Political leaders in Washington could learn a lot from a 1970s rock supergroup. They ought to listen to KISS. Maybe not the band, but definitely the philosophy. Many of today’s political problems come about because our leaders won’t “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” They go looking for complex, difficult solutions to problems, when simple, direct approaches would be better. Examples abound.
OmamaCare, signed by the president this year, clocked in at more than 2,000 pages. Even the lawmakers who passed the bill didn’t understand what they were doing. “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi explained helpfully in March.
Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
Not surprisingly, as soon as the bill passed, unintended consequences started cropping up. “As a result of this legislation, including the additional tax burden, AT&T will be evaluating prospective changes to the active and retiree health-care benefits offered by the company,” the telephone giant announced. Heavy equipment makers John Deere and Caterpillar also announced the law would cost them hundreds of millions of dollars.
Lawmakers were dismayed. “The new law is designed to expand coverage and bring down costs, so your assertions are a matter of concern,” Reps. Henry Waxman and Bart Stupak wrote in letters to the heads of these companies. “They also appear to conflict with independent analyses.” The lawmakers “asked” the CEOs to appear at congressional hearings. That’s like “asking” your child to come to the dinner table. It’s an offer they can’t refuse.
But those hearings were cancelled as it became clear that the execs were right. The health care bill does contain hidden costs that will burden companies for years to come. Meanwhile, both the Congressional Budget Office and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have upped their estimates of the bill’s price tag.
The shame here is that lawmakers could have taken some simple steps to cover the uninsured. They could have encouraged the formation of pools where individuals could buy insurance. They could have allowed citizens to buy insurance across state lines.
Instead, lawmakers changed the entire insurance system in ways that won’t become entirely apparent for years.