Chattanooga Times Free Press: Editorial: Sen. Alexander at his best

Posted on February 27, 2010

Tennessee’s U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, fortunately was one of the members of Congress “at the table” with President Barack Obama on Thursday.

    The supposed goal was to make some efforts toward “bipartisanship” as an astounding, trillion-dollar-plus, revolutionary change in the federal government’s role in health care is being considered.

    Realizing the real nature of Washington, it’s hard to imagine the session as being anything but political theater and political play-acting, so far as achieving really sound medical and financial cooperation is concerned. But Sen. Alexander did his best. He was considerate, polite, cooperative, factual and more realistic about the big issues than the president and many in Congress are.

    Sen. Alexander said to the president, “We want you to succeed. Because if you succeed, our country succeeds. But we would like respectfully to change the direction you’re going on health care costs ... .”

    Sen. Alexander noted that the Senate bill “has more taxes, more subsidies, more spending” in 2,700 pages, “more or less,” that would “cut Medicare by about half a trillion dollars and spend most of that on new programs, not on Medicare and making it stronger, even though it’s going broke in 2015.

    “It means there will be about a half trillion dollars of new taxes in it.

    “It means that for millions of Americans, (medical insurance) premiums will go up, because when people pay those new taxes, premiums will go up, and they will also go up because of the government mandates. ...

    “(I)t’s going to be ... the ‘mother of all unfunded mandates.’ ...

    “When fully implemented, the bill would spend about $2.5 trillion a year, and it still has sweetheart deals in it — one is out, some are still in. What’s fair about taxpayers in Louisiana paying less than taxpayers in Tennessee? What’s fair about protecting seniors in Florida and not protecting seniors in California and Illinois and Wyoming?”

    Many politicians have criticized “the health insurance companies” for their “profits.” But in the interest of facts, Sen. Alexander said, “(I)f we took all of the profits of the health insurance companies entirely away, every single penny of it, we could pay for two days of health insurance for Americans.

    “And that would leave 363 days with costs that are too high.

    “So that’s why we continue to insist that as much as we want to expand access and to do other things in health care, that we shouldn’t expand a system that’s this expensive, that the best way to increase access is to reduce costs.”

    Sen. Alexander urged that the president, having a Democrat majority in Congress, not cram through a legislative “reconciliation” process that would ignore the vital financial facts.

    Sen. Alexander said, “I remember reading Alexis de Tocqueville’s book ‘Democracy in America,’ in which he said that the greatest threat to American democracy would be the ‘tyranny of the majority.’ ”

    As President Obama and the Democrat majority in Congress are pressing for a revolutionary, trillion-dollar-plus — unfunded — socialized medicine bill, Sen. Alexander has provided a muchneeded, constructive word of caution.

    Unfortunately, too many in Congress are not listening.