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A Voice from Fly-Over Country
August 19, 2009

Representative Democracy? Something We Don’t Have!
by Robert L. Hale

MINOT, NORTH DAKOTA — In theory, our political representatives are elected to act on our behalf. We expect them to act in our best interests and, at a minimum, to be aware of what they are voting to impose on those of us they represent.

Unfortunately, those we elect to represent us in Congress rarely read the bills on which they vote. These bills when enacted become the laws we are required to follow — laws that affect our lives, businesses, and prosperity. Elected officials who fail to read and understand proposed legislation, and consult with those they represent, mock the very concept of representative government.

The U.S. House of Representatives is debating a 1,018-page bill titled, “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009” — a title that is more of a marketing ploy than an accurate or informative description. It was not introduced and made public until July 14, 2009, less than two weeks before the President’s deadline. That was far too little time to meaningfully study, debate, and consider a bill that will so dramatically affect our lives. While those pushing this bill argue it is not a nationalization of health care, a careful reading leaves no doubt that nationalization is exactly what this bill does.

Rep. John Conyers, (D-MI), a prime sponsor of this bill, is an attorney and Chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary. He owes the American public a fiduciary duty as both an elected official and attorney. Unlike Rep. Conyers, I have read the bill. If enacted as introduced, it will change what health care Americans receive and how it is delivered. The bill directly puts unelected committees in charge of determining what health insurance entities must offer and what they cannot offer. It also puts the IRS in charge of enforcing its provisions.

The bill would require employers to fund 60 percent of a family medical plan and 72.5 percent of an individual plan. Employers who fail to do so will face IRS fines of 8 percent of the payroll. The self-employed who fail to comply will be fined 2.5 percent of their gross income up to an amount equal to what an unelected committee determines. Interestingly, no one is asking why an employer should be responsible for anyone’s health care in the first place. Nor is anyone asking what the impact of such financial impositions on business will be. Increased unemployment is one guaranteed consequence.

Health costs have risen dramtically over the last 40 years. The increase in the cost and complexity of health care is due to three factors — the advent of Medicare, the explosion of malpractice litigation, and excessive time and cost imposed on pharmaceutical companies to bring medications to the U.S. marketplace.

Not a single section, phrase, or word in the bill addresses any of these problems. Instead, if passed, Americans will be told what medical services they may have. While the rhetoric promises affordable health care for everyone, the bill promises only limited options and limited care. As for representative government? The President admits he has not read the bill, yet he is aggressively campaigning for Congress to impose it on us.

On July 27, 2009, when asked if he had read the bill, Rep. Conyers said, “I love these members, they get up and say, ‘Read the bill’. What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?”

Conyers controls the schedule. Why doesn’t he make sure there is time to read the bill? As for needing two lawyers — he is a lawyer. If the bill is so complex it takes “two lawyers” to understand what it means, maybe there is something terribly wrong with the bill itself as well as the process. Possibly it is complex so people won’t understand what it actually does.

If you like the IRS, if you like how Social Security works, if you like welfare and Medicare, then you will love national health care — oops — that is, “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009.”

Oh yes, 93 members of the House of Representative agreed to read the bill before voting on it. Those who have read it oppose it. Maybe every American who cherishes meaningful choices should also read it.

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A Voice from Fly-Over Country is copyright © 2009 by Robert L. Hale and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved.

Robert L. Hale received his J.D. in law from Gonzaga University Law School in Spokane, Washington. He is founder and director of a non-profit public interest law firm. For more than three decades he has been involved in drafting proposed laws and counseling elected officials in ways to remove burdensome and unnecessary rules and regulations.

See a complete biographical sketch.

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