There is an increasingly wide divide in the health care debate that at its source comes down to a fundamental disconnect between the opposing sides. While the Democrats are trying to explain what is in the bill and what is not, the opposition continues to harp on government takeover and death panels. The reality is that both sides are correct, and the concerns of the opposition are well founded in government history. There is a long history of Congress passing bills with good intentions, only to see it morph, over time, into something not entirely intended.
The National Indian Gaming Regulatory Act passed in 1988 was intended to give Indian Tribes the ability to build one casino on reservation land as a means to improve employment on the reservation. Now, 20 years later it has become the means for tribes to build unregulated casinos pretty much anywhere they want and as many as they want. When the federal courts have ruled a casino illegal (as was recently done in Buffalo) the Department of Interior hands the casino a license anyway and does nothing to enforce the law. Unemployment and welfare for tribes has not really changed despite tens of billions being pumped into casinos on an annual basis.
The ink was barely dry on TARP before the White House diverted funds meant to shore up the banking system to the auto industry without a vote by Congress. This was well outside the scope of the law and the decision was unilaterally made by bureaucrats in the White House.
Farm price supports were passed to help family farms through some difficult times, but over the last few decades they have become an untouchable program that primarily benefits corporate agriculture at the expense of small farms. Most major programs that have been implemented by Congress have suffered from scope-creep over time, health care reform will be no different.
In large measure, a discussion of what is in the bill today is a pointless conversation. It does not matter what is in the health care bill today, what is driving opposition concerns is a forecast of where it could lead over the next 10-20 years when, once again, it takes on a life of its own and morphs into something quite different from todays political intentions. President Obama continues to criticize opponents for using scare tactics and claiming their concerns are not in the bill. But our government has a long history of changing what is in a bill over time, so are their fears really groundless? As long as the President and congressional leaders continue to talk about what is in the current bill, without addressing the long term concerns of many people, they will not be successful in winning large scale public support. It is not irrational or ignorant to choose to deal with the devil you know rather than take a risk with the devil you don’t know.