Mike Klein Online

A Sleeping Giant Awakens

Atlanta Mike Pix_Press_Club_189_-_Version_2“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” – Attributed to Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

Historians never fully established the accuracy of that statement but there was no question the sleeping giant awakened.  Four years and two atomic bombs later Japan fully understood terrible resolve.  Americans today are awakened again.  This time it’s a family policy feud.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd expressed surprise in a recent column that President Barack Obama has been unable “to squash this kind of nuttiness,” Dowd’s description of the raging debate over the fabulously complicated health care insurance reform.  Debate is conducted in a distinguished environment.  This is an alley fight that includes union tough guys.

Despite his media skills, the president seems challenged to bring his influence to bear on health care, the centerpiece of his campaign and his most important priority.   Obama the campaigner was brilliant last fall.   Obama the president seems awkward this summer, slightly off his best game and almost daily rallies are not moving polls in his favor.   Extensive doubts remain about the wisdom of his health care policies.

Health care reform town hall meetings conducted this week by senators and congressmen were intense.  Anger was visceral.  The national media is overheated.  Side issues become centerpiece issues.   We are left to consider whether the White House is depositing “cookies” onto our computers, keeping track of citizen e-mail addresses and whether everyday citizens are included on a White House list of “fishy” suspects.

This behavior is unhealthy because Americans deserve a legitimate national conversation about health care reform. What we are getting is a national mandate to pass the Obama plan now.  Nothing good is achieved when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insults citizens as “un-American” because they have questions about health care insurance reform legislation.  We are declining into real ugly territory.

At the bottom of this column there are web site addresses for the current House and Senate health care insurance reform bills, known as America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009.  With time and patience you will identify areas that interest you the most.  A fair warning: this is written in government speak, code for confusing and unclear.  Do the best you can.

The Senate version is more than 600 pages; the House version is more than 1,000.  You might want to take an abbreviated trip and start on page 72 of the House bill where it establishes the new Health Choices Administration that includes the controversial public health insurance option.

This is where government creates a vast new bureaucracy with powers that include integrating the Internal Revenue Service into your health care package. The IRS would have authority to impose extra taxes onto anyone who has less than what the government decides is your required health care coverage.  Of course, those taxes could only be paid by persons with incomes.

Many Americans without health insurance also have reduced incomes or no incomes so the tax burden would again be shifted to the middle class and others already are burdened by taxes. Americans who earn the highest adjusted gross incomes will pay additional taxes above their current federal taxes.  This is how the Obama administration plans to adjust the playing field.

Businesses would be required to provide “qualified” employee health insurance or make health care premium payments to the federal government.  This would apply whether or not the business is profitable. No profit would be no excuse; the insurance premium payment would still be owed to Washington.  The government would determine what “qualified” insurance means.

Government premium payments would be based on payroll, meaning the premium goes up if the company adds employees or provides salary increases.  The top rate is 8% annually.  NFIB – the National Federation of Independent Business – estimates some 1 million small business jobs would vanish because of the Affordable Health Choices Act as currently written in House Bill 3200. There is a link below to the NFIB website page that discusses health care insurance reform.

Health care policy will dominate the next several months in Washington and across the nation.  The president is adamant about passing reform this year and Democrats are unlikely to embarrass Obama by failing to deliver legislation.  It may be seriously watered down, but something will reach his desk.

The atmosphere in Washington – and across the nation — after health care reform will be dictated by how this dispute ends.  Obama came to Washington with the most ambitious domestic agenda since Lyndon Johnson.  Obama spent enormous political capital with the stimulus, financial regulation, taking over auto companies and energy legislation.  Those policies remain unproven.

But there is a limit to political capital.  Americans must come away from health care insurance reform believing their views were considered and they were not forced to accept something they do not want or cannot understand.  Otherwise, the sleeping giant may awaken with a terrible resolve.


H.R. 3200 – America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009


Senate Legislation:  Affordable Health Choices Act


National Federation of Independent Business


August 14, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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