budget cut” means spending that increases less than expected. Using this trickery, if Imelda Marcos spent $1,000 on shoes last year and decided to spend only $2000 this year instead of her budgeted $3000, her shoe budget suffered a “draconian cut”, though it actually doubled! After decades of this chicanery, Rasmussen warns, “the damage has already been done… the result is a government more than $100 trillion in debt,” counting unfunded future liabilities.

Because health care is the largest burden on our country’s finances, public and private, the health care law only exacerbates the crisis, as evident in last month’s report by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Cost estimates for the Orwellian-titled “Affordable Care Act” nearly doubled and insurance premiums are expected to climb at an even faster rate over the next decade than the past five years. Meanwhile, 20 million Americans could lose employer-provided coverage as companies dump workers into government health exchanges to avoid escalating health care expenses.

Though the law has redeeming features, there are better reforms. By shifting decision-making authority away from politicians and unelected bureaucrats to individual citizens, costs are constrained by competition and inventiveness. Why can’t Americans be granted the freedom to operate like the value-oriented consumers we are in purchasing health insurance? If we economize on our plan, we keep the change; if we want “bells and whistles,” we pay more.

The Constitutional framers believed that no one by nature is the ruler of anyone else. Therefore, the Political Class and its Leviathan state are our icebergs. As we navigate around them, Americans steer toward Abraham Lincoln’s vision: “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Think Again – with this philosophy, America is unsinkable.

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