Friday, November 20, 2009

The Heritage Foundation

November 20, 2009

By Amanda Reinecker

The Senate health care bill: no improvement

Congress has outdone itself. On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled a health care bill weighing in at 2,074 pages, a new record. A vote on the bill is expected Saturday.

Heritage Foundation experts are still working through the specifics of the massive, $849 billion health care bill, as it is estimated to take up to 34 hours to read the entire thing. But they already know that "the major outlines of the bill are no different than the policy train wreck the House passed earlier this month," reports Heritage's Conn Carroll.

Both the House and Senate health care "reform" bills include:

A government "option." Both the House and Senate proposals would create a one-size-fits-all public plan to "compete" with private insurers. But the government will retain its role as regulator and thus stifle any competition and causing millions to lose their private coverage.

More people in failed programs. Both bills would place millions of Americans under the failing government-run Medicaid program, reducing subsidized benefits from those who truly need them and increasing the financial burden on the states.

Employer mandates. All employers of 50 people or more will be required to provide coverage that meets new federal standards or else face a hefty penalty. This mandate will disproportionately impact low-income workers.

Individual mandates. For the first time in history, all Americans will be forced to purchase federally approved coverage minimums. Those who fail to comply are subject to new tax penalties and, in some cases, jail time.

The bill's supporters may be congratulating each other for producing a health care bill that meets the President's $900 billion cap. But its $849 price tag is a preliminary estimate only, and it really only has one place to go -- up. "As history has proven, government health care programs end up costing much more than first promised," writes Carroll.

Both the House and Senate health care reform bills require individuals to purchase federally-approved health insurance, and those who fail to do so could face criminal prosecution. "Using [criminal law] to enforce one particular notion of appropriate insurance coverage is nothing less than a tyrannical assertion of raw government power over the private lives and economic rights of individual Americans," write Heritage legal scholars Brian Walsh and Hans von Spakovsky. This abuse of governmental power does not bode well for freedom, as it specifically targets those who choose to make their own decisions regarding their health insurance.

Visit Heritage's to read the entire Senate health care bill and to find more in-depth analyses as our analysts continue to dissect this massive legislation.

Protecting America's interests in Copenhagen

In December, members of the United Nations Framework Convention will meet in Copenhagen to discuss climate change and draft a new global warming treaty. "This is the most important international conference on global warming since the 1997 Kyoto conference that produced Kyoto Protocol," writes Heritage expert Ben Lieberman.

The Kyoto Protocol is an international environmental treaty which the United States never ratified because of the overwhelming financial and regulatory burdens it would impose on the country. Set to expire in 2012, however, the Kyoto Protocol is now the prototype for a new, even more stringent global warming treaty that would pose an even greater threat to American prosperity than its predecessor.

Lieberman explains how a new global warming treaty would hurt America:

Inflicting economic harm. The contemplated global warming treaty -- like the highly controversial cap-and-trade legislation under consideration in Congress -- would act as a large energy tax that would drive up energy costs for individuals and consumers. This would result in massive job losses.

Achieving little environmental gain. Leaving aside all scientific questions about global warming, the treaty's targeted emissions reductions will have a nominal, if any, impact on the earth's temperature. This is especially true if developing nations, whose emissions are growing fastest, remain exempt, as they are under Kyoto.

Undermining U.S. sovereignty. Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, a new global warming treaty would impose binding international enforcement mechanisms. An international authority will be established to ensure that all signatories are in compliance with the international provisions, as well as to determine penalties for non-complying entities.

Countless studies from both sides of the political aisle reveal the devastating effects of global warming controls. This is why cap-and-trade legislation has been stalled in the U.S. Senate.

President Obama has repeatedly promised to reduce America's greenhouse gas emissions and he is under immense pressure from radical environmentalist groups to keep this pledge. But surrendering American prosperity and sovereignty is no bargain.

"The American people need to know that, in addition to harming the U.S. economically and environmentally, a new global warming treaty would threaten U.S. sovereignty," explains Lieberman. The United States' decision not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol was a prudent one that served America's best interests. In Copenhagen this December, American negotiators should again keep our best interests in mind.

> Other Heritage work of note
"It is a tragic mistake to now bring the detained war combatants into the United States and to employ civilian criminal procedures which were never intended for this type of situation," former Attorney General and Heritage scholar Edwin Meese said this week. Last Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and five other terrorists would be tried in a civilian court in New York City rather than before a military tribunal. This decision blurs the distinction between crimes and acts of war, which are handled in military tribunals, not civilian court.

» Read Meese's full statement online
To prevent a "rerun of the Great Crash of 2008" and stave off the need for bailouts, Heritage Vice President Stuart Butler suggests reforming bankruptcy policy. "Without a realistic bankruptcy option, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and then-Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. had to make it up on the fly, often stopping up the breaking dam with taxpayers' money." To prevent further bailouts, we should enact serious reforms that "give the bankruptcy courts the tools they need to take care of failing giants."

In less than a year, the Pelosi-Reid Congress has introduced four nation-altering proposals: the $787 billion economic stimulus plan, the massive 2010 budget plan, cap-and-trade legislation, and health care reform. Heritage Vice President Michael Franc points out that "House Republicans have been virtually unanimous in their opposition to this agenda, but House Democrats have been divided in important ways." The Left has kept this ambitious schedule despite the split between moderate liberals and radical progressives, Franc argues, because of "the San Francisco speaker's ability to persuade her troops to line up behind a breathtakingly liberal legislative agenda."

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