Monday, 23 May 2011

ObamaCare: Survival of the Well-connected?

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Ralph ReilandRemember when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi got all wound up in March 2010 about the passage of ObamaCare and told the assembled conventioneers at the National Association of Counties that the bill’s reforms were going to make healthcare in America “very, very exciting”?

To lift “the fog of controversy” off the legislation, all Congress had to do, she explained, was “pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.”

None of us, in short, was supposed to play any part. Pelosi, Obama, and Reed had it all figured out, just as Hillary mistakenly thought she had it all figured out 16 years earlier.

The central planners were saying that we didn’t need to know what was in the legislation before it was passed and, hence, there was no reason for us to bother our members of Congress with our fact-less opinions.

In fact, it was the same for the members of Congress. The marching order from the Obama administration was to pass the legislation post-haste without reading it, without finding out “what’s in it.”

There was no time allocated to read the 1,017 pages of Washington double-speak and bureaucratic legalese in the bill.

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Like in the children’s game, we were all to play Follow the Leader.  No one needed to look inside the bill in order to buy it.

That used to be called “a pig in a poke,” an expression that warned against buying something when the content was concealed. The phrase is rooted in a time when buyers in farmers’ markets were cautioned to check inside the pokes, or sacks, lest they might get home and find that the farmer had sneakily dropped a worthless cat into a sack in place of a costly suckling pig.

As it’s turned out, no small number of businesses in Nancy Pelosi’s home district have opened the poke and discovered that it’s filled with some real rubbish.  Their response, increasingly, is “No thanks.”

“Pelosi’s district secured almost 20 percent of the latest issuance of waivers nationwide,” waivers providing a year-long pass from ObamaCare, reported Matthew Boyle in The Daily Caller last week.

“Of the 204 new Obamacare waivers the Obama administration approved in April,” Boyle reports, “38 are for fancy eateries, hip nightclubs and decadent hotels in House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s Northern California district.”

Infusion Lounge has a waiver, a self-described “sophisticated nightlife destination,” perfect for “dancing hipsters” with its “Asian inspired sub-rosa lounge fashioned by Hong Kong’s hottest designer, Kinney Chan.”

Boboquivari’s restaurant with its $59 porterhouses also got a waiver,  says Boyle, along with Café des Amis and its “timeless Parisian style,” plus the fancy four-star Campton Place hotel and the four-diamond Hotel Nikko.

At Boboquivari’s,  add a soup appetizer, a house salad, a baked potato and a glass of Groth cabernet  and the tab increases, respectively, by $9, $9, $9 and $20, taking the $59 steak to $106.

Add cheesecake at $8 a slice and you’re at $114. Finish up in style with a small glass of Chateau D’yqem dessert wine and your tab for one person jumps another $69 to $183, not counting tax and tip.

Still, even with all this high-end money rolling in, it appears that Boboquivari’s found ObamaCare to be more unaffordable than “exciting.”

The question: If these San Francisco hot spots can’t afford to pay for ObamaCare, how is a truck stop in Breezewood, Pa., selling trucker-sized hot turkey sandwiches at $7.95, a big pile of mashed potatoes included, supposed to survive?
 
Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics and the B. Kenneth Simon professor of free enterprise at Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh.