You might have heard about the possibility of health care reform coming this year. It has been mentioned a couple times in the news. When the health care debate does come up, there is a lot of exaggeration, hyperbole and facts being thrown around in all sorts of ways to back up individuals’ respective opinions.
My favorite part of the debate is that everybody has a story about somebody’s friend that they vaguely know of that has completely made their minds up about what kind of health care reform, or lack thereof, needs to take place. Most of that has been talked about enough already though. What I do not think has been sufficiently discussed is the hypocrisy of the health care debate.
More than a handful of conservatives have complained that the possibility of using reconciliation to pass health care reform would be “an abuse of the process,” as Utah’s own Sen. Orrin Hatch has said. Reconciliation is basically a way to get a bill passed without subjecting it to a minority party filibuster (or an attempt to prevent a vote.) It’s funny that Sen. Hatch would say such things, because he has apparently changed his mind quite a bit since 1981 and 2001. To fully understand this we need to go back to 1974. It was a bad time for Republicans, having just lost 48 seats in the House and four in the Senate, partially due to tax increases under President Gerald Ford. They desperately needed new economic ideas.
It was at this time that a conservative economist by the name of Arthur Laffer introduced what we now know as the “trickle-down” theory to Dick Cheney, who was serving as White House Chief of Staff Donald Rumsfeld’s top assistant. This theory basically argues that tax cuts, especially for the richer population, will somehow create more tax revenues for the government and also help the poor somewhere down the line. It is supposed to be efficient. Turns out the theory is especially efficient (and convenient) for the rich, as seen by the widening gap between rich and poor in America over the past 30 years. But in 1974 this was no more than a theory with virtually no empirical evidence to back it up. Naturally, Cheney loved it. The theory was then passed on to the brass of the administration.
Long story short, the largest tax cut in history was pushed through Congress in 1981 by Republicans using reconciliation, the same method Hatch now condemns. Yes, Hatch was a senator at the time. This happened again in 2001 and 2003 with the Republicans using the reconciliation process to pass the Bush tax cuts, again providing “much-needed relief” for the rich. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projected the Bush tax cuts would increase budget deficits $349 billion by the year 2013. Again, these cuts were passed with no empirical evidence that they would actually do what they were theorized to do by conservatives.
The hypocrisy continues, most recently with the passing of Sen. Ted Kennedy. Democrats have been trying to rally their party around health care reform, Kennedy’s pet issue. For example, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) stated, “maybe Teddy’s passing will remind people once again that we are there to get a job done as he would do.” Dodd urged other congressmen to “bring … passions to the debate,” reiterating that it is a “job that needs to get done.” After this and other similar statements, Republicans accused Democrats of unfairly using sympathy to pass health care reform.
Once again,this is funny because, when Reagan passed away in 2004, Rush Limbaugh tried to compare Reagan’s war strategy (called the Strategic Defense Initiative) with the war in Iraq. He went as far as to say, “I really believe that if Reagan had been able, he would have put his hand on Bush’s shoulder and said to him, ‘Stay the course, George.’ I really believe that.” And we have all seen the Republican presidential debates since Reagan’s death where much of the discussion turns into an argument about which candidate most resembles Reagan, trying to sell themselves as true tax-cutters and war-fighters. Again, the hypocrisy runs rampant.
I do not pretend that Democrats are never hypocritical. A lot of times it seems like both parties just trade one-liners when the shoe is on the other foot. I just think Hatch and his cronies should be reminded of their own history so they don’t end up wasting more time than necessary trading political barbs. It’s an efficiency thing.
Randal Serr is a liberal political columnist for Rhombus. He loves Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney.
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