The March 18 Deadline
From The Hill
By: John Feehery
Most people looked at the president’s March 18 healthcare deadline and saw a totally unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky, Hail Mary pass from a guy who has set down several totally unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky, Hail Mary pass deadlines in the past.
Remember when he wanted a healthcare law on his desk last August? Or when he wanted it done before Thanksgiving? Or Christmas?
Now he wants it done the day after the most important holiday of the year, St. Patrick’s Day.
My middle name is Patrick, so I have always taken St. Patrick’s Day very seriously.
I believe that St. Patrick’s Day should be a national holiday, and as most people know about me, I don’t do any meetings on that day, unless they are held at a very particular place.
Having a healthcare vote on the day after St. Patrick’s Day offends me personally. Everybody knows that the day after St. Patrick Day should be a day of reflection and quiet contemplation, not a day of yelling, screaming, arm-twisting and fulminating at the mouth. My head hurts just thinking about it.
I have some Irish blood in me (OK, mostly Irish blood in me, but as my wife likes to remind me, I don’t have as much Irish blood in me as she has in her), so I have long been fascinated with the Emerald Isle. In fact, I have a master’s degree with a concentration in British and Irish history, worked on the Irish peace process a bit when I worked for the Speaker, got married in Ireland, and I try to stay active on the issues.
When I first went to Ireland in 1985, it was an economic basket case. It was basically a socialist country. It had a very generous welfare system (called “the dole”), very high taxes and not much in the way of prospects for economic growth.
The troubles in the North didn’t help the economy. And the troubled economy didn’t help the troubles in the North.
But as the peace process gained steam, so did the Celtic Tiger. The Fianna Fail government, led by Bertie Ahern, cut corporate taxes, the European Union provided some necessary capital, and all of a sudden the Irish had one of the hottest economies in the world.
I remember visiting a factory in Belfast during those halcyon days, and seeing workers who were quite obviously not the locals working the factory floor. They were from Nigeria. They came to Northern Ireland to work because workers were so scarce, the company had to go to Africa to get them.
But as often happens in life, what goes up quickly eventually comes down. The Celtic Tiger rapidly became the Celtic Bubble, and now the Irish government is faced with some daunting choices to deal with its financial crisis.
The Irish don’t have the luxury of printing money, because their currency is the Euro. That means they have to make some pretty deep cuts in public services in order not to default on their debts. It is not pretty, and it is not fun. But Brian Cowan, the Taoiseach, has no choice. Otherwise, his government will run out of money.
Which brings us back to what our president is doing on healthcare. Instead of taking some pretty stiff financial medicine, which is what the Irish have done, Mr. Obama has gone the other way. He is turning on the spending spigots even more. He says that his bill is fiscally responsible, but nobody believes that creating another spending entitlement is the way to financial salvation. He has chosen to raise taxes and increase spending, an approach taken by the Irish in the early 1980s, and which yielded them a stagnant economy and steady inflation.
Perhaps the president is hoping that either the majority of House members will still be drunk from the previous day’s activities or too hungover to care. Maybe that is why he’s pushing for a vote on the day after St. Patrick’s Day. Or perhaps the Democrats are just too drunk on power to care what the voters really think of this budget-busting bill.
The Irish government has demonstrated that they can be fiscally sober during tough financial times. It would be nice if the president could learn that lesson and stop the spending before it gets too late.