Republican radio address

For the weekend of December 12-13, 2009

Greetings, this is Josh Tardy, leader of the Republicans in the Maine House.

Months ago, when Congress began work on a big overhaul of the health care system, Americans were hopeful. After years of surging costs, insurance premiums would finally be brought under control. The millions of people with no insurance would get affordable coverage. The long, upward cost curve of our national health care spending would be bent downward, back toward a reasonable level.

Who would have imagined back then that the Democratic Congress would manage to turn a positive possibility into an absolute monstrosity? As the action approaches a climax in the U.S. Senate, the American people have turned sharply against the Democrats’ plan to remake the entire health care system and restructure one-sixth of our nation’s economy. Less than 40 percent of Americans support it. They now know what the Congressional Budget Office has said – that new coverage mandates will drive premiums higher. They also know the plan cuts Medicare spending by about $500 billion over the first 10 years and by trillions more after that. The price tag is now about $2.5 trillion over 10 years, according to the CBO. And overall health care spending will keep rising, moving the cost curve in the wrong direction.

Few people rooted in reality would trust the likes of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to rebuild a system so critical to our well-being. Last week, Reid compared opposition to his health care bill to opposing the abolition of slavery. As usual, the Senate majority leader got it exactly wrong. Remember, it was Republicans who fought to end slavery while the Democrats defended it to the point of civil war.

But if this bill passes, it is the American people who would be enslaved by a gigantic government run wild. The costs would spiral out of control, because with government programs they always do. Our children and grandchildren would face crushing levels of taxation to prop up a government sinking beneath a national debt that’s already more than $12 trillion. When President Obama was in Asia recently, Chinese leaders warned him against putting in place a massive new entitlement for health care when we are already running trillion-dollar deficits. Imagine the supreme irony of communists lecturing an American president about financial responsibility.

The big problem for President Obama is that the American people don’t trust him anymore. A poll by Quinnipiac University asked people if they believe the president’s pledge that the health care bill would not add to the federal budget deficit. Less than one-fifth of the voters think he will keep his word. Nine out of 10 Republicans and eight out of 10 independents said that whatever passes will add to the torrent of red ink.

That is a stunning rebuke of President Obama, who has staked his presidency on this issue. Yet none of this seems to matter to Democrats. They have defined success as dragging any health care bill into law as quickly as possible, no matter how extensive the damage. They will leave the mess to be cleaned up in the future once the entitlement is entrenched and higher taxes are inevitable.

It’s hard to get a good read on the Senate bill. It seems to change daily based on negotiations behind closed doors. They need 60 Democratic votes to end debate and advance toward the final product. Republicans have been completely shut out of the talks, leaving this whole deal as a one-party operation.

One new proposal would open Medicare enrollment to the 34 million people age 55 to 64. They would pay about $7,600 a year to buy into the program. The trouble is that Medicare is expected to become insolvent in five years when it runs out of money, despite the massive funding cuts elsewhere in the Senate bill. No one expects the Democrats to watch Medicare go bankrupt, so we can expect a big payroll tax increase to keep it afloat.

Another proposal would open up Medicaid to cover not just the poor but also part of the middle class. That idea has run into stiff opposition from governors, who know that Medicaid as it exists today is already breaking their budgets.

Whatever happens in the Senate, their bill will have to be reconciled with the bill in the House, where the public insurance option is backed by liberal Democrats, who see it as the heart of health care reform. We’re working our way to a wild finish. What began as an effort to cover the uninsured has been transformed into a huge expansion of the welfare state. You can be certain of one thing – it will cost all of us a lot more money. The sticker shock could be severe.

This is Josh Tardy. Thank you for listening.