“Comprehensive” is the dirtiest word in legislative language.
We’ve had comprehensive health care reform, which is a success mainly by the measurement of increased government spending. There’s talk of comprehensive immigration reform, which would likely be an overkill solution. And some counties in the state are using the comprehensive approach to increase the minimum wage through automatic, annual increases that are usually too steep and objectionable to pass.
Comprehensive is code for, “Let’s really screw this up.” Instead of focusing on a single, fixable issue, comprehensive legislation keeps adding to the bill until it either becomes unpassable or it passes, but creates additional problems.
The biggest, single issue that needed fixing in the health insurance world was to eliminate underwriting for pre-existing conditions. According to The Statistics Portal, in 2014 about 84 percent of our population received health insurance through either Medicare—insurance for the elderly, Medicaid—insurance for the poor, or through group workplace plans. About six percent purchased health care off the individual market. The remaining 10 percent were uninsured. Many of the uninsured likely had a pre-existing health condition and were denied insurance. This is the one group we needed to help. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, provided that help, but the 2,700 page bill created more problems by doing so.
Before Obamacare, those who purchased health care off the individual market were self-sufficient and paid for their own health insurance—without the help of taxpayer subsidies. Because premiums are higher in Obamacare, insurance has become unaffordable to this group that had previously paid their own way. More than 85 percent of Obamacare enrollees receive some type of financial assistance. That means taxpayers are helping to support not only those who were being underwritten, but now also many who were previously self-sufficient.
Comprehensive immigration reform is a talking point on the campaign trail. The one problem that needs fixing with immigration in the country is that our laws are not being enforced. There’s been a reason for that. Employers are benefiting from cheap labor provided by undocumented workers, and consumers are benefiting by purchasing the cheap goods they’re producing. In some ways, we’ve all been part of the problem.
But we don’t need comprehensive immigration reform. Simply enforce the laws we already have, particularly for those who illegally migrate to our country and then commit felonies. After we’ve neglected our laws for decades, it may be too late—logistically and morally—to deport millions of productive human beings who have assimilated to our nation’s core values. But strong leadership can make it clear to the world that arriving in the United States will now be through legal methods only. Others will be deported.
Then there’s the minimum wage conundrum. Because our state legislators failed to solve the problem, some counties in Iowa have grappled with the issue. Comprehensive ideas about multiple, steep increases through successive years are making it hard for local leaders to find consensus. For some, the only acceptable solution is a guaranteed path to $15.00 per hour. Meanwhile, there are workers languishing at $7.25 an hour who could really benefit from even a modest increase right now.
Don’t elected officials work every year? Can’t a reasonable increase to $9.00 per hour be made now and then discuss a future increase in—the future? Work now and work later. That’s what most people do. Elected officials can do the same.
Politicians like to use the comprehensive sound bite, suggesting that it’s the only way to solve a problem. But the effect is the opposite. Either nothing gets done, or there’s a solution overkill that causes more problems than it solves.
We can accomplish more, without going comprehensive.
4 thoughts on “Beware of comprehensive legislation”
I enjoyed your article, and I agree. Well said!
Thank you Gretchen and great seeing you and Joe today!
I have read your commentary in the Courier and finally put your blog in my favs; all good stuff. Good to see you using that degree and sharing a bit of your life. Geographically, we do not live very far apart but we do not see each other except for funerals lately (my fault; work included a lot of overtime). In my year and a half of retirement, I have made time to help ma and a couple other elderly citizens in town get to their appointments. I am treasurer of a couple union organizations and getting more active in the BlackHawk county Democrats ( some would like me to take over as chair soon). I do not agree with everything that either party stands for or has done to come out on top of national elections. Mom and I did go through Lawler on the way back from her Legion of Mary meeting in Spillville on Tuesday. We should have at least poked our head in the door of your business and said hi……I always enjoyed our visits to Jerico when I was younger; both of your parents always seemed so upbeat and willing to take on the challenge of many relatives coming by. Life is good and I do hope we can all work on leaving this planet a good place for our kids and grandkids. Keep on writing….
Absolutely stop at the shop the next time you’re in Lawler!