Democrats Should Focus on Unemployment, Not Healthcare

As the unemployment rate reaches double digits, the public makes its preference known.

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By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

The unemployment rate raced into the double digits this morning, hitting 10.2 percent for the first time in more than 25 years. Earlier this week, voters in New Jersey and Virginia sent the White House a strong message that they're concerned about three top issues: jobs, jobs, and jobs.

So are the House Democrats proposing a jobs bill? How about the construction-heavy highway bill? No, they're pushing a trillion-dollar healthcare reform bill that will be voted on this weekend, despite the fact that over 10,000 Americans turned out to protest it on the Capitol steps yesterday. Those protesters are upset that the House plan includes a public option, in which government-run insurance would be an option for consumers. NPR is reporting that the Congressional Budget Office's analysis of the House bill showed that only 2 percent of Americans would be using the public option by 2019, when the legislation is fully implemented. That's an interesting fact that's gone unreported. Why are we running up a trillion-dollar bill to cover only 2 percent of the population and increase costs for the rest of us?

And, to pay for this expensive new entitlement, the Baucus bill in the Senate proposes a new $40 billion tax on medical device manufacturers over the next 10 years. This includes the manufacturers of insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors, both of which my daughter uses to manage her type 1 diabetes, and which are the next step toward an artificial pancreas for people with diabetes. Mona Charen, whose son also uses one, wrote about the devastating effect this tax will have on the industry, on kids who need this technology, and on the cost of healthcare (which will increase).

It seems too obvious to many of us: why are the Democrats pursuing healthcare reform that will kill cutting-edge innovation, raise costs, and affect only a small fraction of Americans when there are so many out of work? Do the House Democrats not hear and see what Americans are trying to tell them—in the polling booths, in the unemployment lines, and on the steps of the Capitol?

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