Senator Judd Gregg's thirty years in public office—as a member of the House of Representatives, then governor of New Hampshire, and then, from 1992 through early this year, as senator—had many highlights. He was a consistent advocate for fiscal responsibility, and a pioneer in raising awareness about our elderly entitlement programs' dire fiscal situation and the urgent need for reform.
Yet now we can safely count his amendment to the CLASS Act as one of his finest hours. The amendment to the long-term care program, which was included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare), stipulated that the secretary of Health and Human Services could not proceed in implementing the program unless it was certified financially sound. This amendment did more than just prevent American taxpayers from being saddled with another albatross entitlement program, one that would have inevitably led to exploding public costs and undermined private-sector long-term care insurance. It also has reminded the American people of government's habit of creating generous programs with unpayable benefits.
Administration defenders are attempting to pass this off as good government at work: A program that was not sustainable was recognized as such, and was dutifully shuttered. However, it's clear that, absent Senator Gregg's foresight, no one would have hesitated to create a costly program that would ensnare tens of thousands of Americans, generate its own bureaucratic web, fundamentally change the existing private sector, and become a fiscal train wreck in less than a decade. That's government's business-as-usual.
That shouldn't be the case moving forward. Senator Gregg's amendment should become a model for future legislation. No program predicated on a financially-unsound premise should be allowed to proceed. And legislators should think of additional kill-measures that will prevent financially ill-conceived programs from coming to pass, and, just as importantly, to shut down programs that prove ineffective.
Many government programs currently operating couldn't pass the test that brought down CLASS. The United States Postal Service, for example, is currently spiraling toward bankruptcy, and lawmakers are considering how to prop up this government institution. Yet as Gary MacDougal recently reported in the Wall Street Journal, USPS lost $9 billion last year, needs to make a $5.5 billion payment to prop its retiree health plan, and first class mail, its bread-and-butter revenue source, has dropped 22 percent since 2006.