Are you somebody who laments the end of bipartisanship in the U.S. Congress? You feel that politics has become so polarized that we just can't "get anything done" any more. Why can't the Congress just get back to "solving problems" like it used to?
If you are one of these people, you will be glad to hear that a new bipartisan "Problem Solvers Caucus" has been formed in the Congress. It consists of some 43 Congresspeople, roughly equally split between the two parties. The leaders are Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) and Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ). Gottheimer -- who narrowly took his Northern NJ seat from eight-term conservative Republican Scott Garrett in the last election -- has a website biography of himself that doesn't even mention his political party. Instead, it rings with the clarion call for bipartisanship. Sounds like he's your type of guy!
Josh’s approach to public service is rooted in his experience in both the public and private sectors. During his time working with President Clinton, Senator Frank Lautenberg, and Speaker Thomas Foley, he saw that, by seeking common ground, it’s possible to find a bipartisan path forward without compromising your core values. Josh firmly believes that it doesn’t matter if an idea comes from the Democratic or Republican side of the aisle, only whether it will help the communities and people of the Fifth District.
As its first task, the Problem Solvers Caucus has taken on Obamacare. Here we have the ultimate polarizing partisan issue. Not a single Republican voted for the Obamacare bills on their way to enactment back in 2010, and not a single Democrat has voted for any of the Republican-sponsored repeal/replace measures that have been under consideration by Congress this year. And as a result, as premiums soar, insurers withdraw, and Obamacare otherwise craters, we are at an impasse with seemingly no resolution in sight. Surely this is a clear example of a "problem" that is in desperate need of a "solution." Call in the Problem Solvers!
And it turns out that the Problem Solvers have actually put forth their proposed solution (or more precisely, plural solutions) in a press release issued on July 31. Here is a copy of the press release from the website of another member of the Caucus, Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA). Will it surprise you to learn that essentially every proposed "solution" consists of the exact same thing, namely throwing more and more of the infinite free federal money at Obamacare to keep it afloat and save its participants from having to pay the full cost of their "coverage"? Some excerpts, with comments interspersed:
1. Bring cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments under the Congressional oversight and appropriations process, but ensure they have mandatory funding. CSR payments are an important part of helping households earning between 100% and 250% of the federal poverty level afford to participate in the individual market. Bringing CSR payments under the appropriations process ensures that Congress can provide proper oversight.
The "cost sharing reduction payments" -- those are the insurance company bailouts that were provided for in the Obamacare law, but without appropriation, and then Congress declined to appropriate the money. So Obama just went ahead and spent the money anyway without appropriation and in defiance of the Constitution. A federal judge in the D.C. District Court declared the payments unconstitutional, but then declined to issue an injunction pending appeal. Meanwhile, the Problem Solvers decline to tell us how much money they are prepared to throw at this. But with a little research, we find that the amount of the CSR payments has recently been running around $7 billion per year, and with projections that the subsidies will rapidly escalate to around $12 billion annually by as soon as 2020. By the way, President Trump has so far continued these blatantly unconstitutional expenditures, although to his partial credit he has said he will discontinue them as part of his strategy to get Congress to act on Obamacare repeal. Thus, note that in the "Problem Solvers" press release, the phrase "bring CSR payments under the Congressional oversight and appropriations process" is the euphemism of the moment for "spend $120 billion or so over the next ten years of the infinite free federal money so that people don't have to take responsibility for themselves." Problem solved!
2. Create a dedicated stability fund that states can use to reduce premiums and limit losses for providing coverage—especially for those with pre-existing conditions.
"Create a dedicated stability fund" -- another one of the literally infinite number of euphemisms for "throw some more of the infinite free federal money at it." For this one I can't find any estimate of the cost. $100 billion? How about a trillion? Problem solved!
3. Adjust the employer mandate by raising the threshold on the requirement for employers to provide insurance under the employer mandate to businesses of 500 employees or more. . . . Additionally, the definition of “full time” under the employer mandate should indicate that a full-time work week is 40 hours.
Did you doubt that there is an infinite number of ways to say "throw some more of the infinite free federal money at it"? This time it's "adjust the employer mandate" -- which of course means that fewer people will be insured through employers, which means that more people will head for the exchanges, which then means more of the "cost sharing reduction" payments. Of course, the infinite free federal money will step in. Problem solved!
4. Repeal the medical device tax. This tax adds a 2.3% sales tax on medical device supplies. The costs of the tax are passed on to consumers and it should be repealed.
Well, that's roughly $3 billion per year that was a big part of the "scoring" that supposedly made Obamacare affordable. But then, a lousy $3 billion per year is not even a rounding error when the money you are playing with is infinite and free. Problem solved!
Read enough of this stuff and you start to understand what Rep. Gottheimer is talking about when he says "it doesn’t matter if an idea comes from the Democratic or Republican side of the aisle, only whether it will help the communities and people. . . ." It means "Republicans can also come up with ways to throw around the infinite free federal money." The people on the paying end will never notice! What I can't believe is how many Republican Congresspeople are dumb enough to get schnookered into going along with these transparent dependency-creating vote buying schemes for Democrats.
Where is a single Congressperson from the Democratic side who will go along with any "solution" to any "problem" that involves spending less federal money?