Bigger danger of healthcare bill: the arrogance of Congress


By Eric O’Keefe.

We may never fully know the damage that will be done by the massive health care bill Congress passed on Sunday, but one thing is certain: It will lead to lower-quality care at higher costs.

Dozens of new health boards will come on line in the next few years, as bureaucrats gradually take control of our health care system. Who knows how many bright college students will decide to avoid medical careers because they don’t want to follow orders from these bureaucrats?

As alarming as some of the bill’s provisions are, what’s more dangerous is the arrogance this Congress demonstrated.

The House of Representatives used to represent; now it rules.

This health care reform was widely debated for a year, and it became less popular by the month. A weekend poll by Rasmussen Reports showed the depth of that unpopularity, with only 26 percent strongly supporting the reform and 45 percent strongly opposing it.

How can elected representatives defy the considered will of the people?

Because defiance becomes an easy habit when you know that there is almost no chance you will lose your next election. The loss of accountability enables public servants to indulge their own lust for power. As Lord Acton wrote, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

If we do not address the problem of a permanent class of rulers in Congress, we will watch Congress bankrupt the country and destroy the republic.

Most members of the House represent specially drawn districts where one party dominates. As a result, these members face no primary election challengers and only nominal competition in the general election.

Congressional entrenchment is not a product of popularity; Congress has routinely been unpopular the past 30 years. A February survey by Rasmussen Reports showed approval of Congress at a historic low, with only 10 percent rating their performance as good or excellent. Rasmussen also found 63 percent favor replacing the entire Congress.

Unfortunately, that will not happen. Even during this year’s extreme political turmoil, you can be confident that over 80 percent of House incumbents will win yet again in November. In most modern US elections, more than 95 percent of House incumbents are reelected.

The reason is a century of entrenchment by incumbents looking out for themselves. They have large staffs and budgets to run a permanent campaign; they have pork and patronage to distribute at taxpayer expense; and they enacted campaign restrictions to hobble challengers.

With mostly one-party districts, incumbents own their seats unless they face serious primary challenges. But party organizations controlled by incumbents work to discourage primary challenges, regardless of the performance of the incumbent. In fact, only eight incumbents have lost their primary races in the past three elections combined – that’s a renomination rate of over 99 percent.

To regain congressional accountability, we must work outside the political parties to set the standard of acceptable behavior, and to enforce it in primary elections.

In 2006 and 2008, Democrats won the close House races and took control of Congress because voters were tired of big-spending Republicans. In 2010 voters will defeat Democrats in close elections, and the House is likely to return to Republican control. But what will those Republicans do? Should we trust them to behave this time?

I would say no. Congress will not behave on its own because the political parties now exist to serve the politicians, not the taxpayers.

That’s why the development of the tea party movement has been so forceful and swift. Tea party leaders stepped up because both parties had failed us. Yet they understand that you don’t solve the problem of two unaccountable parties by creating a third. What we really need is a way to hold politicians of any party accountable, and that begins with independent organizations demanding accountability, and backing primary challengers to representatives of both political parties who fail to live up to their job title: Representative.

In 2010, tossing out some big-spending Democrats may be all that voters can accomplish. But if we don’t solve the bigger problem of creating the organizations to systematically hold politicians accountable, we will only get another round of broken promises on the road to ruin. The fate of the republic depends on building an independent system to hold Congress accountable to the taxpayers.

Eric O’Keefe is chairman of Sam Adams Alliance, a Chicago-based nonprofit focused on communicating free-market principles.


4 responses to “Bigger danger of healthcare bill: the arrogance of Congress”

  1. Paul Gray, Wichita City Council member said it best when he said we elected them now they make the decisions. I believe we have already lost a representative Government in this country as the founders had envisioned it.
    We’re quickly fading back to the times when politicians and the people that supported them called the shots. The shots to make sure they stay in power and keep control of the money supply. The days of Livingstons and Vanderbilts.
    We must have term limits, and not term limits like the ones _____ describes. “I believe in term limits but I’m not going to limit myself”. (scratching head and looking puzzled.)

  2. KipSchroeder

    Unfortunately, we are railing against human nature. I have found it far more instructional to begin looking backwards at nations who have gone before us. I came across the following quotation to be particularly insightful which is attributed to Alexander Fraser Tytler (1747 – 1813) who was a British Lawyer:

    “A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

    From bondage to spiritual faith;
    From spiritual faith to great courage;
    From courage to liberty;
    From liberty to abundance;
    From abundance to complacency;
    From complacency to apathy;
    From apathy to dependence;
    From dependence back into bondage.”

    Anyone care to guess which stage we are in?

  3. Conrad


    I really like what you’re saying! It goes way beyond the individual members of Congress, too. The party structures have gotten so corrupt. Party bosses decide who our candidates will be based on how much money they’ve donated to the organization. They don’t care about the issues or our constitutional right to liberty.

    That’s why we need to stop accepting the candidates they tell us we have to support. I’m done with that! Guys like Mike Pompeo are exactly the type will will support term limits and then turn around and run for office 6-7 terms. They care about themselves, not the people! That’s why I’m supporting Anderson for 4th District Congress. He’s the people’s candidate, not the party boss choice!

  4. Within a year, the full weight of the President Obama disaster has become apparent.

    The Democratic mantra “the stimulus saved the economy” is a lie. The stimulus is nothing more than years of pent-up, pork-barrel spending financed on a sea of borrowed Chinese cash.

    While schools close and unemployment lines swell, does our “new left” savior acknowledge his mistake? No, in true demigod fashion he blames others for his failure and seeks to expand his disastrous polices with the claim we haven’t gone far enough. The health care plan is going to lower the deficit – like unemployment won’t go above 8 percent, right?

    Our government is in the hands of ne’er-do-wells who haven’t got a clue beyond a youth spent in Ivy League classrooms, cocktail party liberals like Obama who seek to take from those who succeed and redistribute to those who don’t.

    Their indoctrination into left-wing dogma is complete.

    These angles of light have hijacked our shining city on the hill.

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