Wicker Says Cost of Democrats' Health Care Plan Will Hurt Economy

Massive Tax Increases and More Borrowing are Not the Way to Health Reform

July 20, 2009

In the past two months, I have used this column multiple times to discuss the ongoing debate in Congress over health care reform.  I have done so because I believe it is one of the more important debates of our time and because, while we have a great opportunity to implement positive reforms, we also stand to lose greatly if we take the wrong approach.

As the debate continues, it has become clear that one of the more troubling aspects of the proposals being put forth by congressional Democrats is the cost to taxpayers.  Many details of their proposals are yet to be unveiled, but it is apparent that their proposals will come with more debt, higher taxes, and lost jobs.  

                                            TOO MUCH DEBT
The American public is increasingly worried about the massive debt we are accumulating.  And for good reason.  We learned last week that for the first time in history the annual budget deficit has grown to more than $1 trillion.  By the end of the fiscal year, the Obama administration expects that number to reach $1.8 trillion – an estimate some economists say is overly rosy considering the condition of our economy.  This means the federal government is spending about $500 million per day – yes, per day – in interest alone on the national debt. 

In response to this massive amount of red ink, the last thing we should be doing is adding hundreds of billions of dollars in more debt.  Yet that is exactly the direction congressional Democrats are heading. 
A portion of the Senate Democrats’ health care plan was voted out of committee last week on a party line vote.  The bill adds at least $1 trillion to the deficit, would force millions of Americans to lose their private health insurance, and would still leave 30 million Americans without health coverage.  On the other side of the Capitol, House Democrats unveiled their health care plan last week.  Their plan is expected to cost between one and two trillion dollars but would still leave 17 million people uninsured.

Even worse, the director of the government agency that evaluates the cost and impact of legislation before Congress said last week that none of these overpriced schemes are expected to actually lower health care costs for Americans.  According to the director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the health reform measures being drafted by congressional Democrats would increase the deficit and drive our country further into debt.      
                           JOB-KILLING TAX INCREASES
In addition to their costs, the suggestions about how to pay for these gigantic schemes are just as troubling.  The massive tax increases on job creators contained in the House Democrats’ bill has drawn sharp rebukes.  Investor’s Business Daily editorialized last week against the Democrats’ tax hikes in the House bill, saying, “it’s really an entrepreneur tax” levied against “small businesses – the very engines of growth responsible for 80 percent of our new jobs.”  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce agreed, adding: “In short, it will make a bad situation worse, at great costs to the nation in jobs, taxes, and freedom.”   

Senate Democrats have been much vaguer about how they will cover the cost of their more-than-trillion dollar plan.  One leading Senate Democrat was quoted recently saying they were “broadening the search for revenue” to cover their bill’s cost.  What that means, of course, is they are intensifying the search for ways to raise taxes on the American people.

                                BIPARTISAN PLAN NEEDED
President Obama is pushing Congress to pass a health care bill by the first week in August.  He said last week that “deferring reform is nothing less than defending the status quo.”  I strongly disagree.  I certainly want health care reform, but I do not think we should rush at the expense of getting it right.  Nor do I want to see a hastily passed Washington-run health care scheme that relies on job-killing tax increases, more debt, and cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. 

The good news is that there is still time to change course.  We have an opportunity to debate other options that do not break the bank, add to our already crushing debt, or drive more people onto the unemployment rolls.  The president should call on congressional leadership to go back to the drawing board and write a bipartisan and targeted bill that makes health care more portable, more affordable, and more accessible for all Americans.