This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Aug. 4, 2009 - If a picture is worth 1,000 words, the organizational chart for the House Democrats' health-care plan that was showcased by Rep. Todd Akin on Tuesday spoke volumes.
The colorful diagram isn't official. It was devised by Akin's fellow Republican, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the ranking GOP member of the Joint Economic Committee, who says he wanted to try to figure out exactly how the plan would work. The result is a byzantine graphic that has more arrows pointing in more different directions than the Poplar Street Bridge complex.
Akin told a few hundred people at a forum at Maryville University Tuesday that he wanted to use his franking privilege to send copies of the chart to his constituents, but Democratic House leaders blocked that move. So he shared it with his enthusiastic audience to help prove the main point of his presentation:
"Why do we want to turn over all of our health care to the government?"
Akin's meeting, billed as a Freedom Conference, featured presentations on health care and on the cap-and-trade legislation that has passed the House and awaits action in the Senate. The representative from Town and Country said in an interview that GOP leaders had cautioned House members that with the level of public mistrust and discontent as high as it is, they should think twice about holding any public forums.
He needn't have worried. From the standing ovation he received at the start to the cheers that greeted his closing lines -- "If you're sick, where do you want to be sick? The good old USA." -- Akin got the kind of reception any politician dreams of.
On the cap-and-trade bill -- or cap-and-tax, as Akin and the presenters termed it -- Akin started out by saying, "I hope you've enjoyed the global warming we've had here in St. Louis lately." He went on to talk about the 1,400-page House legislation as "the biggest tax increase in the history of our country," one that included a 300-page amendment added at 3 a.m.
"It's a lot easier to pass something if nobody knows what's in it," Akin said.
Christopher C. Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute told the crowd that the legislation is a hidden tax that would penalize businesses that have been successful in limiting carbon emissions and would raise the price of energy for everyone while reducing output, employment and wages.
Worse, he said, it would have little to no effect in climate change.
"What will the temperature be after this huge tax increase?" Horner asked. "Whatever it was going to be."
On health care, Akin branded the changes sought by Democrats "socialized medicine" and said that claims that Americans would be able to keep the medical plans that they have now "an outright lie."
"To say that you can keep what you have is just not what the bill says," he said.
Recalling his experience as a prostate cancer patient, Akin said he wanted to make sure that the relationship that Americans have with their doctors remains the overriding factor in treatment. He said that once outsiders are given the power to use statistics to gain control over what procedures and medications are allowed, the key to the success of medical care will be lost.
"A calculator doesn't know anything about medicine," Akin said. "We don't want this calculator to run our health-care system."
The public option for medical insurance that is part of many proposals also came in for a good share of criticism. Julie Eckstein -- former director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and now a project director with Newt Gingrich's Center for Health Transformation -- said that when the government wanted to help feed poor families, it didn't build a grocery store, it instituted the food stamp program.
With health insurance, she said, the government should do the same -- work with existing institutions rather than try to create competing ones.
And she got a laugh from the crowd when she asked:
"How many of you think the government can run your business better than you do?"