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Smart Bombs: GOP Rx: More complaining

You’d think Republicans would have observed the health care landscape since the rollout of Obamacare and seen an opportunity. Instead, they’re rolling back their own ideas after reading the polls, according to a Wall Street Journal article.

The reaction to about 5 million Americans having to change plans has congressional conservatives spooked, because their idea, which they’ve kept on the down-low, is to detonate employer-sponsored coverage, which could affect 160 million Americans. Some, like U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would also like to turn Medicare into a voucher program in about a decade and send seniors out shopping for their own plans.

That would be a tad disruptive, too.

While Republicans have held more than 40 repeal-related votes, they’ve never held one on their own plan. Some feel the need to rectify that. “You can’t beat something with nothing,” said U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R- Ga. But now he’s touting an incremental approach to changing the tax code’s treatment of health care.

In a Nov. 13 Wall Street Journal op-ed, conservative writers Ramesh Ponnuru and Yuval Levin urged Republicans to be more assertive: “Some Republicans think that political success requires nothing more than watching Obamacare fail. But if the new system quickly implodes, that would be all the more reason to have an alternative on hand.”

The narrative among Republicans is that they had a plan all along, but dastardly Democrats wouldn’t entertain any amendments or helpful hints. The long-held desire of many Republicans is to phase out the employer-sponsored tax break and have everyone shop in the individual market, which is what Ponnuru and Levin are urging. The idea is that once Americans are exposed to the cost of care, they would become savvier consumers, which would drive down prices.

The problem with the narrative is that U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and then-Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, sponsored such an alternative health care reform bill in 2009 that would’ve done this, but Republicans didn’t rally to the cause. Democratic opponents said it would be too disruptive, pointing to polls that most people were fine with their coverage. Republican analysts now agree with this assessment, saying Americans are not ready for major changes.

That’s a shame, because a radical overhaul is precisely what’s needed. Many Americans say they are happy with their health care coverage, but they’re shielded from the costs, which are unsustainable. Republicans quietly acknowledge this point, but to act on it, they’d have to recant their current criticisms about people not being able to keep their coverage.

So, essentially, they’re repealing their own plans and raising the dosage on complaints.

Greek tragedy. After last week’s column on the U.S. justice system’s reluctance to free the innocent, I got an email from Greg Hampikian, the Innocence Project’s DNA expert. He was in Crete, taking part in the first appeal for the Irish Innocence Project. Or at least trying to.

In that case, the husband of an Irish woman was given an 18-year sentence for armed robberies and car thefts. But independently verified evidence shows he could not have committed many of these crimes because he was in Ireland, according to

At the appeals court hearing, the prosecution argued that the defense didn’t have some evidence it requested to help confirm its client’s whereabouts. The defense said it had other evidence and was willing to proceed. Still, the judge ordered a six-month delay.

So, Hampikian and some colleagues flew there for nothing. And a man who is most likely innocent will do more time, because Greece’s justice system, like ours, would rather let the guilty roam free than admit to a mistake.

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.


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