The new federal health care law is barely a week old, and already House Democrats are using their power as the majority party to intimidate businesses and silence criticism of the massive legislation. Not surprisingly, this first round of bullying is coming from the Commerce Committee, headed by Henry Waxman of California, perhaps the Capitol’s meanest and most feared inquisitor.
Shortly after President Obama signed the lengthy piece of legislation into law on March 23rd, several major companies released their own analyses of how the law’s many provisions would affect their companies and their employees. Caterpillar, for example, estimated the cost to the world’s largest manufacturer of heavy construction equipment to be in excess of $100 million; the John Deere company estimated its expenses would increase by some $150 million. Verizon and AT&T, while releasing analyses less specific than those issued by Caterpillar or John Deere, noted that the new law would have significant negative impact on their businesses as well.
Almost as soon as these companies issued their statements, the Commerce Committee’s investigations subcommittee sent ominous letter to the four CEOs, demanding to know how they arrived at their figures and “requesting” that they appear at a hearing scheduled for April 21st. The letters were signed by Waxman and subcommittee chair Bart Stupak of Michigan, who probably still is smarting from the negative publicity he received after his 11th-hour conversion from pro-life opponent of the health care bill to ardent supporter.
In Orwellian prose, the Waxman-Stupak letters express “concern” with the CEOs’ figures and analysis, especially since they are identified by the congressmen as being “in conflict with independent analyses.” One of the “independent analyses” cited in the letters is one used by the White House and congressional Democrats to support their position that the $1 trillion bill would wind up actually “saving” taxpayers monies. The analysis referenced by Waxman and Stupak actually was conducted by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which is well-known for furnishing members of that body numbers that support whatever they want them to support, since its analyses must be based only on figures furnished by the requesting members themselves.
Another “independent” analysis noted in the letters included figures from the Business Roundtable, a group of businesses which already had alienated many of its members because it had decided early on to actively support the health care legislation.
The four targetted CEOs are “requested” by Waxman and Stupak to provide not only the “analyses” on which were based the estimates of the cost of the health care legislation to their companies; but also any other data — internal company including e-mails – relating in any way to the matter of determining the impact on their companies. Additionally, the companies are “requested” to furnish an explanation of the “accounting methods” used by them over the past seven years in calculating the financial impact of the deductability or non-deductability of retiree drug coverage.
Whether and how these companies will stand up to this thinly-veiled move to intimidate them for simply disagreeing with self-serving congressional “analyses” of its health care legislation, remains to be seen. However, if they fail to exhibit sufficient resolve in doing so, a new wave of McCarthy-like bullying designed to silence criticism can be expected to permeate future political and economic debates.