Time for Grown-up Talk

Commentary by Ron Miller

Republicans in Washington and Annapolis recently found themselves in the unusual position of being the adults in the day care center - believe me, they've had their turn in diapers.

This time, however, they were the responsible ones, instructing their counterparts on the other side of the aisle that it's time to take off the Underoos and put on big boy briefs and big girl panties. The game is over, the jig is up, that's all she wrote, the fat lady has sung, Elvis has left the building.

Time to grow up, children. What part of "We are out of money" don't you understand?

In Washington, the health care "summit" should have told Americans everything they needed to know about how the two parties are approaching this $1 trillion behemoth of a bill, designed to give the government authority over a segment of the economy the size of the British or French economy as a whole. The Republicans presented expositive arguments; the Democrats produced sob stories.

Does a woman wearing her dead sister's dentures justify a 2,000 page tree-killer of a document, committing $1 trillion of our taxpayer dollars to a proposal the dean of Harvard Medical School says is a failure because it does nothing to control costs? Individual mandates to buy health insurance even if you don't want it? Sweetheart deals to legislators - the Louisiana Purchase and the Cornhusker Kickback, to name two - to buy their votes?

If we're honest with ourselves, we know this bill is going to cost us trillions of dollars in the years to come. No government medical program has met or come in lower than its original cost estimates- ever. In fact, they usually exceed them by several billions of dollars.

The predicted costs for Medicare, Medicaid and the State Children's' Health Insurance Program were estimated at a cumulative $80.4 billion. They were off by $171.4 billion - the actual costs are $251.8 billion and continuing to climb.

According to the trustees of the Medicare program, the Medicare hospital trust fund will become insolvent by 2017, and Medicare has an unfunded liability of $36 trillion over the next 75 years.

We are out of money.

A program of this magnitude means a new, huge bureaucracy to manage it - that costs money, too. Taxes will be raised to pay for the millions who can't buy the mandatory health insurance policies.

If you believe the federal government when they tell you a major new program will save money or cut costs, you probably deserve to be taken to the cleaners.

What is the number one complaint about health care? Cost, right? So are they proposing eliminating mandates so people can purchase only the health coverage they want or need? Are they addressing the dysfunctional medical justice system to attack defensive medicine and frivolous lawsuits? Are they allowing people to shop nationwide for the best health insurance policy, like we do with just about everything else we buy? Are they changing the tax code to give individuals equal footing with large employers and unions in purchasing health insurance?


Their plan to control costs is to do what they do with Medicaid and Medicare patients - refuse to pay what it really costs.

That's why doctors are dropping Medicaid and Medicare patients like they're radioactive. That's why new doctors, with average medical school debts of $140,000 and medical liability insurance bills to pay, avoid primary care and refuse to set up practices in rural areas or poor neighborhoods.

We are out of money.

Since Massachusetts implemented a similar health care program in 2006, health care costs have risen an average of 10 percent a year, and the state is facing a $1.3 billion deficit. The problems with overcrowded waiting rooms and not enough medical professionals have gotten worse. Entrepreneurs are fleeing to nearby New Hampshire to start their businesses, escaping the health care mandates that could shut them down.

And the best these supposedly educated and experienced politicians can do is run around like scorned toddlers, crying "It's not fair! It's not fair!" or wailing "They took my lunch money!" at the health insurance companies, who make a penny of profit on every dollar spent in America on health care. If you don't fear for the lack of gravitas in Washington, you haven't been paying attention.

We are out of money.

In Annapolis, the bullies in the State House playground challenged the Republicans to deliver their ideas on how they would fix Maryland's long-term budget crisis. That's a lot like driving a car until it runs out of gas, and then daring your passenger to get it started again.

The Republicans could've said, "No, you broke it, you fix it." Many people sympathetic to the GOP's plight in the one-party monopoly that has been the General Assembly for 149 years warned, "Don't do it - it's a trap!"

Well, someone had to be the grown-up, so Republicans crafted a budget that would steer us away from the annual piecemeal fixes where the budget is held together by band-aids, chewing gum and duct tape.

Predictably, the howls of indignation began. They cried, "What about the children?" They always start there, so we'll do the same.

Education and health care make up roughly two-thirds of the budget, and everyone says they are untouchable. That's irresponsible; not only would it be impossible to find long-term budget savings in the remaining one-third of the budget, but to assume there's no savings to be found in education and health care expenditures is a leap of faith I'm not willing to make.

That's because no one in the Maryland General Assembly knows or cares what happens to the money after it leaves the state treasury.

Advocates for Children and Youth, a Maryland non-profit group, discovered "a continued pattern by school districts to redirect money intended for interventions that low-performing students need to succeed in school and which were supposed to be funded through the Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools ("Thornton") Act."

Baltimore City and Montgomery County, in fact, spend less on their low-performing students today than they did before the Thornton Act was passed.

In fiscal year 2008, Montgomery County didn't spend a single dime of the money allocated to them for low-performing students on the intended recipients, and Prince George's County's low-performing students received only 10 percent of the money the state allocated to the county specifically to help them.

What's happening with the rest of the money? Nobody knows. Worse, they don't seem to care.

I tried to raise this issue a couple of years ago with Senate president Thomas V. "Mike" Miller after a legislative evening at the Calvert Pines Senior Center. He didn't even acknowledge my comments.

The legislators like to brag about how much money they pour into education and how wonderful our state's public education system performs, thanks to them. Meanwhile, the most challenged of our children go without the help intended for them.

Delegate Melony G. Griffith (D), chairman of the Prince George's delegation, jumped on the Republicans for proposing to eliminate some education grants that benefit Prince George's and Montgomery counties more than any other jurisdiction in the state. She carped, "Did you not consider that reducing funding . . . would lower the gains we've made?"

Spare me, Madame Delegate. You're not even spending the money you've been given on the students that need it the most. Who's gaining here?

They don't want to put education or health care under critical review, supposedly because they're sacred to Marylanders. Or could it be they're afraid we'll find a bevy of skeletons in the closet similar to this one?

We are out of money.

The Democrats complain we can't afford the GOP's budget proposal, but if we adopt theirs, we'll need to increase revenues by 32 percent to balance next year's budget. Current tax revenues aren't going up; in fact, they're decreasing.

We are out of money.

That means we will need significant tax increases across the board, when our combined state and local taxes already make us the 4th highest taxed people in the nation. Meanwhile, our neighbors to the west, Virginia, and the north, New Jersey, are determined to balance their budgets without tax increases.

They understand that taxes kill job creation and consumer confidence, both of which are essential to economic recovery. Governors O'Donnell of Virginia and Christie of New Jersey have a battle ahead of them, but they are behaving like grown-ups rather than teens racing through the mall with Daddy's credit card.

"Well, we are out of money now." ~ President Barack Obama, May 23, 2009

Ron Miller, of Huntingtown, is a military veteran, conservative writer and activist, former and current candidate for the District 27 Maryland Senate seat, communications director for the Calvert County Republican Party, and executive director of Regular Folks United, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.  Ron is a regular contributor to RegularFolksUnited.com, American Thinker, and RedCounty.com. You can also follow Ron on his website TeamRonMiller.com, as well as Twitter and Facebook.

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