Un­healthy acts

Oba­macare’s dys­func­tion mir­rors the per­sis­tent waste of du­plica­tive pro­grams

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Cal Thomas Cal Thomas is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist. His lat­est book is “What Works: Com­mon Sense So­lu­tions for a Stronger Amer­ica” (Zon­der­van, 2014).

Is there any­one who can point to the “Af­ford­able Care Act” (aka Oba­macare) and cred­i­bly claim it is ac­com­plish­ing the goals set for it seven years ago? In­sur­ers are pulling out of the ex­changes, pre­mi­ums and re­lated costs are go­ing up, not down, as sup­port­ers of the mis­named law claimed they would. Many peo­ple who like their doc­tors are not be­ing al­lowed to keep their doc­tors. In a Face­book post last week, Barack Obama him­self didn’t even bother to de­fend Oba­macare. In­stead, he crit­i­cized a pro­posed re­place­ment, call­ing the Se­nate bill writ­ten by Repub­li­cans “a mas­sive trans­fer of wealth from mid­dle-class and poor fam­i­lies to the rich­est peo­ple in Amer­ica.”

Leav­ing aside whether the poor, and much of the mid­dle class, have any wealth to trans­fer, much less to meet their own needs, who would know more about a mas­sive trans­fer of wealth than Mr. Obama, whose own health care law is at­tempt­ing to do just that?

In a state­ment fol­low­ing the re­lease of a sum­mary of the Se­nate Re­pub­li­can bill, Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, Ken­tucky Re­pub­li­can, said: “In the com­ing days, we ex­pect to re­ceive a bud­get es­ti­mate on our plan. Af­ter that, we will pro­ceed with a ro­bust de­bate and an open amend­ment process on the Se­nate floor. I hope ev­ery sen­a­tor en­gages. Se­nate Democrats may not have wanted to work with us in a se­ri­ous way to ad­dress Oba­macare’s fail­ures be­fore, but I hope they will take this op­por­tu­nity to do what’s right for the Amer­i­can peo­ple now.”

Good luck with that. In our po­lit­i­cally po­lar­ized at­mos­phere, even a “Good morn­ing” from a mem­ber of the op­po­si­tion party might pro­voke a “says who?” re­sponse.

In busi­ness and in vir­tu­ally ev­ery other area of life, when some­thing doesn’t work, most peo­ple would sug­gest try­ing an­other path. Not in Wash­ing­ton where fail­ure is just an­other op­por­tu­nity to spend more money. Here, it’s all about in­ten­tions, feel­ings and ap­peal­ing to “the base,” not ac­com­plish­ments. If your in­ten­tion in sup­port­ing Oba­macare was to fix what is wrong with health care, that is all that mat­ters, not whether your fix worked.

One sen­a­tor is try­ing to solve a re­lated prob­lem that could serve as a model for his col­leagues when it comes to a new health care bill. Sen. Mike Enzi, Wy­oming Re­pub­li­can, who chairs the Bud­get Com­mit­tee, wants to end du­plica­tive gov­ern­ment pro­grams, along with unau­tho­rized spend­ing on pro­grams whose leg­isla­tive author­ity has ex­pired.

Mr. Enzi es­ti­mates du­plica­tive gov­ern­ment pro­grams are cost­ing tax­pay­ers $310 bil­lion and count­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to fig­ures sup­plied to me by Mr. Enzi’s of­fice, there are hun­dreds of laws that du­pli­cate each other. Comptroller Gen­eral Gene Do­daro told a Se­nate panel in April that a Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice (GAO) re­port found 645 ideas in 249 ar­eas that would re­duce or elim­i­nate over­lap­ping and du­plica­tive pro­grams. So far, Mr. Do­daro tes­ti­fied, “51 per­cent have been im­ple­mented, 31 per­cent par­tially im­ple­mented and 18 per­cent not im­ple­mented.” More needs to be done.

The big­gest chal­lenge may be re­duc­ing unau­tho­rized spend­ing. Mr. Enzi says some spend­ing is on “auto-pay” with some pro­grams not hav­ing been re-au­tho­rized in 30 years. No won­der Ron­ald Rea­gan once quipped: “No gov­ern­ment ever vol­un­tar­ily re­duces it­self in size. Gov­ern­ment pro­grams, once launched, never dis­ap­pear. Ac­tu­ally, a gov­ern­ment bureau is the near­est thing to eter­nal life we’ll ever see on this earth!”

Tax­pay­ers are pay­ing for 158 science, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and math pro­grams, and nearly 700 en­ergy ini­tia­tives, ac­cord­ing to the GAO. Mr. Enzi wants to re­store the his­tor­i­cal link be­tween au­tho­riza­tions and ap­pro­pri­a­tions.

The real scan­dal in Wash­ing­ton has noth­ing to do with Rus­sia. It is over­spend­ing, over­tax­ing and over­reach­ing gov­ern­ment. All of these pro­grams, along with health care and unau­tho­rized spend­ing, can be fixed. All it takes is willpower and good­will, two char­ac­ter­is­tics that are sorely lack­ing in Wash­ing­ton. While at­ten­tion is fo­cused on re­struc­tur­ing health in­surance, Mr. Enzi is try­ing to high­light an­other prob­lem that could save bil­lions. His col­leagues should lis­ten and act.

The real scan­dal in Wash­ing­ton has noth­ing to do with Rus­sia. It is over­spend­ing, over­tax­ing and over­reach­ing gov­ern­ment. All of these pro­grams, along with health care and unau­tho­rized spend­ing, can be fixed. All it takes is willpower and good­will.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY HUNTER

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