Health care fight is the real March Madness

Photo of Hon. Ernest Istook
Hon. Ernest Istook
Former Republican Congressman
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      Hon. Ernest Istook

      Ernest J. Istook Jr. is a Distinguished Fellow at <a href="http://www.heritage.org/">The Heritage Foundation</a>. Istook served 14 years as a U.S. Congressman, then joined Heritage in 2007. He engaged in a wide and robust range of issues in Congress as he served on the House Appropriations Committee and chaired multiple subcommittees. He also served on the Homeland Security Committee.

      His congressional experience ranged from overall budget and spending issues to all forms of transportation, trade, defense, health care, education, labor, financial services, homeland security, religious liberty, and many others. He is a founder of the Republican Study Committee, the principal conservative caucus in the U.S. House.

      Tapping his broad experience, Istook is a frequent fill-in host for several major national talk radio programs; he writes weekly opinion columns for multiple outlets that include <a href="http://www.newsmax.com/blogs/ErnestIstook/id-66">NewsMax</a>, <a href="http://www.humanevents.com/search.php?author_name=Ernest++Istook">Human Events</a>, and The Daily Caller. His daily radio commentaries are heard on over 80 radio stations. He is a regular guest on many network and cable news and commentary programs.

      Istook’s professional background has been as a journalist, practicing attorney, public official and now policy expert. Overall, he served 25 years in elected office, ranging from city council to state legislature to U.S. Congress, all after he moved to Oklahoma in 1972 from his native Fort Worth, Texas. He also was the Republican nominee for Governor of Oklahoma in 2006.

      Istook holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Baylor University and law degree from Oklahoma City University. He and his wife, Judy, have five adult children and are active in church work. Istook served several years as a Boy Scout Scoutmaster. He is the grandson of Hungarian immigrants and the first college graduate in his entire family tree.

      His personal website is <a href="http://www.istook.com">www.istook.com</a>.

      Follow him on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/Ernest_Istook">@Ernest_Istook</a>.

The public doesn’t trust Washington politicians—and those politicians don’t trust each other. Those two truths could doom President Obama’s health care bill even if it weren’t an unaffordable behemoth.

The final health debate merges multiple story lines into one, just as March Madness does for an assortment of college basketball teams. Some of these themes are:

  • The Ugliness of Today’s Washington. Trust in elected leaders is collapsing into a hole deeper than Alice ever fell into. It deepens with every disclosure of the process. “Deeming” a bill to pass; avoiding votes to avoid accountability; buying votes with taxpayers’ money, etc. “Louisiana Purchase” and “Cornhusker Kickback” are only visible symptoms of a wayward system that long ago went amok.
  • House vs. Senate Mistrust. Even if the House passed it this weekend, that bill must go back through the Senate. Knowing it could be blocked or changed in that chamber, House members are reluctant to take political risks with no reward. Thanks to the reconciliation process is being used, GOP senators think they can win parliamentary rulings that automatically strike out multiple parts of the bill. The Senate Budget Chairman predicts the bill definitely would be changed in the Senate. That would mean a return trip to the House and a repeat of this soap opera—again diverting attention from more pressing issues like fixing the economy.
  • Making Health Care Cost More for Individuals. President Obama and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) publicly sparred over whether the bill would make individual coverage cost less or more than it does already. Eventually, Obama was forced to admit—live on C-SPAN last month—that many Americans indeed would pay 10 percent to 13 percent more. This week, an Associated Press fact-check article found no truth in Obama’s oft-repeated claim that his proposal will make individuals’ health insurance more affordable.
  • Making Health Care Cost More for Government. The trillion-dollar cost of the bill (over 10 years) makes people wonder how spending more would supposedly reduce the deficit. The simple answer is that it creates and raises taxes by more than a trillion dollars, such as new taxes on health insurance and medical devices. As The Heritage Foundation concludes, there are “Six Ways the Senate Health Care Bill Raises Health Care Costs, Kills Jobs, and Weakens the Economy.” The Congressional Budget Office admits its fiscal evaluation is “preliminary,” and others call the numbers “phony.”