While Paul Ryan shrugs, the media mocks. That’s the impression that Chris Matthews gave on his recent MSNBC segment from “Hardball,” where he criticizes Representative Ryan for his new budget plan which would get rid of most of the spending outlined in Obamacare. “Call it ‘Ryan Shrugged,’” asserted Matthews. “It kills the President’s health care plan outright in its crib, dumps Medicare for a cheapskate voucher scheme, and offloads Medicaid onto the states. It steals from the ordinary people, that old 47% and gives a bundle to the elite at the top.”
“It’s nihilistic in a sense,” said Matthews of Ryan’s proposed budget. “It’s more of a statement of what government can’t do.”
However, a picture of the mammoth regulations—a 20,000 page, 7-foot tall stack—might lead some to hesitate about the changes that the federal government is making to the health care sector. Not only do the regulations fundamentally alter the relationship between the federal government, health care providers, and citizens (namely, placing the federal government in the middle of all health care processes), but it also dampens economic activity through the massive amount of uncertainty that these piles of regulations bring. “I was fat, dumb and happy,” said Mike Ruffer, Owner and Franchisee of Eight “Five Guys” Restaurants in North Carolina, at a recent Heritage event to discuss how Obamacare affects businesses and employees. “I’m not happy any more.” He said that each time he goes through a webinar or seminar on Obamacare, “there’s more that makes me uncomfortable” as a business owner. “Roughly 67% of employers feel their organizations don’t understand the requirements of the employer mandate,” said Ruffer. “Only 50% of mid-size companies have even bothered to estimate what their [full-time equivalent] count is.”
And the situation isn’t much easier for the employee lacking medical coverage. A recent Associated Press article indicates that “Applying for benefits under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul could be as daunting as doing your taxes” because the draft application “runs 15 pages for a three-person family.”
“At least three major federal agencies, including the IRS, will scrutinize your application. Checking your identity, income and citizenship is supposed to happen in real time, if you apply online,” reports the Associated Press.
In this case, maybe doing less on health care is more.
Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi was roundly mocked in 2010 for her assertion that “we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it away from the fog of the controversy.” Fox’s Greta Van Susteren expressed this view again on Tuesday, saying, “And I was always troubled by the fact that people voted for something they’ve never read. … But on top of that now we have 20,000 pages of regulations tacked onto this bill by people we didn’t even vote to, who didn’t read it.” Van Susteren brings up a good point: very few people know what’s going to happen economically because of Obamacare, and even fewer are going to have the opportunity to read the 20,000 pages. Elise Viebeck, with The Hill newspaper, responds that “that image of the huge stack of regulations is going to be a welcome site to some people,” namely to the Democrats who supported it and people across the country. You can read the interchange between Viebeck and Van Susteren below or watch the video online.
Greta Van Susteren — The advantage of the system was that if everybody was in it, and everyone is pitching in and spending money. The problem is though that a lot of people have gotten waivers, lots of organizations have gotten waivers, so they’re not going to be in it, right?
Elise Viebeck — We don’t know yet. We don’t know exactly how it’s going to work out. It’s true that there have been a lot of waivers. But I think we’re going to have to wait and see until next year when most of the law’s provisions take effect, and we see whether or not the system works. And really, there’s so much that’s going to happen. There’s going to be so much in flux. And we’re just going to have to wait and see.
GVS – Does anybody know what’s going to happen?
EV – No, I don’t think they do. I really don’t think they do.
GVS – That’s what’s so mystifying about this whole thing. We have this enormous bill, and 20,000 pages of regulations. Nobody knows how it’s going to have an impact. Nobody even knows the economic impact.
EV – A lot of people, we have to remember, are welcoming this bill. I mean that image of the huge stack of regulations is going to be a welcome site to some people.
GVS – To whom?
EV – To Democrats who supported it. Absolutely, and people across the country.
GVS – How? They don’t even know if it’s going to be successful. How could they possibly? Nobody’s even read it.
EV – They’re saying it’s good that the federal government is going to step in and try at least to solve problems that the private sector couldn’t.
GVS – This is the same federal government that’s got how many thousands of empty vacant buildings around the country that we don’t even know what we’re doing with. I guess if you fundamentally think that the government is efficient and knows what it’s doing, then it’s probably good, but if you’ve been around town long enough, you might be scared when you see all the waste that goes on.
EV – There is definitely a difference in perspective.
GVS – I hope it works out but boy, I think it’s terrifying when no one’s even bothered to read it. Elise is probably the only person who’ll ever read the 20,000 pages.
Investor’s Business Daily (IBD) has published an editorial in which they show how Obamacare has vastly grown in other ways than the number of pages of regulations. The original estimates of taxation and the costs of various aspects of Obamacare have doubled and in some cases tripled.
“A nearly 100-page analysis from the government’s official revenue estimators at Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation pegs the price tag at over $1 trillion, almost twice the nearly $570 billion suggested when the law was passed by legislative trickery three years ago.”
The editorial argued that “Like everything else that wasteful, corrupt government tries to do, there are cost increases from the previous estimates everywhere you look.”
They offered several specific examples:
- The individual mandate will cost $55 billion, not the $17 billion previously estimated.
- The Cadillac tax on higher-cost plans is $111 billion, not $32 billion.
- The employer mandate is $106 billion, not the $52 billion cost it was thought.
IBD’s conclusion: “The health overhaul is shaping up to be exactly what most Americans feared at the time of its passage: an onerous, wildly unaffordable monster whose full nature is yet to be seen.”
Paul Ryan understands that Obamacare will not be repealed this round. So perhaps his budget is Dead on Arrival. But in reality, the Democrats’ budget is just as DOA as long as they insist on raising revenues through closing tax loopholes, but not as part of a broader reform of the tax code. Why shouldn’t Ryan lay out his party’s goals and values as to what they believe will strengthen the economy and put us on a road to fiscal sanity?
Roger Aronoff is the Editor of Accuracy in Media, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.