Congress Begs For Intervention Due To Spending Addiction

Congress has a problem. They have a tough time cutting unpopular spending, but cutting popular spending is just impossible. They talk about their ability to be elected, go to Washington, and make the tough decisions, but when push comes to shove, they want to shove responsibility off to a third party. I believe it’s called “plausible deniability”:

The IPAB is a 15-person, full-time board composed of health-care experts and stakeholders. Members need to be confirmed by the Senate and will serve six-year terms, with one possible reappointment. But the important thing isn’t who serves. It’s how they vote. Or, as the case may be, don’t vote.

If Congress approves the board’s recommendations and the president signs them, they go into effect. If Congress does not vote on the board’s recommendations, they still go into effect. If Congress votes against the board’s recommendations but the president vetoes and Congress can’t find the two-thirds necessary to overturn the veto, the recommendations go into effect. It’s only if Congress votes them down and the president agrees that the recommendations die. “I believe this commission is the largest yielding of sovereignty from the Congress since the creation of the Federal Reserve,” says Peter Orszag, who’s been one of the idea’s most enthusiastic supporters.

Only if a recommendation is so onerous that public ire is raised to the point where Congress can override a presidential veto will that recommendation be killed.

As legislation goes, this has some advantages, as it may have some credible cost-cutting ability. Granted, I don’t think “cost cutting” should be the same thing as “price fixing”, but rather as a result of market forces. Imagine the reduction in cost if 80% of the nation was on an HDHP/HSA plan rather than traditional comprehensive insurance, and those individuals were in constant negotiation through the market to set prices. But while I’m opposed to some unaccountable government panel setting payment rates for medical procedures, I’m somewhat comforted that it may cost me less money than letting Congress do it.

But how much of this sounds like an addict trying to control his fix? This is the alcoholic with such little self-control that he knows he can’t even be in the vicinity of booze because he’ll start binging again. Congress trusts themselves so little that they refuse to even take responsibility for VOTING on these cuts.

If they’re going to abdicate this responsibility, isn’t that just an indication that Congress never should have been allowed the responsibility in the first place?