(’76 Contributor) The U.S. House of Representatives will soon vote on a proposal to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare. So this is a good time to discuss the continuing obfuscation—what I have called “purposeful ignorance”—of one, not untypical, Member of Congress, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D–Colo. Bennet cast a decisive vote enabling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D–Nev., to secure Senate passage on Christmas Eve, 2009.
Bennet was appointed to the Senate two years ago when Ken Salazar became Pres. Obama’s Secretary of Interior. Bennet could be the poster child for Laurence Johnston Peter‘s observation of organizations, the “Peter Principle,” holding that people ultimately achieve through promotion positions for which they are incompetent.
Bennet has the moneyed, educational background of a patrician. He was widely reported as successful in both private and public sector jobs prior to his appointment to the Senate. His performance there, however, has been whiny, ineffective and hypocritical (again, hardly untypical). Nonetheless, Coloradans narrowly voted in November 2010 to give him a six–year term.
Our file contains a dozen or more emails and letters to Bennet. Nearly every one has elicited a form–letter reply, none responsive to any question, suggestion or objection we had stated, nor assistance we requested. (Udall, by the way, is no better, but we have a larger file of Bennet communications.)
Congressional Budget Office. Bennet’s form letters about what he calls “health reform” usually have a litany of (unsupported) claims about what Coloradans want, etc., etc.
And they always appeal to authority about which we continue to hear a great deal from the ObamaCare left, the Congressional Budget Office, CBO.
This is a convenient dodge as the CBO is officially nonpartisan and its work is generally respected. However, most citizens are unaware of the game that can be played to get a favourable “score” from the CBO, estimating future fiscal results of legislation.
Reid’s bill that was ultimately signed by the President in March 2010 comprised more than 2,000 pages and had dozens of references to existing statutes, some of which were amendments. In short, this was a work of mind–boggling complexity.
(Many of us will remember forever the statement last March of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D–Calif., “… but we have to pass the bill so that you can, uh, find out what is in it—away from the fog of the controversy.”)
CBO “scoring” must be confined to what is within the four corners of the legislation being proposed. Reid & Co. went through Byzantine legislative gymnastics in late 2009 to arrive at a set of conditions on which the CBO would “score” their legislation as having a positive effect on the Nation’s deficit decades out into the future.
U.S. House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, R–Wis., appeared last week, January 6, on Fox News Channel’s “On the Record w/ Greta Van Susteren” and discussed this very subject, characterizing the Reid directions underlying CBO’s “score” as “smoke and mirrors.”
Of course they were smoke and mirrors. CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf said as much— with more careful language, to be sure—in his blog posted November 19, 2009. Among our letters to Bennet and Udall was one dated Dec. 1, 2009, 22 days before their fateful votes to approve Reid’s bill, including a link to that posting and discussing its implications as to dubiousness of the “score.”
More than a year later, Dec. 16, 2010, a letter to us from Bennet repeated the same, tired, challenged claim about CBO scoring:
“Health reform was fully paid for. In fact, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that health reform will reduce the federal deficit by $143 billion over the next decade and with further deficit reductions the following decade.”
I wrote back:
“Once again, you appealed to the $143 billion deficit reduction ‘score’ obtained from the Congressional Budget Office
“There is enclosed an excerpt from a letter I wrote to you at that time— December 1, 2009— when we had begun to receive your CBO–supported argument about costs. A link was provided there to the CBO director’s blog, from which anyone reading at about ninth grade level could understand that the ‘score’ CBO had provided was little more than hot air. The director narrowly avoided outright cynicism as to Congress’s ever following through on major cost cutting that underlay the ‘score’ his office had been obligated to produce …
“We can be sure that a great many of your constituents haven’t the time, perhaps not even the interest, to understand the $143 billion myth you continue to purvey. However, Senator, you understand it, and I have written in detail to you enough times that you know I do as well. Therefore, my wife and I find it insulting to continue to receive from you this fatuous claim.” (Emphasis in original.)
I wrote above that Bennet’s performance as a U.S. Senator has been whiny and ineffective. Three days before casting his critical vote in favour of Reid’s bill, Bennet had delivered a speech on the floor of the Senate strongly decrying the pressure, deal–making and other methods used by leadership to get the requisite favourable majority. One of Bennet’s problems was that something like the notorious deals used to buy other senators’ votes hadn’t come his way for Colorado.
In the run–up to the election this past fall, The Denver Post published a comically tepid editorial endorsing Bennet’s election. Included was this:
“On Dec. 21, 2009, for example, [Bennet] made an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, blasting Washington lawmakers for their dirty dealing as they patched together a health care bill larded with special deals. It was an eloquent speech and a devastating indictment on all that’s wrong with Washington. Then, three days later, he voted for the bill. The current health care bill is law because of Bennet’s one vote.That vote, and his speech, epitomize his short Senate career. So much potential, yet not enough spine.”
Spine isn’t all Bennet lacks. He hasn’t enough character.