John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Small Bites Vs. A Big Bite

Posted on May 20, 2009
Small Bites Vs. A Big Bite

When the Bush Administration first came into office, they perceived that the economy was slowing down, and they pushed for a big tax cut as an antidote to the slowdown.

My old boss agreed on the need for stimulus to the economy, but he didn’t want to pass a big tax cut. He didn’t like the public relations that came with a big tax cut. He correctly saw that the press would be only focused on the numbers and not on the tax policy.

So, against the wishes of the Bush White House, he decided to cut the big Bush tax cut into a series of smaller tax cuts. He scheduled a vote to repeal the marriage tax penalty. He did the same with the death tax. And so on, until he had a substantial number of Democrats on record, voting for tax relief.

Republicans won the public relations war when it came to those early days of tax cuts. Every press story made mention of the marriage penalty, and the death tax, instead of just focusing on a big number.

I was thinking about that today when I see how the Democrats want to proceed on health care reform.

Apparently, they want to vote on one big package, just like the Bush Administration wanted to vote on one big package on tax cuts. But I think that is a mistake.

There are several elements of health care policy that could and should be broken into component parts. Increasing access for small business employees for example. Increasing efforts to control costs. Cutting down on Medical errors and bringing medical records into the modern age. Allowing risk-pooling across state lines.

Each component part would get bipartisan support, in much the same way that the Bush tax cuts each got broad support in the House.

Luckily for the Republicans, the Democrats are probably not going to go that route. They will probably try to make this as partisan as possible. They will try to jam a big package down the throats of the Congress, and while they may be successful, they may try to over-reach and as a result, they may fail.

Sometimes a lot of small bites are a lot tastier than one big bite. And sometimes, when you bite off more than you can chew, you can choke. The Democrats, if they are not careful, just might choke on a big health care bill that the American taxpayers are not yet ready to swallow.