Paul Greenberg

If the Republicans in Washington are smart, and I'm not saying they are, they'd do well to get out of Nancy Pelosi's way. She may be just about the best politician the GOP has these days. Every time Madam Speaker goes on camera, you can almost hear Democrats' approval ratings drop.

This time she's after insurance companies. To hear her tell it, you'd think the insurance companies ought to be in the business of going out of business. Here's her latest gem:

Culture of Corruption by Michelle Malkin FREE

"It's almost immoral what (insurance companies) are doing. Of course they've been immoral all along in how they have treated the people they insure. They are the villains. They have been part of the problem in a major way. They are doing everything in their power to stop a public option from happening."

Outrageous, isn't it? These companies object to being put out of business, which is what offering folks lower-cost government insurance (the "public option") at public expense would surely do. How dare insurance companies want to go on insuring folks! Why can't they agree to just to roll over and die?

Wait a minute. Our president, who knows how to make a promise, as the election returns last year demonstrated, said that if we're happy with our present health-care coverage -- and the polls indicate that a vast majority of us are -- then we can keep it. As the president says, "Period."

But that period comes with a little asterisk attached, doesn't it, Mr. President? Followed by 1,000 pages or so of small type not many of us have seen, let alone read.

Buried somewhere in there, like a big-jawed alligator barely visible under the surface of a stagnant pond, is a plan to organize public insurance pools for families with incomes up to four times the poverty level. For instance, a family of four making up to $44,000 a year.

Folks with the same income who are insured through their workplace wouldn't get near the same subsidy or tax break. Naturally they would start drifting over to the government-organized pools, or "exchanges." Which would drive the cost of the subsidies to the taxpayers way up -- far higher than what the president has told us his plan would cost. This is, after all, a federal program. It will grow.

Then there is the speaker's "public option," or government health insurance. It would soon enough begin to absorb those who have entered the new insurance pools. As more and more people opted out of private for public insurance, the number of people with private policies would shrink.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.